While Albania has a high unemployment rate, it has an even higher underemployment rate. Many people are paid wages so low that they can't afford basic necessities, while others struggle to find work during the agricultural off-season. Poverty is concentrated in rural areas with inadequate infrastructure, including roads, electricity, and clean water.
Arben is a 44-year-old father of three who is determined to work hard and provide for his family. Every morning, before dawn breaks, he leaves his home and walks three kilometers in the dark to the nearest town in search of work as a lumberjack. There is no lighting along the village road, but his children, the light of his life, are waiting there at home for bread.
His struggle to provide is getting harder, and two months ago, they welcomed their newborn, Armir. The family lives in a dilapidated, cramped, two-room house that allows in excessive cold and rain due to a damaged front door. Most of the furniture is in poor condition, having been discarded as rubbish by others. An old wood stove is only lit on the coldest days, and everyone huddles in warm clothes to stay warm in the winter.
Dilore, 38, the mother, said, "Baby Armir was born in October, bringing a huge blessing to our family this Christmas. For his brother and sister, Armir is a joy, but for us, his parents, the joy is mixed with concern. Our everyday expenses and the cost of basic necessities are increasing alarmingly."
Then, there is a knock on the door from Blerina, who works for Mission Without Borders (MWB) in Shkoder, the remote region where the family lives. Arben and Dilore's family have been recently enrolled in the family sponsorship program – and Blerina has arrived with a special surprise: an Operation Christmas Love box. Each box is filled with food and other essentials, plus treats and a tract explaining the true meaning of Christmas.
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