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Snapshot: A Light in the Balkans « International Aid Services America

Amaro Tan students enjoy a fun activity during their 2014 summer camp.

Not many partnerships are as successful as that of the decade-long relationship between IAS and the Amaro Tan school, a private Christian school in Pogradec, Albania. Amaro Tan is the vision of IAS partner Nehemia Gateway, who set out in the early 1990s to transform Communist Albania through acts of love and compassion for the nation’s citizens as the country first opened up to the West.

Now, more than twenty-five years later, Amaro Tan school is a shining example in the Balkans of love, care and compassion for those who had little hope before Nehemia’s arrival. Amaro Tan reaches out to a distinct, marginalized demographic of at-risk and special needs children in the Pogradec region of Albania. Amaro Tan offers a holistic approach to education with both vocational training courses and programs designed to equip students and their families to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty. Programs like these had never before been offered to Albania’s most ostracized citizens prior to Nehemia’s arrival.

Many of Albania’s poor come from the minority Roma and Egyptian communities. These two groups face much discrimination in Albania, and their possibilities for advancement in both education and their professional lives are often severely curtailed. Because of this, Amaro Tan reaches out specifically to these banished ethnic groups, working with their children to give them hope for the future.

In addition to special needs classes, summer classes and after school programs, Amaro Tan also provides a feeding program for school children and their families who are most in need. The school also offers a specialized professional social worker to help address many of the other serious issues facing these minority groups in Albania.

”Let your light shine before men in such a way
and glorify your father who is in heaven.”
- Matthew 5:16 NASB

But Amaro Tan is not just about giving to these children and their families in need. A key component of what they teach is how to love and give back to the community. This past December, teams of young Amaro Tan students journeyed to the local hospital to share the love of Jesus with Pogradec’s sick children, wishing them a Merry Christmas with a short Christmas concert and homemade sweets.

Amaro Tan students share the love of Christ at Christmas.

Amaro Tan has become a shining light for good works in the Balkans. The first generation of graduating Amaro Tan students is now entering both high school and college – opportunities most of them never dreamed possible. And as these students move on to new prospects in higher learning and successful careers, they take with them the lessons of compassion and love for all people, as they learned at Amaro Tan.

The multiplication effect of just one life changed is staggering. Your investment into the work of IAS is reverberating around the world. From the Horn of Africa to the tiny Balkan nation of Albania, lives are being saved and transformed, and God’s light is shining brightly.


Douglas Mann
President, IAS America


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