As we started with Lydia in our last blog post, we want to introduce you to each of the women we met in Durres. These stories are incredibly important to us and to why The Intersection exists. There are real people in real places who are impacted by the decisions we make about what we buy. The stories are difficult to tell and to read, but they are true, and that is why the hope that is found in each one is so inspiring to us, and hopefully to you as well.
The second home we visited with Dawn was the home of Helena (whose name was also changed for this blog). Helena has 5 children under the age of 12 and when we arrived they swarmed our two boys, hugging them and squeezing their cheeks and kissing them on the head. It was an incredibly warm reception for kids that they’d never met. We found throughout our time in Albania that the kids are very good at caring and looking out for those who are younger than them.
Helena’s story and her life were full of incredibly difficult circumstances. She was married off to a man she didn’t know through arranged marriage (not that uncommon in Albania) when she was a young woman. She left the house she had lived in with her family and moved into her new “home” with her husband. It turned out to be little more than a shack in the middle of a swamp. Her husband has had no work for a long time, which is unfortunately also a common story in that area. Like many, many Albanian men, he drinks a lot and is very abusive toward Helena.
To find work, Helena’s husband goes to Italy for 3 months at a time twice a year. For 6 months of the year Helena is left at home alone with the 5 children. It is very difficult for an Albanian to find work abroad, and so most of the time her husband doesn’t find work in Italy and does not bring home any money to his family.
Helena’s family now has a proper home that they live in, but the going is very tough. While we were there visiting her she had no running water, and was unsure when her supply would come back. This situation was not uncommon for her or others in their area.
On top of all of that, Helena has epilepsy. She often seizures in dangerous situations such as when she’s over the fire or near the stove. Several times her children have had to pull her out of harm’s way during a seizure, and she has been badly burned more than once.
Despite all of the struggles she faces, Helena also has joy and hope. She told us that the knitting job (which she can do at home while watching the kids) has saved the lives of her family. Her opportunity to work has given her a sense of purpose, as well as providing food and clothes and other things for her family. She had great pride in her work, and she showed us some of what she was currently working on while we were there.
When leaving Helena’s home it was hard not to marvel at her strength to have endured all that she has in her lifetime. It also made us feel more determined than ever to bring Helena’s work to the world in order to both keep her employed and also to provide that same opportunity to others in her community.
Photo Credits- Kyson Morgan Photography