Passion for Change – Young Social Workers in Kosovo Lead the Way
12 August 2021
The story of Tahir Halilaj, a 23-year young man who is already doing so much for the community.
As long as he can remember, he was compassionate towards vulnerable persons, especially children. As soon as he graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy - Department of Social Work at University of Prishtina, Tahir started working as a volunteer, an experience that exposed him to how vulnerable children cope in their daily lives. Although rewarding, he struggled at times to handle the emotional stress from the work. But, with persistence and a true vision of wanting to make a difference, he persisted and kept working with and support vulnerable children, and that – in turn - made him understand the transformational power of being listened to, loved and valued. And so for Tahir, communication was key!
“This part of the community is in need for attention, and I needed to do my part!”.
Right after graduation, given that his major was on a very specific field, he was skeptical about employment prospects. Yet, his ambition to find a job that would allow him to contribute to the society kept his hopes up. After a few attempts, he came across an advertisement published by UNDP and he decided to apply. The project ‘Response to COVID-19 Emergency and Early Recovery Support’ was looking for 40 UN volunteers to work in centers for social work across Kosovo. The aim of the project is to assist the most vulnerable by improving socio-economic support systems, including delivery of social services and enhancing access to equitable, qualitative, integrated social protection for the most vulnerable groups including women and girls. ’Today, thanks to this project I’m able to do what I loved doing since I was a kid’, says Tahir.
After a few months into the job, Tahir is thrilled and excited about the prospects of the change he, with his colleagues in the center, can make. This includes his involvement in 6 cases where he’s supported the reconciliation and rebuilding the trust within families, 8 cases with children that were left on the streets, 1 case with a child without parental care, 2 child adoption procedures, and lots of counseling sessions with families who have asked help on how to solve different family problems.
“Tahir is hardworking, energetic, passionate, and ambitious. He brought so much energy and professionalism with the work that he does with us, that I would easily compare him with other members of the staff that have professional experience” – notes Dervish Tahir, director of Center for Social Work in Gjakovë/Djakovica.
As far as his career ambitions go, Tahir considers that he will continue in this line of work. In face, if you ask him, he would not change it for anything in the world, because he knows the impact his work has, and that this is what he wants to pursue. Even when asked about the difficult cases that he must face on daily basis, Tahir says: “Cases vary. I had cases of children abandoned by their families, children of whose caretakers were elderly grandparents who themselves are in need of support and therefore struggle to take care of children, and cases of street children that does not want to go home because of the domestic neglect and abuse - these cases have significantly increased during the pandemic. You hear so many different stories from these children, it sometimes affects you psychologically and creates problems on carrying with my daily activities. But, the good thing is that now, I have learned to better manage my work and private life and mental health, so I can go to the gym, hang out with my friends, attend courses - to live life, really. After working with children for a while, I see progress - they are happier, they grow, they are full of love! This gives me so much joy! I continue to keep contact with them, so they understand that people care about them, that I CARE, and I WORK HARD to support them live better lives”.
Tahir shares one particular difficult case. This involved an 8 year-old boy from the roman community. When we first got in touch with him, he was clearly neglected, malnourished, hungry, barefoot, and very aggressive as a result of the violence he had experienced in his family. His parents got divorced, the mother did not want him since she got remarried, his father was unemployed and living in very poor conditions, and they had a really hard time convincing him to agree on living with a foster family. “This was the case that made me understand that communication, affection, empathy is what these children need. This was the case that moved me to the core and it also made me realize that this boy is not the only one, there are a lot of vulnerable children out there and needed the most basic care, food, clothes, a roof on their heads and on top they need to be loved and taken care of”. Tahir shared how the wellbeing, attitude and mental health of the boy has drastically changed. “Even today, I still go and check on him to see how he is doing. I had an extraordinary experience with him, and through this experience I followed up the progress and understood how important my work and the work of our center is” - said Tahir.
The engagement of the 40 UN Volunteers work in all Centers for Social Work (CSWs) across Kosovo continues to provide an immediate capacity boost of human capacities and innovative energy for the Centers, while, at the same time, provide professional experience for young social workers.
This activity is part of the Response to CODID-19 Emergency and Early Recovery Support Project, which is funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP in Kosovo.
Vjosa Rakovica Xhemaj
Information Management Officer | Communication Unit