The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, under the direction of His Beatitude, Archbishop Anastasios, since 1992, has paid a special attention to evangelism, education and entertainment of children. Believers, students of the Theological Academy in Saint Vlash, Durrës, and local clergy, with the assistance of the missionaries, created the possibility of organizing meetings and other activities with the catechism groups all around Albanian with different ages, including also children.
With the hard work of catechism in many years it became possible to come many children, and was necessary the classification of age groups. Thus, in 2001 was founded the Central Children’s Office with the motto: "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6).
Immediately began the activities and programs at the local and republic level. The first activity of this office was the summer day camp for children in the area of Shpati in Elbasan, and after this event, a series of activities and programs for children followed. Over time, this office increased the range of activities and programs, but also increased the number of employees. This office is collaborating for years with the clergy, with the central and local offices of the catechism and youth, as well as with the Theological Academy.
The goal of this office is to help children to meet their full potential as human beings created in the image of God, and to get grow in His likeness, through programs that help them develop spiritually, socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically. This office aims to serve children in a variety of ways and through different activities. Christ the Lord said: "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14).
One of the main objectives of this office is to increase the capacity and the ability of employees and volunteers, through training, seminars and working groups.
a) Weekly programs
To get children closer to Christ, to teach the way where to go, one of the services that the Central Children’s Office offers is the weekly programs. Today, its employees work with about 400 children in seven different areas of Tirana, and with many other children in some other areas of the country.
The program includes the biblical lesson, where children are presented with the biblical stories in a creative way, adapted with their age, using books with contemporary teaching methods, doing art and crafts through which the biblical teaching is reinforced in a creative and artistic way, taking part in the cocktails, in the games and songs. This program takes place during the school period of the year.
Within the program of this office are included also the publications of the books which reflect its activities, publications of "curriculums" and trainings for teachers in different parts of Albania for these weekly programs.
b) Library and Computer courses
In some of these Kid’s Clubs are also offered Library and Computer courses. The computer course provides opportunities for children to learn basic and more advanced computer skills, which will increase their chances for future professional realization. The library provides a safe and warm environment where children can spend time, play, read and study together. Children’s Office staff organizes small group activities and helps children prepare their lessons as needed.
Books’ Little Friend
At the Children's Center near the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral the Books’ Little Friend activity takes place twice a month on the first and the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m to 12: 00 p.m. This center provides a considerable number of books (spiritual, artistic and encyclopedic) for the children to borrow. During this time children come around to read, engage in creative work and have fun in the company of each other. At the end, they have the opportunity to choose a book they like and take it home to turn it back in the next meeting.
Divine Liturgy in Bathore
For three years now, on the last Saturday of each month, a Divine Liturgy is conducted in Bathore. The Children’s Office in cooperation with the community of Bathore (children, adolescents and women included) has been conducting several activities for about ten years. By the Grace of God some of the participants have been baptized and have received Christ into their hearts. Because there is no Church at this place to carry out the services and the Divine Liturgy, the premises of a house have been used to celebrate the Liturgy, conduct the church services and organize various activities with the blessing of the Archbishop. All age groups ranging from children to adolescents and adults participate in the Divine Liturgy and after it they all sit together to spend time with each other and to further strengthen their community.
Activities for Adolescents
For over six years, the Children's Office has conducted activities for older children and adolescents (13-17 year-old). Activities are held every week in four different areas of Tirana. The main purpose of these activities is to help young people get closer to Christ and His Church and make Christ the center of their lives. These activities help children to know God, develop their creative skills through handicrafts and have fun together. It is important that during these activities, children find a warm atmosphere and feel loved and secure in the company of their teachers and peers. Occasionally, various sports activities are organized in cooperation with other social centers in Tirana, as well as pilgrimages to holy places of our country.
Activities for Parents
The Children’s Office has also developed spiritual meetings with parents at the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral for four years. Such events take place every Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy. At the same time, activities with children and adolescents take place simultaneously. In these meetings, parents have the opportunity to learn more about God, to discuss about different topics concerning faith and society in general. They also have the opportunity to spend a pleasant time in the presence of each other, to increase their social circle and strengthen the sense of their community. Occasionally, parents get together with their children to organize excursions and pilgrimages to holy places. In these excursions they have the opportunity to visit and venerate the various holy places but also to spend an enjoyable and entertaining time in the company of all family members.
Mothers in Prayer
Another activity organized by the Children's Office is "Mothers in Prayer". Every Friday, at six o'clock in the Children’s Hall at the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral, mothers (usually mothers of children who take part in the Sunday activities) gather together to pray for their children. After their prayer, they spend time together to share each other's joy and concerns of the week. They also discuss spiritual and social topics concerning their daily lives. This is a very pleasant time, spent in the company of one another which helps to further strengthen the fellowship among Christian mothers.
Special Activities for Christmas and Easter
The Central Children’s Office develops a special activity every year for the feasts of Christmas and Easter. These feasts give a very good opportunity to teach children and help them to experience the Christian life in a special way. These activities are organized in Tirana and almost in all Albania, through the cooperation and the training of the catechists, of the students of the Theological Academy "Resurrection of Christ" St. Vlash, in Durrës, and other volunteers who work with children. In these one day activities are participating approximately 2,300 children.
The whole program is related to the central theme of the feast. In this activity, children have the opportunity to participate in the lesson, in art and craft project, in songs, they play and become part of a competition about the history of the feast. All children participating in these activities, at the end of the program, apart from small gifts, take with them also a book that teaches them more about the event.
On the eve of Christmas, children of Tirana, Durrës, Korça, Berati, Gjirokastra and other cities organize the caroling, which is a known tradition for centuries, where children go to different families, institutions, streets, stores, and everywhere singing Christmas songs and giving the announcement of the birth of Christ..
The moving puppet theatre offers a special program twice a year, usually in the period before the feast of Easter and Christmas. Puppet Theater is a very effective tool to entertain children and to teach them about the history and the feast. In the activity are participating around 1,200 children.
Their joy is added also through the participation in the rich program of songs and games that are part of this activity. Children also take part in a competition that is related with the story that puppet played, and if they find the right answer the get rewarded with a small gift.
The summer day camps are one of the most effective ways for the Christian formation of children because they offer them more time to meditate on the word of God, which assists in the formation of their personality. Every year since 2001 until now, the Central Children's Office has prepared a program for the summer day camps. This program is also offered to all the people working with children throughout the country.
Each year is prepared a specific theme accompanied with a book, lessons, crafts, songs, games and cocktail. In this 4-hour activity attend around 2,300 children and lasts a week.
Sumer Day Camps in Kosovo
In the summer of 2002, the Central Children’s Office began to develop the summer day camps in Malisheva of Kosovo. This activity was a result of a friendship and cooperation created between Orthodox youth and Kosovars who took refuge in our church camps when they came to Albania in 1999.
This program is realized in collaboration with the Education Department of Malisheva, and it is part of the social and humanitarian program of this office. This program is very much welcomed by children and the community in Kosovo. Each year about 25 young people from Albania travel to Kosovo, where they stay for three weeks to develop these camps. The program is composed by games, songs, crafts, discussions in various topics. Each camp lasts four days respectively with four hours of programming each day.
The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania offers these camps in 4-5 schools each year, where the participation of children reaches around 1800. This is a positive experience for the team that works in Kosovo.
Training Seminars for Teachers from Kosovo
Every year, since 2008, the Central Children’s Office has organized 3-day seminars for teachers from Malisheva, Kosovo. In these seminars attend about 20 teachers from Kosovo along with the workers of the Children’s Office and the directors of the summer day camps held in Kosovo.
The objective of these seminars is to increase the skills and to enhance the knowledge on modern methods of teaching. These meetings are also a good opportunity to build relations of friendship between teachers from Kosovo and the members of the Orthodox community in Albanian.
The Central Children’s Office is organizing each year 2 one-day workshops. Twenty people attend each workshop. During these workshops, volunteers learn how to manage, coordinate and organize activities for which they are responsible during the year. The goal of the workshops is to raise the capacities of staff and volunteers for the camps in Kosovo and for the activities of children in general. The office prepares and develops these workshops, and the coordinators of this office are responsible for this activity. A set of materials get distributed for the participants.
The Central Children's Office time after time provides 2 days of training for its staff and volunteers of this office. Because of the dynamic and increasing complexity of challenges facing children in Albania, the staff that works with them needs ongoing training to raise their capacity to meet the needs of children today.