Under the fatherly care of His Beatitude, Archbishop Anastasios, and with the initiative of the Orthodox Women’s Group of Tirana, the Daycare Centers were first opened in October of 1994. In the beginning the goal was to offer an appropriate and beneficial educational program for children of working mothers, single-parent families, low-income families and for orphans. The Daycare Centers’ goal was to integrate children who had no siblings into society. The Daycare Centers were open to all children regardless of race or religion.
Today as well, children of families in need are welcome: families with low incomes, families with divorced parents, single-parent families (orphans), families where mothers that have a limited educational level, families with immigrant parents, where children live with grandparents, and children whose mothers work.
The opening of the first Daycare Center in Tirana was quickly followed by two more in Durrёs and Korça. In Albanian there are now operating 21 Daycare Centers in the following cities: Tirana (2), Durrёs, Kavaja, Elbasan (2), Cërrik, Gramsh, Shkodër (2), Berat, Vlorë, Lushnje, Gjirokastër (2), Sarandë, Dervican, Përmet, Tepelenë, Korcë, Pogradec.
These past years have proven to be very successful for the daycare program. This is evident from the many requests to register children in our daycare centers, and also from the good results the children subsequently receive upon entering the first grade.
In 2004, the 10th anniversaryof the opening of the schools was celebrated in the Daycare Centers in Tirana and Durrёs, and most especially in Korça. The anniversary celebration in Korça was conducted with a sense of grandeur and included participants from the Church, the Board of Education, and other distinguished figures from the City. Some of the most talented former students from the Daycare Centers helped to celebrate this important day as well. This celebration offered a different perspective of the Daycare Center in Korça, and was a very good experience for all.
Since 2002, the Daycare Centers have been under the “Spirit of Love” Foundation. Most of the Daycare Centers are located in contemporary well-furnished buildings, close to Orthodox Churches. The Centers’ activities are financed by:
· “The Spirit of Love” Foundation;
· The WCC Round Table Program (through Diakonia Agapes);
· The contribution of the parents.
During their years in existence the Daycare Centers have served over 8,100 children, ages 4-6 years, of which 65% came from low-income families; 2.5% from divorced parents; 2.7% are orphans; 4.5% live with their grandparents because their parents have emigrated outside of Albania; and about 45.5% of the children have working mothers.
Our Daycare Centers are licensed by the Ministry of Education. They are visited regularly by Board of Education staffs, who often commend the quality of the programs. Children from our centers have participated in a number of different activities organized by the Board of Education, including: contests, festivals, shows, etc., and have been awarded prizes.
As a result of the good reputation which the Orthodox Church Daycare Centers enjoy, the Board of Education uses them as practice and qualification centers for university students in Preschool Education, as well as for the staff from the public daycare centers. During recent years educators have been tested by the Departments of Education and have acquired the levels of qualification according to the legislation in force.
In all, the staff is comprised of about 60 qualified educators, assistant educators, and cooks. Additionally, a pediatrician regularly visits the children to look after their health. The doctors talk to the children about hygiene, eating healthy food, and taking care of themselves. The doctors also prepare information packets about health problems typical of preschool aged children, and the causes, precautions, and medications for these. This information is then published by the Coordinating Offices and distributed to all of the Centers and Kindergartens and sent home to the parents. These topics offer important information for parents when their child becomes ill. Also there have been cases when the doctors of the Daycare Centers have found that some children have inherited health problems at birth that parents were not aware of.
Our Daycare Centers care for children in all these aspects: teaching, health care, improvement of the premises and quality food. Most of the Daycare Centers are located near respective churches in the cities. Their facilities are modern and well-equipped. Their good conditions are an additional reason for the success of these Daycare Centers.
The Daycare Coordinating Office in Tirana prepares various programs, books, lesson, materials, and oversees the organization for each of the Daycare Centers. The Coordinating Office plans all the activities and ensures that all educators are fully qualified through seminars and conferences. These seminars have been lead by professors from Greece, Switzerland, and Albania and are meant to inform the educators about contemporary teaching methods and theories on child development.
In the beginning the office was directed by Sister Philothei, who initiated and organized the opening of the first Daycare Centers in Tirana, Durrёs, Korça, and Kavaja. Later the office was directed by Sister Galini. Currently, Ms. Nafsika Melo directs the office. She has a long history of experience in the field of education as a teacher and assisted in the opening of the Daycare Centers.
The Daycare Centers are successful because of the dedication of the staff.
The whole organization of the work is made possible by the Daycare Coordination Office in Tirana.
· The qualification of the teaching staff
· The preparation of the curricula
· Organizing the work in all the Daycare Centers
· The preparation and the publication of children's books
· Purchasing and supplying the Daycare Centers with the educational and didactic materials
· Design of the projects for further funding of the program of the Daycare Centers
· Writing the progress reports for the Office of Dikonia Agapes and the donors of the Round Table Project of the World Council of Churches (WCC)
· Writing, preparing and distributing the health themes for all the Daycare Centers
· Making maximum preparations for the recognition of letters and mathematics for children who attend the first grade
· Exchanging experience with similar Daycare Centers in Greece
· Organizing exhibitions of the children artwork
One of the most important activities of the Coordination Office is the qualification of the teaching staff. Since the first years of the Daycare Centers, this office has organized qualification seminars for the staff. The nature and the form of these seminars have evolved over the years. The seminars are organized taking into account the requirements and the needs of the teaching staff. During these seminars the teachers become familiar with modern teaching methods and with different theories for the upbringing of children. Workshops are held by well known psychologists and specialists that know the problems of child rearing and education.
New forms for the qualification of the teaching staff are also included in the trainings. The Daycare Coordination Office organizes every year workshops about the organization of work and the exchange of experience for the Daycare Centers. Trainings are organized according to Dioceses pursuant to their geographical distribution. Since 2004, trainings have been organized in the form of open lessons at the Daycare Centers with the objective of the exchange of experience. After the open lesson, the strengths and weak points of the organization are discussed and various issues are addressed for each Daycare Center. The Coordination office has had very good cooperation with the Diakonia Agapes office, whose members have directed some training for the teaching staff.
Exchanging Experience with Greek Daycare Centers
Since 2001 there has been cooperation between our office and some of the Greek kindergartens. This collaboration is made possible by Mrs. Papavasiliu. Each year, three educators and a member of the Coordination Office go to Greece, where they participate in a new experience for a period of two weeks. This experience is shared with all the teaching staff of our Daycare Centers through seminars and workshops. Mainly the exchanges of experience in Greece takes place among the kindergartens, "Αρσακειο", "Ελλινικη Παιδεια" of the Metropolis of Piraeus, and with the kindergarten "Η ζωη του παιδιου".
Preperation of the Educational Programs
From the beginning the Coordination Office has developed the programs for the functioning the Daycare Centers. Materials were translated and adapted from programs from Greece and America based on the traditional state programs for preschool education. Every year they seek to find new teaching methods.
The office has prepared and published textbooks for children. In the beginning the program was created only for preschool ages. Seeing that the number of requests for the attendance at the Daycare Centers grew, it was necessary to not just focus on the preschool age, but the program needed to be extended also a second group. Currently children have 6 personal books:
|"My Book" (for 4-5 years old and 5-6 years old)||"Didactic Notebook" (for 4-5 years old and 5-6 years old)|
|"Mathematics" (for 4-5 years and 5-6 years)||"Mathematical Notebook" (for 4-5 years old and 5-6 years old)|
|"Worksheets with Animals, Plants and Professions”|
They have accomplished good work in the preparation of the children for the first grade. Books were purchased for each child for learning letters. And for math, as well, they work with modern methods for the recognition and understanding and writing of numbers.
Already it has been three years since the Daycare Office published the Daycare Centers calendars. In this calendar are reflected information about the Daycare Centers, the children and the work they have done. The calendar is given to every child in every Daycare Center, because children can see themselves in them.
Dieocese of Tirana
The Day Care Center in Tirana
Close to the Orthodox Church “Evangelization of Theotokos”, on Kavaja Street, is the Daycare Center, also known as the Kindergarten of the Church. This Daycare Center has been functioning since October 1994 and welcomes children age 4-6 years old, without distinction of race and religion. This Daycare Center has three classes where the lessons take place, and has a very nice courtyard with trees and toys where children spend their free time.
The Day Care Center in Durrës
The Daycare Center in Durrës is located in the neighborhood Nr. 1, in a modern building, near the Church of Saint George. This kindergarten has been offering activity since December 1994. This Daycare Center has three groups of children.
The Day Care Center in Kavaja
This Daycare Center opened in March 1997 and is located near to the Church of Saint Nicholas. It is in a modern building, with optimal conditions and very suitable environment for raising children. This Daycare Center has three groups of children. It is one of the model kindergartens not only for the city of Kavaja, but also in the country.
The Daycare Center in Shkodra
The Daycare Center in Shkodra is located in the "Great Russian" neighborhood, on "Kozej" Street, No. 3. It is located in a private house where this Daycare Center has conducted its activities since November 2001. This Daycare Center has two groups of children.
The Day Care Center in Elbasan
The Daycare Center in Elbasan is located near the Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in this city. It has been functioning since December 1999. This building has all the contemporary parameters to be a kindergarten, and has adequate facilities and optimal conditions. The Daycare Center consists of three groups of children.
Diocese of Berati
The Day Care Center in Lushnja
The Daycare Center of Lushnja is located close to the Church of Saint George, in the center of the city. It has been functioning since the 15th of February 1998. This building has all the contemporary parameters to be a Daycare Center, and has adequate facilities and optimal conditions; it consists of three groups of children.
The Day Care Center in Vlora
The Daycare Center in Vlora has been open since November of 2000. It is located on "Lef Sallata" Street, close to the Orthodox Church of Saint Teodoros. It has three groups of children.
The Day Care Center in Berat
The Daycare Center in Berat was opened in March of 2006. It is located close to the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Demetrios in the center of the city. This building has all the contemporary parameters to be a kindergarten, and has adequate facilities and optimal conditions for the education of children, with classrooms, and a yard for children to play.
The Diocese of Gjirokatra
The Day Care Center of Gjirokastra
In Gjirokastra there are two buildings that serve as Day Care Centers. In both of these Daycare Centers the environment is very convenient, and includes all the required conditions. This Daycare Centers in Gjirokastra have been operating since 1997.
One of the centers is helping a suburban neighborhood that cannot afford to send their children to the other buildings, which is downtown. This kindergarten is located near the Old Metropolis building, in the neighborhood “Pazari i Vjetër”. The other kindergarten is located near the building of the New Metropolis and near the “Holy Cross", Church High School in the neighborhood "11th January".
The Day Care Center in Saranda
The Daycare Center in Saranda is truly a very fine building. It is located in front of the Orthodox Church of Saint Haralambos and has been functioning since 1999. This Daycare Center has two groups of children. The environments of this daycare are really beautiful and suitable. The hard work of the staff makes this Daycare Center able to optimally fulfill all aspects of caring for children.
The Day Care Center in Përmet
The Daycare Center of Përmet is located close to the Church of Saint Mary of Pazar, in the center of this city. This Daycare Center began functioning in 2001, and has two groups of children.
The Daycare Center in Korça
The Daycare Center in Korça was the third to open, after Tirana and Durrës, on June 14, 1995. The Daycare Center in Korça is located on "Alqi Condi", close to the Holy Metropolis. The Daycare Center is composed of three groups of children. The premises are suitable and have all the conditions for a healthy care.
The Daycare Center in Pogradec
It is one of the best pre-school institutions in Pogradec. This Daycare Center is well known for its very good conditions, for the dedicated staff and very good program that it offers. It started functioning in 1999. It is located near the old Orthodox Church of the "Dormition of Theotokos". There are only two groups of children.