Shokë Klase Përgjithmonë, which translates to “Classmates Forever," is an nonprofit 501(c)(3) offering support to the underprivileged students of the Balkan region, specifically Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, by personally delivering school supplies to those living in extreme poverty.
In January 2015, Classmates Forever, Inc. was founded on the foundation that no individual should be deprived of hope. Hope, or “shpresë” in the Albanian language, is a term that holds many different meanings and invokes a variety of emotions. Hope is much more than a dream or desire. Hope is also the mindset that anything desired in a dream is possible. Even more, it encompasses the opportunities for an individual or a nation to turn dreams into reality. Today, twenty-five percent of Albanians live at or below the absolute poverty line of 1.42 Euros per day. Similarly, nearly half of Kosovo’s children between infancy and the age of nineteen live in poverty. There is not much room for hope when families are struggling to survive. At Classmates Forever, we recognize the economic and psychological benefits of investing in the education of Balkan youth, and that is the driving force of our mission. Our organization aims to provide students with the tools necessary for success. We aim to provide over 1,000 students each summer with school supplies such as backpacks, textbooks, notebooks, writing utensils, and calculators.
Within our first year as a 501(c)(3) organization, we have made several notable achievements that we are proud to share with you today. In collaboration with Albanian Culture TV and an outstanding team of cinematographers, we filmed and broadcasted our first public service announcement, allowing our organization to connect with new supporters throughout the United States. In 2016, we look forward to sharing with you a collection of interviews featuring the success stories of well-known Albanians, including Giorgi Kolaj, Elvir Muriqi and Avni Mustafaj. Our fundraisers, such as the Spring Shindig, Summer Bash and Classgiving, were met with similar success, helping us raise thousands of dollars in funds. Most recently, Classmates Forever has partnered with the Yonkers Public Schools district to launch a penny drive titled “Loose Change for the Hope Exchange.” This program is designed to help the American youth gain knowledge of a largely unrecognized region of the world, the Balkan region, and gain personal experience in developing a better world for children who are stuck in a cycle of poverty.
We have accomplished a lot this year, climbing several stepping stones, but there are many more that lay ahead, especially in 2016 as we complete our first delivery of supplies. Fiscal 2015 was an exciting time and we look forward to 2016 and the opportunities that lay ahead.