When disaster strikes in an area visited by Grand Circle and Overseas Adventure Travelers, Grand Circle Foundation makes every attempt to support recovery efforts, relying on our regional associates to identify needs and worthy organizations.

On November 26, Albania was rocked by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, killing 51 people, and leaving thousands with homes destroyed and uninhabitable. Homes, schools, hospitals, churches were destroyed or severely damaged.

With an average income of $367 USD per month, very few families are able to rebuild without government support and are now living in tents.

Josif Goga, Director of Corporate Air Travel and Contracting is originally from Albania, and partnered with our vendor in Albania, Arman Ferra, manager of Albania Holidays. Here’s a recap of Josif’s experience:

“Upon arrival, I realized that the situation was way worse that I could have ever imagined. All these families left with nothing but their clothes on their back and a plastic tent to live in. The amount of misery was indescribable and beyond any stretch of my imagination. Families living in the cold, humid tents, with rain water running underneath their beds, and mud everywhere they stepped on.

We went over several options on how we could help these people. Food and tents were already being provided by the neighboring countries (Italy and Turkey).We decided that the best help we could offer, was providing wood stoves, as the winter had arrived and these families had no heat in their tents, and no means to cook.

The local authorities were very responsive (surprisingly) in providing the names and addresses of families who were affected the most and with no means to provide for their kids.

With the $10,000 that was generously provided by the Grand Circle Foundation, we purchased 35 wood stoves, including the accessories that come with them, and delivered them ourselves to these people in their tents. The combined feeling of joy and desperation in their eyes was a very touching moment. These people had been already living in the tents for a week, without heat, running water or any of the necessary amenities that a family needs. All they talked about was the sense of gratitude towards us, and how disappointed they were from their government for the lack of emergency response. Living in these terrible conditions, the stoves we provided sparked the much needed ray of hope in these people’s eyes, and through them, it warmed our hearts as well.

In total, we helped 35 families (almost 175 people) provide heat for the winter. Our next project will be to rebuild one of the buildings that will be needed the most by the local community. The authorities offered us 2 options: a kindergarten or the elementary school. As the affected sites are now being cleaned and evaluated, I will have an answer in the next few weeks.

On behalf of these people, I wanted to thank you for all your support and help that these people desperately needed. In addition, I want to personally thank you for offering me this life changing opportunity and for making me believe in myself and that one man can really make a difference. ”

Grand Circle Foundation would like to thank Josif and Arman for their passion and commitment to find a way to support these people in their hour of need, especially as winter approaches. We will keep you updated on what happens next.