By Pilar Lagos
City/Country of Origin: Ferizaj, Kosovo (UNSC 1244)
Alma Gashi is in Grade 10. She has a sweet spot for Artic Monkeys and Coldplay. She also has a natural gift for advocating for young people, which is what prompted her to apply to the second edition of the UPSHIFT workshop organized by UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo.
When she found out that until the year 2000, there were no ophthalmologists in Ferizaj, Kosovo, she was inspired to build a project which focuses on sensitizing young people that ophthalmologic problems should not be neglected. She teamed up with Arbnor Karaliti, Albrim Tahiri, and Uresa Ahmeti. This is how the project “Let’s See,” came to be and changed an entire community.
Alma also volunteers at the Youth Center in Ferizaj and will be participating at the Harry Singha Foundation Youth Leadership Summit in London later this year to talk about what it means to be a leader; an innovator.
What inspired you to come up with your innovation/youth?
Alma Gashi (AG): Many children in our community are unaware of the importance of optical health. For example, one of my friends had eyesight problems and he thought it was normal to see blurry. The fact that we didn’t have ophthalmologists in Ferizaj before 2000 was also a difficult reality to process, but it served as an inspiration to create something in our community that hadn’t been done before.
What challenges did you encounter when you were trying to execute your innovation/ project?
AG: It was a bit difficult to coordinate meetings with the other team members as we were in school and had to focus on both school and our project.
Another difficulty that we faced was that some school directors did not want to support us. They thought that it was not important for us to give lectures at their schools about optical health awareness. In the end, however, they ended cooperating and thanking us!
In what way do you think ‘Let’s See’ benefited the children/young people from your community?
AG: I think it has benefited many children. As a result of our project, our municipality opened a center for eye care! Prior to the workshops that we gave at schools, we surveyed 600 young people to measure their knowledge on eyesight health. We held a march and about 100 people participated. We also did a short film, which you can view here.
70% of people that we surveyed and participated in our workshops said they had gained knowledge about optical health. I even noticed that a boy that participated in the workshops started wearing glasses.
What’s the best advice that you’ve received?
AG: Andrew Russell, the UN Development Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kosovo told me a great quote: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Andrew told us to never give up for being too young. It’s not about how old you are, but about the difference that you are trying to make.
Alma has found herself leaning towards science. She is part of a scientific gymnasium in Ferizaj. She is aiming to learn HTML and dreams of becoming a programmer/coder. She would like to create solutions for children and raise awareness about how tech is good when it’s not overused. “I’m going to fight technology with technology,” she says.