An invitation to be spoiled!

Meet Rita and Rinor, two young people from Prishtina, who opened the first centre for sports activities for children with developmental delays in Kosovo

Leonora Aliu
"Lazdrohu" centre for sports activities for children with developmental delays in Kosovo
UNICEF/2021/L.Aliu
22 July 2021

The colorful climbing wall seems to be Elin's favorite. He spares no minute to tell us how he learned climbing with his coach Rinor. His sister Blina demonstrates to us how she goes over obstacles and does gymnastics with her coach Rita.

These are only some of the activities performed by children in the centre for physical and sports activities for children with motor developmental delays, “Lazdrohu Prishtina”.

The centre founded by two young people, Rita and Rinor, is an invitation to play and be spoiled.

Both graduates in education and sports lovers, Rita and Rinor, had long conceived the idea for opening such a centre, where children with developmental delays could find space for sports activities and development of their potential with maximum care.

“We cherished the idea for a long time. One of the reasons why we thought such centres are needed is the fact that in existing sports clubs the focus is usually on children with extraordinary talents and often, albeit unintentionally, children with developmental delays that require much more commitment remain neglected”, Rita explained to us.

The centre “Lazdrohu Prishtina” was opened in November last year with the support of the UNICEF Office in Kosovo and funds from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

"Lazdrohu" centre for sports activities for children with developmental delays in Kosovo
UNICEF/2021/L.Aliu
"Lazdrohu" centre for sports activities for children with developmental delays in Kosovo

“We saw the ICK’s [Innovation Center Kosova] call on Facebook and we applied on the last date of the application deadline. We did not believe that we would be supported as a start-up, but when we realized that we had won the grant, we were extremely happy because we finally managed to do something good for these children”, Rita said enthusiastically.

Zhaklina Blakaj also spoke with enthusiasm as she brought her son in to the centre “Lazdrohu Prishtina” while we were talking to Rita. Zhaklina's son is one of 20 children receiving services at this Centre.

“When I saw the announcement about this Centre on social networks, I immediately contacted them and brought the boy for a test visit. That evening, the boy returned very cheerful. Full of joy! I decided to continue bringing him here”, she said. Zhaklina appreciates the fact that the children's coaches are young.

“I liked it a lot because they are so energetic, so understanding and the children adore them. I adore them too when seeing my child coming home happy after these activities. They are so positive”, said Zhaklina.

Rinor and Rita, two young people from Prishtina - establishers of "Lazdrohu"
UNICEF/2021/L.Aliu
Rita and Rinor, two young people from Prishtina - establishers of "Lazdrohu"

Rita further explained that most of the children who attend the centre “Lazdrohu Prishtina” are diagnosed with ADHD. In view of this, she said that the existing space does not offer many great opportunities for activities, but the children are divided into groups and for a start, everything looks like a miracle. Coloured walls, toys, sports equipment, etc., are all in place.

Studies show that participating in sports improves children's educational achievement and skills development including empowerment, leadership and self-esteem, contributing to their overall well-being and future prospects.

In their work over the last six months, Rita and Rinor have provided these opportunities to 20 children registered so far in the centre “Lazdrohu Prishtina”. This centre is not only a space to play and engage in physical and sports activities, it also provides activities that directly affect the children’s cognitive development and help them reach their full potential.

“When deciding on the name of the centre, we thought about something we often deny children, but which characterizes them, which makes them children – being spoiled! And so we decided on the name “Lazdrohu Prishtina” in order to invite the children to be children, to play with us and get spoiled”, said Rita, with a face full of joy.

The “Lazdrohu Prishtina” project is one of the 15 winning projects supported by UNICEF in partnership with ICK and financial support by ADA during 2020, aimed at empowering youth and providing opportunities for them to be a catalyst for positive change in their communities.

The winning projects were selected by the juries in the various editions of the StartupKS competitions, which consist of UNICEF staff members in Kosovo, ICK and 2 to 3 external representatives, mainly from the private sector and experienced in similar grants and programs.

“In the last two editions, all businesses received 4,000 Euros in cash,” said Shpend Lila, Communications Officer at ICK.

In addition to financial assistance, Lila explained that the projects were also offered mentoring, counselling, incubator or business development space, shared work space, media promotion, client referral, etc.

"Lazdrohu" centre for sports activities for children with developmental delays in Kosovo
UNICEF/2021/L.Aliu
"Lazdrohu" centre for sports activities for children with developmental delays in Kosovo

“Access to finance is a major problem for start-ups; therefore, such assistance is essential in the early stages. We believe that the Assembly of Kosovo should pass the Law on Social Enterprises without delay, in order to create other facilities for this category. This would probably increase the interest of young people in ideas related to business and community,” said Lila.

UNICEF in Kosovo continues to play a key role in providing these opportunities with its partners, in the absence of adequate legislation and finances that empower young people and develop their ideas.

“It remains important for the UNICEF Office to equip young people with skills relevant to social entrepreneurship by offering them real opportunities to address problems through a more creative and innovative prism. The StartUP program includes 3 elements: training youth in the 21st century skills; providing opportunities for the realization of their ideas; and mentoring along this journey,” said Laurat Raca, Youth and Adolescent Development Officer at the UNICEF Office in Kosovo.

Otherwise, youth empowerment remains one of the priorities of the UNICEF Office in Kosovo. Thanks to ADA’s financial assistance, more than 27 social enterprises with nearly 3 thousand beneficiaries have been supported.