Gjurmë Iliriane - Albanian Heritage Club

by Albanian Heritage Club 'Gjurmë Iliriane' in Hampton, Greater London, United Kingdom

We did it
On 7th May 2023 we successfully raised £2,014 with 26 supporters in 35 days

Help us to open ‘Gjurmë Iliriane’ Albanian heritage club in London for children to learn Albanian language, heritage, music and dance.

by Albanian Heritage Club 'Gjurmë Iliriane' in Hampton, Greater London, United Kingdom


'If you are going to plant for one year, plant corn and wheat. If you will plant forever, plant education and culture.' (S. Frashëri - Albanian poet)

What is 'Gjurmë Iliriane'?

It is our pleasure to welcome you to our community and to introduce you to the hope and ambition we have for our community project ‘Gjurmë Iliriane’ (meaning ‘footprint of Albania’). We chose the name to reflect the many different paths we, as Albanian people, have travelled to build our lives in the UK. The footprint symbolizes the pride we have in our achievements and the contribution we make to life in UK.

What do we want to do?

With your support we will open Gjurmë Iliriane in South West London in May 2023. We want to provide a weekly session for children of Albanian heritage to learn the Albanian language alongside cultural and heritage topics including folklore, dance and national celebrations, delivered by skilled language teachers and trained volunteers. Initially we will run a 12-week pilot programme, with the ambition to run a 39-week school year programme from September 2023. We already have 30 children registered for the pilot programme and a further 29 interested in joining Gjurmë Iliriane in September.  

“I congratulate you for this initiative. You are doing a great thing for our community. I’m a mum of 4 kids and would be interested to register them and would like to know more” (Parent response via social media)

We want to create an inclusive, nurturing and sustainable network for local Albanian children and their families, one that will explore the ethnic traditions, language and history of Albania, and serve as inspiration for the wider community to support inclusion and social well-being.  In doing so we hope to strengthen communication and a sense of cultural identity across family generations, and to share the traditions and heritage of Albania with the local communities we live in, fostering a greater understanding of our home country and the positive contribution we make as residents and UK citizens.

  • £10 will buy a bilingual book for the club library;
  • £50 will pay for a traditional costume for a child to perform in community and celebration events. We plan to build a wardrobe of new and donated costumes that can be borrowed, so that all the children attending the club can take part;
  • £250 will pay for one session for 30 children delivered by experienced teachers and support staff in a local community venue.

What has inspired us to do this?


Albania is a small, mountainous country, on South Eastern Europe’s Balkan peninsula, with a long history and unique traditions. The characteristics of the Albanian language and people are:

  • The importance of hospitality. This means a great deal to every single Albanian family and has been embedded in Albanian tradition for centuries;
  • The concept of Besa, the Albanian code of honour. Besa translates as “to keep the promise”. In action Besa means taking care of those in need, protecting them, and being hospitable to everyone you have given your promise to.

I am a local resident, and mother to three children aged 6 and under. When I moved to SW London with my Albanian husband several years ago, we knew no-one, and only connected to the local community once our children went to school. We were made to feel very welcome by other Albanian families and the wider community, but we are very conscious that our daughter’s awareness of their heritage and identity is limited to within our family unit, and there are no classes locally where the children could learn together.  We also recognize the separation they have from their extended family, as many of them live in Albania. Our thoughts and feelings were reflected in the feedback we got from other local parents, and we decided to do something about it.

There are approximately 300 Albanian families in the borough where I live, and similar numbers in neighbouring boroughs. Many of the adults in these families migrated and settled in the UK during and after the Kosovan war in search of safety and a better life. 24 years later, both politically and socially, migrant families and asylum seekers continue to face enormous challenges. During our research, we were shocked and heartbroken to hear the vivid life experiences of the Albanian community, the levels of prejudice, and the harm caused by the misrepresentation of Albanian people in the national press. Many were very worried that the discrimination they felt was appearing in a form of neglect for the future social development and inclusion of children of Albanian community in the UK, and the life chances they will have. 

What will the children learn at Gjurmë Iliriane?

We want to create a nurturing and positive environment where every individual effort, milestone and achievement is celebrated. The foundation of all our work at Gjurmë Iliriane is “Every footprint matters.”

“This is amazing. Delighted it is also local. We would be interested in our daughter age 5 coming to the club, and our son when he is old enough” (Parent response via social media)

The 2-hour weekly session will take place at a local community centre on a Sunday morning. We chose this because it is accessible for local families and allows for children from neighbouring boroughs to attend at the weekend. Each term will deliver a focus theme and each session will include set elements to support the theme. The theme for the 12-week pilot programme is “My Footprint – All about me” and the children will explore:

Focus text – bilingual story ‘Happiness Street’ by E. Arkolaki

 We chose this story as it sets the scene of happiness, the place on a beach where many families in Albania would spend their time together - playing, resting and exploring. This story brings out the meaning of happiness and togetherness, it provokes the imagination of the child inviting them to be a main character in their own happy place.

Language and Communication -  circle time activity - with passing around a ‘Magical Box of Chatter’ (adaptation of ‘Passing the parcel’) children will begin with expressing themselves in the simple fun way through the game. The activity will encourage children to talk about their environment relating to the topic ‘All About Me’ – share their interests, news, events, likes, dislikes etc. The topic of the inside the box will vary, with the aim to develop vocabulary and curiosity of learning the language.


Literacy - the introduction and guidance to ‘Abetare’ - Albanian national book of alphabet. Children will start by giving a go of writing their name in Albanian. With many of our children having authentic and unique Albanian names, we see literacy setting the foundation of each session. We will nurture the ethnic identity by learning the words significant to child’s environment and encourage children to challenge themselves to explore Albanian grammar and literacy. We have now launched  our bilingual book library which will give opportunity for all the children to choose a weekly story to read with their family at home.

Breaks in between the activities (every 30 min) children will have an opportunity to access ‘Switching off and refuelling corner’ – having a healthy snack and drink while having a peer-to-peer play time. This will contribute towards their personal, social and emotional development.


History -  this block of lessons will engage children into exploring the unique history of Albania. Our blended teaching techniques will deliver the subject by promoting children’s creativity in recreating some of most significant historical events and achievements. For example, the children will have an opportunity to create their own flag sign, also recognized as ‘eagle gesture’ worldwide. The crossed hands gesture resembles the double headed eagle on the Albanian flag and denotes Albania in International Sign language.  It is also associated with Albanian ethnicity where Albanians call themselves as "Shqiptar" (son of eagle) and their country "Shqipëri" (land of eagles).’ 


Expressive Arts and Design - the children will explore and learn Albanian traditions and values through crafts, dance and music. We have a comprehensive age-appropriate list of traditional dances and songs to choreograph and showcase alongside the valuable small collection of traditional costumes designed for children. It is our aim to take part in some of most recognised Albanian Cultural events like Independence Day Celebrations and Heritage festivals  with a hope to be able to invite the wider public to join our celebratory events and enjoy our cultural offering.

Each session will be concluded by praise and a traditional song. Every child will have a personal scrapbook to save their learning milestones and work, allowing them to reflect on their learning and achievements as they progress.

Every footprint matters

As adults we are proud to be Albanian. We are keen to ensure the language, values and traditions of our nation are experienced by our children, acting as a contrast to the negative views they may hear. We want to build a sense of resilience and pride in their heritage, and help them to communicate with their elders, many of whom are still in Albania. Our community expressed the need for the project as

  • The value and opportunity of speaking the language and exploring the heritage of Albania is priceless as it helps local families to feel more connected and allows them to preserve their respect and family values towards their elders, especially strengthening family relationships between children and their grandparents living abroad. 
  • The need to learn the language and culture for children to become more resilient and to preserve their family values 
  • The ability to serve the future generation of Albanian children, sharing history and culture to inspire them to persevere and take pride in their identity
  • A desire to promote the Albanian community as respected and valued members of society, who positively contribute to the local area and UK life, both economically and socially. 
  • To act as an inspiration to the wider community by extending the invitation to other community groups and local people to experience the rich cultural and ethnic offering of Albania at events and celebrations.

On behalf of the local Albanian community, I would like to express our thanks and appreciation of your interest in, and support for Gjurmë Iliriane.  I invite you to walk alongside us on our journey to open The Albanian Heritage Club in South West London in May 2023. 


Best Wishes,

Sanda, on behalf of

Gjurmë Iliriane Team


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