The Department of Defense and the New England Albanian Relief Organization
(NEARO) have joined forces to help the Albanian people. About 55,000 pounds of
books, children's hospital beds with oxygen tents, gurneys and other medical
equipment are destined for a public library, learning center, hospitals and
nurseries in Pogradec. The supplies will be shipped during the first week of
The Department's Office of Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs (HRA) will
transport the supplies to Pogradec on a commercially contracted ship under the
auspices of its Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP) and at the request of the
Department of State.
NEARO, a private organization established by American-Albanians, is the only
humanitarian group in the country specializing in libraries. The library and
learning center NEARO to be dedicated in Pogradec this summer will be the
largest public library in the Balkans.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs
Patricia L. Irvin said the Department, in cooperation with other government
agencies and within the limits of its resources, understands and strives to
fulfill its responsibility to help alleviate suffering throughout the world.
She said the HAP is often the most economical means available to local
charitable organizations to transport donated goods to foreign countries for
Peter C. Kole, director and chairman of the NEARO book collection, said he was
overwhelmed by the generosity of northwestern Ohio organizations in response to
Albania's needs. Akron hospitals donated the medical equipment. Cleveland and
Cuyahoga County public libraries, school districts, businesses and private
individuals donated more than 200,000 books.
Kole explained that sometimes the easiest way to revolutionize a country is to
give it books. He said listening to foreign broadcasts was a political offense
under the rule of the late Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. Punishment for those
caught with foreign language books or magazines was imprisonment or execution.
Kole said Hoxha's communist regime kept Albania isolated from the rest of the
world for 50 years. Albanians are only now struggling to catch up.
Under the 1986 DoD Authorization Act, HRA is authorized to transport non-lethal
excess property, relief supplies and privately donated cargo to meet
humanitarian needs worldwide. Over the past two years, 370 transportation
missions have been accomplished to more than 50 countries.