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News Release


Release No: 149-95
March 27, 1995


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 April.

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 humanitarian purposes.

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.

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