As the environment is becoming the hottest global issue, nonprofit organizations worldwide are campaigning for cleaner air and water and doing their part in restoring the environment in their communities.
Let’s Clean Kosovo has been doing their part by organizing volunteers for cleaning and reforestation campaigns and monitoring the government’s implementation of environmental laws.
We spoke to Luan Hasanaj, the organization’s Executive Director about their decade-long experience in environmental activism, the challenges they have been facing and their contribution to the philanthropic landscape of Kosovo.
How was your organization established? What changed from the beginning to this day?
Luan: Our organization was established in 2011 initially as an informal group to organize the action for cleaning Kosovo on May 24, 2012 as part of the global action Let’s Cleanup World. This continued until 2016 when we registered as an NGO. During all these years, many developments and activities have taken place and we are almost among the only organizations that have resisted time without changing the profile of activities, so Let's Clean Kosovo is known as an organization dedicated to environmental protection and organizing volunteers.
If we are talking about changes in the state of the environment, there have certainly been improvements since then, but there is still so much to be done.
What was your motivation to work in the nonprofit sector?
Luan: The motivation to work in the NGO sector arose from the need for societal organizations to contribute to the improvement of the environmental situation in Kosovo and advocate for institutions to achieve a sustainable solution for Kosovo’s environment. Being in the NGO sector, this is much easier to achieve, which has been proven in many countries of the World. Let's Clean Kosovo is part of the global network "Let's Do It World" which includes members from 175 countries.
How did the COVID-19 crisis affect the organization’s work? How much has the way you operate changed? What activities were you focused on recently?
Luan: The pandemic has also affected our organization. We have been forced to reduce activities. We have not been organizing large-scale clean-up actions as we have done before. Many activities were being carried out through online platforms. However, the work has not stopped. In small groups we have carried out continuous activities and it is also worth mentioning that since the beginning of the pandemic we have established a group for volunteers on Facebook, which has over 14 thousand members. Throughout the pandemic, various actions were launched in the group – calls for emergency responses, psychological therapy and support. We have also been providing quarantine assistance at the student center as well as disseminating a lot of information about certain issues regarding combating and preventing the pandemic.
Recently, we are focused on the campaign "Let's Give Color to The Country" where in cooperation with the Kosovo Olympic Committee we aim to plant 1.8 million trees in the next 10 years. We have also continued with cleaning actions in various locations with waste in municipalities, road lanes and rivers.
Which activities are you most focused on at this moment?
Luan: As we said above, we are currently implementing the campaign for planting trees and the cleaning actions. We are also monitoring the implementation of the administrative instruction on fines for environmental polluters and the implementation of the regulation on the internal order in National Parks and the punitive provisions of the Law on Nature Protection related to prohibited and degrading activities for protected areas, dedicated exclusively to the "Bjeshkët e Nemuna" National Park.
How is your organization funded? Which types of donors do you work with the most, and how? How can someone support your work?
Luan: Our organization is mainly funded by grants from various foreign and domestic donors, we also have a continuous cooperation with some of the local businesses which regularly fund our activities, also our activities can be supported by citizens through the online crowdfunding platform globalgiving.org.
How does your organization contribute to the development of philanthropy in Kosovo?
Luan: Throughout our activities we have paid great attention to certain categories of society, we have organized cleaning and planting actions in different neighborhoods with communities in difficult conditions. We are always where the need arises, our volunteers have helped by collecting food, clothes, hygiene items and sending them to families in need. This was done through the group of volunteers mentioned above. It is worth mentioning our commitment to help in the case of the earthquake in Albania in 2019 where we sent dozens of trucks with aid and we also went there to help.
Do you cooperate with other non-profit organizations? Can you tell me more about that?
Luan: We have cooperation with many NGOs in Kosovo, we organize joint activities such as marking the events of the environmental calendar but also for other projects in the field of environment and volunteering. We are always where there are activities in this field, regardless of who organizes them, and this will remain the same in the future.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Luan: Like any other local NGO, we face a lack of funds for the implementation of our plans and projects. The environment continues to face problems in Kosovo so there is a great need for increased activities of NGOs and on the other hand environmental funds are very limited with both local institutions and international organizations.
What do you consider your greatest success and what is next?
Luan: Our greatest success is being selected for the coordination of the world cleaning day in 2019, as well as the fact that we have managed to be consistent in our activities for 10 years now.
We will continue with activities in the future, we are preparing an advocacy campaign which will focus on the implementation of plans, laws, strategies, and legal documents for the environment.