They’ve dubbed themselves and their supporters, appropriately, the “Letsdancers.” Simply put, they dance their way to raising funds and awareness about infant death rates, premature babies, and children battling serious diseases in Kosovo, as well as the draining emotional and financial strain that all of these mean for families and communities in Europe’s newest country.
It all began in 2015, when an unlikely crew of private sector and non-profit professionals got together under the umbrella of an internationally-funded six-month program organized by woman-owned RTC Consulting, that aided young, female business owners and executives in taking their business ideas or careers to the next level. One of the ideas waiting to be brought to life was a different kind of fundraiser. A fundraiser that would not only serve to raise one-time funding for a random organization, but one that would entertain its guests in a memorable way, benefit a significant local project, and bring the community together over a cause.
American international development expert, Michael Gold, who had made his way from California to Eastern Europe over 20 years ago and made the region his home, was a mentor in the program. The idea was the brainchild of one of the program’s mentees, a vibrant young Kosovar by the name of Zana Aqifi, who yearned to make a positive impact on her home country. Others from the program soon flocked to pitch in, among them Linda Baleta, a communications and media professional who had left her native Albania in 2000 to become a naturalized citizen of Kosovo.
To them, the notion of this different kind of fundraiser was clear – they were looking to break all the rules and make an impact. They soon found the ideal organization and cause for it all in Action for Mothers and Children (AMC), a local non-government organization that was looking to tear down post-conflict Kosovo’s devastating infant mortality rate of 29 deaths to every 1000 births and all of the community ailments that went with it.
AMC’s main goal was and remains to create change and impact the lives of mothers and children through hands-on education, research, and in identifying and solving shortcomings in the healthcare system. If any impact was to be made, this was the cause to lead the way. AMC’s director Mrika Aliu and its staff jumped at the opportunity.
Within weeks, the event was organized and announced, the guests invited, and the program set. The tagline and concept of the event were simple – Let’s Dance. And so they danced.
“Before Michael asked me if I wanted to be a volunteer, I was already thinking, ‘I hope they ask me to be part of the team’,” Linda Baleta told us in a conversation just ahead of the third annual Let’s Dance event. “The funny thing was that I had already decided to do some volunteer work for AMC. And, as usually happens with the best things in life, all the pieces fell into place on their own. We had come to realize that the event was becoming bigger than we had imagined. This is the third year and we know this has already become a tradition.”
The first annual Let’s Dance event not only took off, but took on a life of its own. Hundreds gathered that December evening in downtown Prishtina to dance for the mothers and children of a tiny, recovering country.
The fundraising, which almost seemed to take a back seat at the event, raised over €56,000 at the first two events, providing life-altering equipment and resources, through AMC, for the Neonatology Clinic at Prishtina’s public
hospital and other healthcare centers throughout Kosovo.
Many of those who have become a part of what is now being called “a movement of solidarity and kindness” work in philanthropy and development of Kosovo year-round. Others lead entirely different lives, contributing to the local community in both direct and indirect ways. Once a year, however, they come together to create palpable change with and colleagues, through dance, music, food, drink, networking and just plain, old-fashioned fun. Supporters and organizers of the event have all come to be known and Prishtina’s Letsdancers.
This year’s Let’s Dance fundraising event takes place on Thursday, September 21, at the Duplex Premium in Prishtina, Kosovo. Attending is easy – simply contact the Foundation Action for Mothers and Children at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +38649685943 or +38138748309 and telling whoever picks up that you’d like to dance. Contributing to the cause is even easier and can be done online via http://www.amchealth.org/amchealth/, but the organizers kindly request that you do a little dance if and when you make a donation, to keep with the spirit of it all and to qualify as an official Letsdancer.
Feature image source credit: Action for Mothers and Children, 2015. From left to right: Zana Aqifi, Michael Gold, Linda Baleta and Mrika Aliu.