Dren’s life was filled with brutality. What chance he could ever escape it?
Little Dren stood no chance at home. His mother was a prostitute, his home a broken down apartment building known locally as “the hotel”, his bedroom a shared space with a leaky roof, no father as such, but a succession of men only too happy to pay his mother for access…
He stood no chance at school. How could he with a life like his?
He surely stood no chance of escape. This was his life; from the moment it was turned upside down when his mother turned to prostitution in desperation when he was 5 years old, his path was set. A path that would probably mean he would be lucky get out of the small Albanian town of Delvinë, where he grew up, alive.
Dren’s daily routine swung between unspeakable abuse and neglect. At least when he was being neglected he could take himself off somewhere. At the age of 7, Dren began taking himself to a local church. He and a few friends would go there to play. Like children. Here was warmth and safety, and the pastor and his wife were the exact opposite of most of the adults he knew. He began to memorise the bible stories he heard at the church. They brought some comfort.
But what chance did this faint ray of hope have of growing into anything more? Even as he continued to go to the church and receive the limited help and support on offer there over the following years, Dren could not escape the life of degradation and poverty that had been forced on him. The years passed, and all that he desired was to leave that wretched building, his mother and her men behind, so very much. But one way or another, he was trapped.
At the age of 18 a possibility opened up at last. In a decisive moment, Dren took the only chance he could at something utterly new. Encouraged by the pastor, Dren decided to try and make a better life for himself and joined the House of Opportunity Programme in Elbasan in October 2022.
So early in his time at Elbasan, it is perhaps too soon to declare that Dren will escape his old life, but he might just. After a visit to his old friends the pastor and his wife over Christmas, the pastor told the House of Opportunity team that they could already see a difference in Dren. And he is determined to press on with his new life.
Dren has begun, ever so slowly, to write down the story of his life so far in greater detail. He keeps his notebook closely guarded, but he has shared a little with the House of Opportunity team already and believes that telling his story will be helpful. Even with a lot of support and care from the team at House of Opportunity, it’s going to take a lot out of Dren to make a break with his past and build something good. Perhaps the odds are against him. But at House of Opportunity, he’ll have every chance.