arly Life and Struggles

Lumjana Shehu was born in Albania during a tumultuous period marked by political instability and economic hardship. The Albanian government was unable to support its citizens effectively, prompting Lumjana's family to seek a better life elsewhere. 

When Lumjana was just born, her parents left her with her grandmother for a year while they moved to Greece in search of stability and new opportunities. Unfortunately, their struggles continued as Greece soon faced an economic crisis.

The family's situation was dire, but a glimmer of hope came when friends suggested applying for work visas in Canada.

Lumjana's father secured a work visa and headed to Calgary, Canada, only to discover that the visa was a scam. Confused and uncertain, he reached out to a friend who helped him settle in. 

Meanwhile, back in Greece, Lumjana's family found a woman willing to sell her and her daughter's passports. 

Desperate to reunite with Lumjana's father, her family took the risk of using these passports to cross the border into Canada.

Once at the border, Lumjana was the only one who spoke a bit of English and at 11 years old had to come face to face with an immigration officer who questioned so many details that by the end he even asked her to prove she had her ears pierced like the girl in the passport photo.

Her sister at the time was 5 and passed as a 17-year-old. Maybe through luck or by the goodwill of the officer, he let them pass.

Life Unfolding in Canada

Upon arrival in Toronto, the family faced the daunting task of pretending to be the individuals on the passports. 

Despite not speaking English, they managed to pass through immigration after being subjected to routine questioning. 

The transition to life in Canada was a cultural shock. The family grappled with language barriers and the stark differences between Canadian and Greek cultures.

Life in Canada began to settle until an incident where Lumjana's father, while parking a car, accidentally bumped into another vehicle. 

The police were called, and since he didn't have a license, he was arrested and sent to an immigration jail. This event was a severe blow to the family, who had to live in separate houses. 

Despite receiving a rejection letter and facing deportation, her parents, filled with fear and uncertainty about their future in Albania, decided to take a daring step. Rather than returning home, they chose to head to Chicago and seek a new life in the United States.

This journey required them to run across a field. Instead of packing her backpack with clothes, she chose to carry her dog, unable to bear the thought of leaving him behind, even as they managed to fit everything they owned into just four backpacks.

Lumjana's father chose to remain in immigration jail to allow his children to continue their education. After eight months, the family was deported back to Albania.

Return to Albania

Returning to Albania was a significant setback. The family faced the daunting task of restarting their lives in a country they felt detached from.  Her parents were judged for spending 17 years immigrating to come to zero. Albania seemed like a monster that they heard from the media.

The cultural and educational systems were challenging to adjust to, making the transition difficult. However, a turning point came when Lumjana secured an internship with Vodafone. Vodafone helped her find a community/group of friends that helped her transition earlier. 

At school, most people (youth) talked about wanting to leave Albania which only worsened my mindset. But now she decided not to sulk in that mindset and instead of wondering or looking for reasons to not fit in, she decided to explore it like a new country.

Lumjana later worked as a Marketing and Communications Manager at TUMO Tirana, an after-school program focused on teaching skills in technology and self-learning through projects. 

From TUMO she got to understand how amazingly talented youth couldn't find jobs locally because of traditional mindset (they had to have university, have 15 years of experience and be of x age). Therefore most youth chose to leave.

This role deepened her connection to Albania and its youth. During the Digital Nomad Fest in Tirana, she met Andreas Will Gerdes and Maya, a young worldschooler and they found a solution

Inspired by Maya's eloquence and Andreas' passion for remote working, Lumjana realized the potential for Albanian youth to excel in remote jobs.

Empowering Albanian Youth: The MaNaBu Movement

Lumjana connected with Tihana and the MaNaBu Movement, which focuses on empowering young people. 

Recognizing the technical skills of Albanian youth but the lack of job opportunities, Lumjana saw remote work as a solution. 

She collaborated with Hannah, who provided one of the best courses on finding remote work/becoming a freelancer., enabling young people to gain valuable skills for remote jobs.

Lumjana emphasizes that, despite the common belief that emigration is necessary for success, there are ample opportunities within Albania. 

Her efforts with the MaNaBu Movement and various youth initiatives have transformed how she views her homeland.

A Story from Shame to Success

Lumjana Shehu's journey is a testament to resilience and determination. From facing political and economic turmoil in Albania and Greece to overcoming the challenges of life as a refugee in Canada and the United States, her story is one of unwavering perseverance. 

Today, as a leader in the MaNaBu Movement, Lumjana is dedicated to empowering Albanian youth with the Virtual Assistance Program with Skills, Mentoring, and Community, for Global Remote Work Opportunities.. 

She has changed the narrative from one of shame to one of success, proving that with determination and the right opportunities, anything is possible.

Jul 2, 2024
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