Stories of Men

Uplifting Communities and educating the marginalised in Kosovo

Uplifting communities at home and abroad

Jelana’s first response was to ask “Can my friends come?”Elizabeth was struck that Jelana’s first thought was about extending the opportunity she had been given. So Elizabeth agreed to teach Jelana’s friends too. That night she couldn’t sleep. 

Uplifting communities at home and abroad

This episode of Our Voices focuses on an inspirational story of uplifting communities and educating the marginalised. Elizabeth is a 48-year-old teacher and campaigner who lives in Kosovo. Originally she planned on living in the country for 6 months having joined her husband on a work placement. 

Sixteen years later and they are both still there. In order to understand Elizabeth’s connection to Kosovo, one has to be aware of three key moments from her past and how they led her to inspiring change. 

Women of inspiration

The first concerns an activity Elizabeth would do at primary school in Hampshire, England. This would involve picking up laminated pieces of card which would contain the story of a historically significant person on one side and then questions for the student to answer on the other.The cards that particularly resonated with Elizabeth were those which told the stories of women of inspiration.

 “ I’d steam through them. I’d go and pick up Gladys Aylward, and then I do the questions on her, and then I come back and get Elizabeth Fry and learn about prison reform and do the questions on her. And then there’d be one on Grace Darling, who’d lived in the lighthouse and saved lives of people drowning at sea.”

 Through learning about these women of inspiration, Elizabeth herself became inspired at an early age.

Learning how not to fit in

The second event occurred while Elizabeth was this time at secondary school. She went to a boarding school and found herself thrust into a very materialistic and competitive culture. “Everything is scrutinised. So when you’re at boarding school then people know what shampoo you use, they know every detail of your life. And, believe me, they laugh at you when you get it wrong.”

Uplifting Communities

Elizabeth initially tried to compete with the other girls in order to fit in. Until, one day, she realised that the best approach was to just stop caring. “that was the only way you were going to win, really, was to stop caring what people thought about you, and whether you have the right stuff. And, actually, that’s a brilliant thing to learn at school… certainly I think it gave me the confidence to do some of the things where I also didn’t fit in.”

Elizabeth was also inspired by her English teacher who gave her the tools to articulate her views and to deal with negative feedback. “That is a part of social mobility, and it’s a part of demanding your rights. And it’s a part of being able to articulate, as a woman, your place in the world.” 

Elizabeth would go on to share these skills in her own career.

Providing access to education for children

It was after Elizabeth had begun her career that the third key moment would occur. She was working as a primary school teacher in Hackney, London and some of her students were travellers. One of the traveller students Elizabeth remembers particularly well was called Sally: “she was extremely well behaved and studious and sweet”.

As Sally was coming towards the end of primary school, Elizabeth began to worry as travellers form one of the UK’s most marginalised groups and they tend to fall through the system before reaching secondary school.

Elizabeth got to discover more about Sally’s situation when she went to have a cup of tea with Sally’s mother. She asked the mother how Sally was getting on with her reading at home and, during the course of the conversation, it became clear that Sally’s mother couldn’t read or write.

This meant that it was impossible for her to support her daughter at home with her literacy. Elizabeth took it upon herself to personally register Sally for secondary school. It was this incident which made her realise how important uplifting communities by being active in her students’ lives outside of the classroom could be.

Educating the Marginalised

A marginalised group

The next little girl Elizabeth would meet would completely change her life. This time she was in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. There is a community known as the Ashkali, just outside of the capital. They live in poverty and survive from going through rubbish pickings, focusing particularly on plastic and aluminium.

Once they have found this waste, they will sell it on. The work is naturally unhealthy and unsanitary and it is often done by children when they would otherwise be at school. A 2012 study showed that only 4% of the community actually completed compulsory schooling. “When you’ve got that level of lack of education, that impacts on everything else. So it impacts on being very easily exploited and making poor health choices and not having ways out.”

Meeting Jelana

While visiting the local area, Elizabeth met a nine-year-old girl called Jelana. By chance, she mentioned that she wanted to go to school but that the school was not allowing her to register. Elizabeth was puzzled by this, so she decided to investigate this. 

“So I went to the Ministry of Education. And I said I think there’s a misunderstanding, this head teacher is saying that this girl can’t come to school. The woman at the Ministry of Education said to me ah, no, they’re just too hard to teach. And so that really drove me mad. The idea of any child being considered too hard to teach.” 

As a result, Elizabeth offered to teach Jelana herself so that she could pass the entrance exam so that the school would have to accept her.

Uplifting the Communities

Remembering the women of inspiration

Jelana’s first response was to ask “Can my friends come?” This came as a shock to Elizabeth that Jelana’s first thought was about extending the opportunity she got. Elizabeth agreed to teach Jelana’s friends too. That night she couldn’t sleep. 

The extent of the issues regarding this marginalised group made her think of the women of inspiration she had learned about at school. She was a teacher, she could speak Albanian. She realised that this could be her moment to become involved in inspiring change by extending access to education for these children. 

By the next morning, she’d made a decision. She was going to give six months of her time in order to prepare these children for the entrance exams.

Educating the marginalised

So Elizabeth found a small room above a mini market from where she could deliver her classes. She placed curtains on the floor for the children to sit on as underneath there was bare concrete. But, despite the minimalist resources, the children saw that this was a fantastic opportunity.

 “I thought that maybe five kids would come on the first morning. And then maybe by the end of the first week, we’d be up to 20 or something. But, on the first day, we had 23 kids come and by the end of the first week, we had 50 children coming.”

Elizabeth's Efforts of uplifting communities in Kosova

Uplifting communities

Other kind-hearted volunteers came to join Elizabeth in her cause. Eventually the school agreed to accept the children. But this proved only to be the beginning of Elizabeth’s focus on uplifting communities. Her project became a fully-fledged charity known as “The Ideas Partnership”.

 It is now Kosovo’s third largest volunteering organisation.

 “We work in five different centres. And, within education, we offer preschool, we offer support for kids who are in school, we also offer adult education… and bursaries for older kids or adults who want to go to high school or even to university.”

Looking to the future

The Ideas Partnership is making a real difference to many people’s lives by uplifting communities. Elizabeth won the Mother Teresa medal for her humanitarian work by the President of Kosovo.

The UK government has awarded her with the name “a point of light” for her volunteering initiatives. Elizabeth’s great ambition, however, is to see her charity grow. So that it can continue to focus on uplifting communities for many years to come. 

“Although I hope I’m going to be part of the Ideas Partnership forever, I don’t want it to be “Elizabeth’s Ideas Partnership”. It’s got to be something that’s taken on beyond me if it’s going to really be successful. And that’s when I will feel really proud.

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.