Peme Paco, born and raised in Albania, now lives in Safety Harbor and does volunteer work for Pinellas County.
Peme Paco may seem an unlikely person to be a VIP, Volunteer in Pinellas.
Paco was born and raised in Albania and, like many living in foreign countries, had always wanted to come to America to live. Three years ago she got the chance. She and her husband and two children applied for and were granted a visa by the government to move to America. They settled in Safety Harbor.
To understand why someone would give up family and friends and move to a foreign country to live one has to look at the history of Albania. The country has had a series of changes in its government over the last century.
According to Wikipedia, it had been part of the Ottoman Empire until gaining its independence in the early 1900s. During World War II it was annexed by Nazi Germany. After the war it gained its independence and became a socialist republic. Social unrest and economic troubles led to a collapse in the communist regime in 1990 and today Albania is a parliamentary democracy. Paco says several decades ago the Albanian people came to like and respect the United States and its people. And it continues today.
The country is home to several large metallurgical plants and after receiving a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering, Paco went to work in two of the plants. There she was involved in a number of different areas, including managing administrative and technological work as well as instructing and survey safety guidelines for employees.
For some that would have been a big enough accomplishment. But not for the 48-year-old Paco. After five years she married an engineer and moved back to Tirana. There she studied at the Academy of Public Order and became the first woman in Albania to finish the academy.
Soon she found herself a police officer and a professor at the academy. While at the academy she studied law and received a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. In addition to becoming a lawyer, she moved on from the police academy to Rinas International Airport in Tirana, where she became general directorate of customs. Her duties there included implementing safety rules and guidance for travelers as well as being a representative of the state in the court for legal problems with commercial entities.
Paco, however, wanted more and she saw greater opportunities in America. She noted while “Europe is beautiful, but not like the United States. The people who live here don’t understand what they have.” Paco further added that she likes America because it is a “free country who accepts every race and every kind of people.” Her husband works for DSE Inc. in Tampa and is preparing to go back to college for further studies in engineering. One son is going to St. Petersburg College while the other is still in high school. Paco is taking classes at St. Petersburg College to prepare herself for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam. Her goal is to pursue a master’s degree.
According to Paco, volunteering is a good thing to do because “you can learn so many new things, and coming from another country, you can learn a different culture, how people think and do as well as learn new skills.” Like other volunteers in the criminal court records department Paco’s duties include office and clerical work, docketing and more.
Vanessa Pinckney, assistant manager of the Pinellas County Criminal Court Records Department, is Paco’s supervisor. She speaks highly of Paco, believing “the experience she brings to this organization, her background in the legal field and her experience as an attorney has been a great asset.” Pinckney also believes it’s been a win-win situation for both.
“She’s helping us out with her experience but we’re in turn helping her out by putting her in an area where she can utilize not only her skills and experience but also communicate and build a better understanding of the English language,” Pinckney said, adding that all volunteers help out tremendously in the clerk’s office and notes Ken Burke has wholeheartedly embraced the idea of VIPs.
Paco is a good example of the number of different people with different backgrounds that are in the Volunteers in Pinellas program. She is making a difference, not only for the county but for herself and her family as well.
Pinellas County volunteers can expect to make a difference in the life of their community, while exploring interests, sharing knowledge, assisting others and making friends.