July 9, 2024

Interview with Mark Kosmo: The Albanian Philanthropist Who Pledged $1 Million to OriginAL

We had the privilege of interviewing Mark Kosmo, founder of the Global Albanians Foundation, a member of the Board of GERMIN, and a passionate donor to the OriginAL program. 

With a unique perspective as a “Born-Again Albanian,” Mark shares his inspiring journey, his deep connection to his heritage, and his unwavering support for a program that bridges the gap between young Albanian diaspora individuals and their roots. In this interview, Mark discusses his background, motivations, and hopes for the future of OriginAL, offering valuable insights into the long-term impact of fostering cultural connections within the Albanian community.

On May 24, 2023, during a fundraising concert dedicated to the OriginAL program, Mark Kosmo made a remarkable pledge of $1 million. Kosmo’s donation not only highlighted his commitment to philanthropic causes but also underscored the importance of supporting programs that promote Albanian culture and heritage and develop our home countries.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I grew up in Boston with four grandparents who came to America over 100 years ago from Korce and its surrounding villages.  Sometimes I say we were American from Monday-Saturday. Still, on Sunday we were Albanian – visiting lots of cousins in a large and extended family, going to church, and engaging with the Albanian community. However,  I did not learn Albanian until I was 35 and went to Albania to work for the World Bank in the 1990s. So that is how I began to connect with Albanians and get involved in Albanian Diaspora issues.  

What inspired you to become a donor for the OriginAL program?

Mark’s journey as an Albanian-American during a time when Albania was a closed-off country profoundly influenced his decision to support OriginAL. “Growing up, we felt Albanian for sure, but we could not connect with the people or culture in a serious way since Albania was closed. I never met someone living in Albania until 1990,” he explains. As he got to know Albanians as an adult, Mark came to appreciate his roots and how they shaped his identity both professionally and personally. “As one of the founders of OriginAL, I could see that it was a program to provide an opportunity that my generation of Albanian-Americans could never have. It’s important that youth have a sense of identity and where they come from and to be proud of that.”

How do you believe your contribution will impact the lives of young diaspora individuals exploring their Albanian heritage?

Mark hopes that his contributions will inspire young diaspora individuals to embark on a lifelong exploration of their roots. “Most importantly, I hope that it will encourage their curiosity about their roots and lead them on an exploration for the rest of their lives – whether that is as someone who is engaged in the Albanian Diaspora, or someone who goes to live in the homelands for a few years to work professionally. The most important thing is to inspire people to feel connected and to ‘give back’ as part of the circle of life.”

What are your hopes for the future of the OriginAL program?

“The hope is that it is a program that will double in size every year for the rest of this decade,” says Mark, emphasizing the need for growth. He envisions a future where thousands, not just hundreds, of Albanian diaspora youth are reached. “Without a strong diaspora like Ireland, Israel, and India have, Albania will never be able to realize their full potential in the diaspora or our homeland countries. Creating a strong diaspora can’t be done though if we do not connect people to their roots and build the institutions that are necessary to accomplish that.”

What message would you give to others considering supporting OriginAL and its mission to connect young Albanians of the diaspora with their roots?

Mark encourages potential donors to consider the long-term impact of their contributions. “Donating for any cause is a great thing to do whether it is helping people in need, building a school, or providing health care. The unique thing about donating to OriginAL though is you would be donating for something that has a much more long-term impact. By connecting more Albanian youth to their roots, donors plant the seeds for so much more in the future – people who will become doctors, teachers, and work in many other professions will feel more connected to their roots and homeland countries and more inspired to help with their skills, contacts, and financial resources. Sunshine and water can do a lot…but only if the seeds are properly planted in the first place.

Mark Kosmo’s journey and dedication to the OriginAL program highlight the profound impact that reconnecting with one’s heritage can have. His vision for the program is not only to connect young Albanian diaspora individuals with their roots but also to build a stronger, more united diaspora for generations to come. By supporting OriginAL, donors contribute to a legacy that nurtures identity, fosters connections, and inspires future leaders within the Albanian community.

Get ready! / Bëhuni gati!

Application will open on May 25th, 2022.

Aplikimi hapet më datë 25 Maj, 2022.