Brampton couple embark on humanitarian mission to Albania

MOST people look forward to putting their feet up in retirement, perhaps taking up a new hobby, enjoying long holidays and making the most of the freedom that

MOST people look forward to putting their feet up in retirement, perhaps taking up a new hobby, enjoying long holidays and making the most of the freedom that has been promised after decades of hard work.

But for one Brampton couple relaxing is the last thing on their minds when they both retire on Friday (November 4).

Ola and David Willis, of Bromholme Lane, are embarking on an 18-month humanitarian mission to Albania – something that they have been planning for 30 years that will cost them �20,000 of their own money.

Mr and Mrs Willis will start their adventure on November 17 with a one-week course at the Missionary Training Centre in Preston.

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They will then travel to Frankfurt, Germany, for a second week of training before flying to Tirana – Albania’s capital – to begin work alongside aid agencies such as the Red Cross.

To begin with, Mrs Willis will help train hospital staff in resuscitation techniques for newborn babies while her husband helps construct wheelchairs for polio victims.

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The mission is being organised by the Mormon church, of which both are members, and is something for which the couple have saved for 30 years.

Mr Willis, 64, told The Hunts Post: “When I first joined the church in 1975, I was too old to join their youth missions. So, once married, we both decided we wanted to serve on a mission later in life.

“Our church has programmes for older people who are financially and physically fit enough to serve overseas, so we saved up for it.”

Albania, which was ruled by dictator Enver Hoxha for 40 years until his death in 1985, has suffered from a long lack on investment in its infrastructure and health and education systems.

Mrs Willis, 59, who has worked as a nurse at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon for the last 22 years, added: “I’m hoping to use the skills I’ve acquired in all my years in nursing to help the Albanian people to help themselves.

“Our aim isn’t to tell them what to do: it’s about empowering them to do things for themselves. For example, the infant mortality rate in Albania is very high and, by educating doctors and nurses in simple resuscitation techniques for newborn babies, we could really make a difference.”

The couple, who have five children and eight grandchildren, said they were “nervously excited” about the mission.

Although saying goodbye to the children and grandchildren will be difficult, especially with Christmas just over eight weeks away, they know they leave with the full support of the family.

“Even our little grandchildren think it’s a great idea,” said Mrs Willis. “I think it’s important for them to see their grandparents giving something back to society in later life.”

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