Arran catches up with Valdete ten years on

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Many Arran residents will remember when we raised funds to bring this young lady from Albania for surgery and treatment to improve her quality of life, writes Sue Davidson.

This was a big deal for Valdete Gjonpalaj and her family as she was just 18 years old and had never been outside of Albania. There were many first experiences she had to face, first time on an plane, struggling to understand the Scottish accent and most difficult of all, surgery without her parents here. She had to stay with us for eight months, four of those with a heavy plaster on her leg.

When the plaster came off, she was able to wear proper shoes for the first time, very important to a teenage girl. Then she stood for the first time and was able to walk short distances with a zimmer frame.

The most difficult time for all of us, was when she had to return to Albania. She wanted us to adopt her but of course this wasn’t possible as she was over eighteen. She found it difficult to settle down again in her own country but what kept her going was her desire to help other young people with physical disabilities, most of who were hidden away in their homes at that time. The private hospital where she had her surgery, gave us £500 to start a charity to help others in Albania.

This we did and some of you will remember when Pat Ferguson and I drove our minibus full of equipment from Arran to Albania.

So, here is Valdete, ten years on, able to go out alone for the first time in her life with the mobility scooter we bought for her.

We opened the day care centre she dreamed of and Valdete was my translator until I could learn the difficult Albanian language. She studies at our centre and has just finished her second year of high school along with two other students. This was amazing for their families and something they didn’t believe would happen. We’re training them for employment in the future, another first!

It’s difficult to find the £2,000 per month to run our centre but we’ve been open now for five years. Brexit has seen the British pound lose value which of course increases our costs.

We need help! Is there anyone interested in helping with fundraising, able to help with setting up Instagram and other IT pages?

If we could find 50 people willing to give £10 per month or 100 people able to give £5 monthly, we’d be able to continue. As we’re a registered charity in Scotland as well as in Albania, we can claim Gift Aid on your donations.

We need to see not only Valdete but the other students at our centre through another two years of school.

If you’re able to help in any way, please contact Sue on 850503 or Ken on 700644.

An article in the Arran Banner from 2008 shortly after Valdete arrived on Arran.

An article in the Arran Banner from 2008 shortly after Valdete arrived on Arran. No_B33Val01

Valdete Gjonpalaj pictured on her mobility scooter ten years on. No_B33Val02