When I come back home I am already planning for the next year and how we are going to get the funding for it,” 41-year-old window cleaner Ian Bright tells me.
While many will head for a relaxing beach holiday Ian takes his wife Karen and their two sons Jacob, nine, and Ethan, five, to the town of Korce in South Eastern Albania.
There he will spend his time helping coach football to local children while Karen visits street kids, a special needs orphanage and a women’s shelter.
“I can’t speak Albanian but football is universal,” Ian, who lives in Yate and is a member of Christ the Rock Church, said.
“It’s a case of showing them what you want them to do and they pick it up very quickly.”
He adds: “Karen finds what she does there very moving and rewarding. I have to admit I went one time and by the time I came back I was crying.”
The church’s work is in support of Ian Loring and his wife Caralee who went there from Bristol in 1991 as part of a mission team working with Open Air Campaigners bringing supplies to impoverished and suffering people.
The couple ended up staying – even during the civil war of 1995 – when they focussed their efforts on feeding the Kosovar refugees. In 2011, the town council voted unanimously to make Ian Loring an ‘Honoured Citizen of Korce’ – the equivalent to being given a ‘Freedom of the City’ in London.
Ian (Bright) first heard about the scheme when someone spoke about it at his church.
“I was in a church service when someone said about the football camp,” Ian said.
“I went out for a week and absolutely loved it and wanted to keep going from then on.”
Now each year there is a fundraising effort by Christ the Rock Church to make sure their trip is successful as possible.
“Usually people on the trip travel to outlying villages but last year they raised enough money to bring 140 kids to one place more central for training,” Ian said.
“Seeing the children playing football and having fun is wonderful.
“Each year it has got bigger and bigger and on the last two I have taken my wife and our two children and they love it.
“This year we are taking out a total of 29 people, including a few of the players from our church football team, Rock Crusaders, of which I’m player manager, and 11 from our church youth group.
“We get a lot of pleasure from going out there and trying to make a difference and I’m sure they will have an amazing experience. It’s very rewarding.”
He added: “It will be my sixth year now and I have made so many good friends. We have built up friendships and the people love us coming to spend time with them. They keep asking when we are coming back.”
Now Ian is focussing on the latest fund raising efforts.
“The fund raising can be very hard going but worthwhile,” he said.
“Local schools and pre-schools in the area help donate craft items, colouring pencils, and paper for us to take.
“It’s great to have people’s support in the passion we have for what we do in Albania.”
This year the church is kicking off the fundraising by doing a canoe trip of 130 miles through the canal system from Oxford to Bradford on Avon. The challenge – involving eight hours of canoeing each day – will be completed in five days and starts on March 29.
To support them visit www.every click.com/albaniacanoechallenge
Originally published here: