In 1994 hospital consultant surgeon Steve Courtney and his wife Ruth, a primary school teacher, visited Corfu. They thought just for a holiday. However, on a day trip from Corfu, in a rusty little boat, they visited Sarande in the south of Albania.
They were shown the beautiful natural springs at Blue Eye, the ancient archaeological site at Butrint and saw the stunning beauty of the rugged dramatic landscape.
In sharp contrast were the hundreds of bunkers scarring the hillsides at every turn. Each family had been required to build its own bunker in readiness to defend the country against invasion. Whenever the bus parked, a boy ran to jam bricks behind the wheels to aid its failing brakes. The hospital had few light bulbs, broken windows and shards of glass on floors.
Within the gloom, Steve and Ruth went on to meet people whose kindness and generosity shone through-despite their circumstances. People who would share their food with them-leaving themselves with none. People who would give them their bed and sleep on the floor outside on the balcony. Steve and Ruth returned year after year building close friendships with many who they met-and determined to help, in any way that they could, this country and its people. Initially this was simply through visiting once or twice a year, maybe taking clothing and footwear, offering help within the hospital.
This developed into taking teams (in a voluntary capacity) who would work alongside them doing whatever was needed with the skills they could offer. Most of the work was with the poor and vulnerable.
Hope to Albania was established in 2010. In 2017 the charity was renamed Hope in Action and continues to work alongside locals and a number of charities based in Albania.