The man credited with being the driving force behind Shetland Aid Trust has stood down from the organisation after 17 years at the forefront of aid distribution.
Edwin Moar has been involved with the charity since it sent its first two artic trucks laden with aid to Albania in 1992.
Since then the organisation has sent its own lorries on epic journeys, taking much-needed goods to residents in the country’s impoverished mountain villages. However, practical changes to the way the trust distributes its aid are behind Mr Moar’s decision to step aside.
The charity has recently forged links with Highland-based charity Blythswood Care, enabling Shetland Aid to send goods out to places like Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo and Macedonia without having to use its own trucks.
The move means more and more people stand to benefit from aid donated in Shetland, while the uncertainty over sending an increasingly ageing fleet of vehicles across the continent has also been eased. However, it also means the personal connection built up with friends and contacts in Albania over the years is being eroded.
Mr Moar said it was that which led him to the decision to stand down.
“There are one or two younger folk coming onto the trust, and also I felt a strong link with Albania. I saw the physical connection that we had bringing aid to Albania coming to an end and I felt it was time to step aside.
“The trust will continue to function – although I have resigned – but it’s unlikely they will be going out directly now.”
Before bowing out, Mr Moar recently oversaw the delivery of 1,800 boxes of clothing, footwear, bedding and kitchen utensils to Albania, via Blythswood’s distribution centre at Evanton in Ross Shire.
The goods – specifically requested for 13 villages in the mountainous Kukes area – had already been gathered, sorted and boxed at the Shetland Aid store in the old North Road.
Mr Moar said Blythswood offered free storage space for the goods, and also provided administrative staff to carry out the transfer and help prepare onward documentation.
Northwards took the boxes free of charge to Evanton, while JBT Transport and Garriock Brothers offered the use of forklifts to help with the job. NorthLink Ferries provided free passage down to Scrabster.
An agency in Dover, meanwhile, contacted hauliers from Eastern Europe willing to return loads as they headed back from the UK.
“I do feel this connection with Blytheswood Care, which we managed to establish two to three years ago, is probably the way forward because it means a lot less planning and a lot less administration,” Mr Moar said. “It also costs much less. We’ve been looking at a minimal outlay.”
Once the goods arrived in Albania, Mr Moar – along with fellow trust members Harold Pottinger, Alistair Rendall and Rorie Laidlay – travelled out to help with the transfer.
The trip was judged a success, despite the men having to contend with the usual official corruption which has been commonplace over the years.
Although the haulier arrived in Albania on time, disagreements between customs and Kukes district officials caused a four day delay in getting the goods to their intended destination.
Mr Moar said: “While the Shetland team greatly appreciated the beautiful weather and wonderful hospitality from some of our many friends there, the continued indecision and conflicting reports regarding the delivery of the aid meant they could not leave Kukes and carry out the planned visits to the mountain villages, schools and orphanage to assess their need for the future.”
As if that was not enough, an earthquake centred 70 kilometres from Kukes awoke Mr Moar in the night with a violent shake. According to television reports quake, which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale, caused damage to 1,000 homes.
Despite 70 odd boxes being pilfered by officials, the trust were still able to deliver over 1,730 boxes to needy families. A school received much-needed desks and chairs and teaching aids, while the orphanage got cots and bedding.
Although he has enjoyed his time with the trust, there are things Mr Moar will not miss about the regular Shetland Aid trips. As the lorries became increasingly run down, he admitted it was always a concern wondering if they would survive the long journey across the heart of Europe.
Dealing with high levels of administration at Albanian custom points was always a headache, as was the corruption.
However, he said he had gained a lot from working with other committee members on the charity.
“I’ve enjoyed the work. We were getting aid out to where we saw a need. There was a physical connection between the location and the distribution and we made many friends in Albania.
“I won’t be severing my connection with Albania at all, but now I will go there in a holiday mode rather than as an aid provider.”
Mr Moar was at pains to point out that Shetland Aid Trust is continuing to operate without him. It currently has nine members on its committee, headed by chairwoman Una Laidlay. Anyone wishing to donate aid can still do so at the trust’s North Road store.
Conditions in Albania are improving and future direct trips are unlikely. But the trust says its connection with Blytheswood will continue, with trailers being sent down to Evanton for wider distribution as and when required.