Dublin granny flies to Ethiopia for hospital role
A candlelit meal, flowers and chocolates are on the menu for many women this Valentine's Day.
But what one Dublin grandmother, Ann Brennan (64), plans to do is truly heart-warming, because she will leave behind her loved ones today to make a difference to other people in need of her skills.
Ann will embark on the adventure of a lifetime when she departs for Ethiopia today from Dublin Airport.
The retired HSE health manager from Killiney will spend the next 12 months with global international development organisation Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), volunteering as a hospital administrator in Hawassa.
There is a lot of work to be done in the health services. On average, every year, 10,000 women die as a result of complications during pregnancy and 135,000 babies die before their first birthday in Ethopia.
Having retired from St Michael's Hospital in Dun Laoghaire as their quality and risk manager, Ann decided to volunteer overseas to share her skills and experience.
"I will be 65 next month. I suppose I am very lucky. I am well, my husband is well and my kids are well and I just felt this is a window of opportunity," Ann said.
"I went into a conference in Dublin Castle on volunteering. I was looking for some sort of volunteer work, I had been dipping in and out of it since I retired.
"When they saw my CV, they asked me would I consider applying for this post in Hawassa Hospital, because they are trying to implement hospital reforms. I said I would have to discuss it with my husband.
"It is something I had always wanted to do, but actually didn't think that it would be possible to do at this stage of my life," she said.
"The actual job that was advertised was administrator in the hospital," Ann said.
Her husband Seamus, a retired teacher, turned 70 yesterday, and Ann also leaves behind her daughters Orla (38) and Aoife (34) while she completes her overseas stint.
She admitted that leaving her five grandchildren ranging in age from two-and-a-half up to eight will be "a big wrench".
But she will be able to keep in touch with them all by Skype.
"I have loved my job all my life, I have been very, very fortunate. And every hospital I worked in I have liked, especially St Michael's which I had a great fondness for.
"The most important part of my remit, is that any reform I put in, that there is somebody there to take over," she said.
Ann has a lot of experience from her time within the Irish health service. Over the course of her career, she worked in lots of different hospitals and she also did lecturing in Kevin Street in health services management.
VSO Ireland is an international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty. It has placed skilled, professional volunteers in over 30 countries in Africa and Asia. For more information, visit www.vso.ie.