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Walter Willis“I would rather not sit down and debate about projects; I just want to get the drawings and do the job. That’s my profession and I love it. Where the funds come from is not important to me.” By Latoya Giles Growing up in Pike Street, Kitty, and seeing his father doing a job which earned him very little, Walter Willis made the decision to cease his truant ways and buckle down to his books. This turned out to be a very wise choice – Willis in his relentless pursuit of success has become a much sought after and renowned engineer.Among many noteworthy designations, he is presently the Technical Adviser to the Minister of Transport and Hydraulics Robeson Benn; the Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Public Works and the Chairman of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority. Impressive to say the least!Born to Elsie Veronica Willis and Haniff Khan on the 23 of July 1949, Walter said he had a very modest childhood; one filled with pleasant memories,Cheap NFL Jerseys, even though he came from a single-parent household.“There is plenty talk about single parents now….but what about when the single parent is the father?” he reflected.The story, according to the eloquent professional, is that his mother left his father when he was just nine days old. Willis recounts that his father managed with his children without even remarrying. Merely with the help of a housekeeper who was referred to in those days as a “Nee Nee” the children were taken care of.Not many would believe that this well achieved man used to prefer to go swimming, running in the burial ground and picking fruits instead of going school.He admits that he was a truant but that the habit was short lived, for the importance of life was made clear to him in various ways. In fact, one of the things his father did to help him stop was to start “paying him”.“My father told me ‘look budday if you go to school I would give you a matinee bill to go the cinema’,” Willis jokingly remembers.Yes,Wholesale Nike NFL Jerseys, his father had to ‘bribe’ him to go to school.“I stopped playing truant; I stopped riding the horses and donkeys and started to go to school”.He said his father worked as a driver for the luxury liner buses, but after his sight went he starting cleaning the buses. He would usually take Walter to help out on Saturday. As a young person he found it demeaning but he never told his father. His dad would often give him a small portion of the earnings.It was during one of those Saturday outings that the choice to pursue his books with sheer dedication weighed heavily on the mind of the impressionable youth.“I wanted something better…..I didn’t want to live like that and the only way I could get a better way of life was by sticking to my schoolwork.”Willis said his father always taught him that if he started something he must complete it and be honest at it. That lesson was well learned.Willis, who is versed in the world of machinery and hydraulics, was a former teacher. He recalled the early days.“The first eight years of my life I grew up in Pike Street on the railway line. I attended Campbellville Government School. We then moved to the West Coast Demerara, Plantain Walk to be specific.”It was then on to the Anglican School where he obtained his College of Precept Certificate.Walter then went to the government-aided school which was set up at West Demerara at Coghlan’s House. He pursued his O’ levels there and was successful at the examinations in 1966.In 1967 and 1968 he worked as a pupil teacher at the La Grange Primary School. During that time he did O’ levels along with the teachers who taught him at West Demerara Secondary.He was successful in Mathematics and began teaching at West Demerara Government Secondary. That was between 1968 and 1972. It was during the latter year that he “made the move” with his high school sweetheart. He explained that he and the girl he married attended the same schools and remained friends throughout the years.Walter Willis 2He fondly recounted that his wife of almost forty years, Dolly, was riding her bicycle one night without lights and they stopped to chat about that. The connection was immediate.A serious relationship began and the next year the couple got married. The happy union produced three children.Willis has two daughters – Sandra who has two children and is married, and Sonia. His son Christopher recently graduated from Brunswick University and received a job as a practicing Assistant Professor at one of the top universities in Canada.The affable Willis began attending the University of Guyana and was awarded a Government of Guyana Scholarship in 1972.He went on to do a one-year programme in Technology and Sanitary Engineering that was completed in 1973. In that same year he began working at the Guyana Water Incorporated as a drainage engineer.Between 1973 and 1978 he was motivated to become involved in politics after listening to the teachings of Dr Walter Rodney.In December 1978, Willis was fired because he stood up for what he believed in. According to him,Wholesale Jerseys Free Shipping, he took part in a picketing exercise outside of Parliament Buildings; the exercise was against the redeployment of his workers. In his mind they targeted the majority of persons who nearing retirement and pensioners and he didn’t agree with that.After leaving the water company abruptly, Willis began working at a consultancy firm in 1978. He was there from 1978 to 1988 as an engineer, and worked under the direction of Phillip Allsopp, a highly accomplished engineer. Allsopp, he said, was an inspirational figure in his professional life.“He was my mentor ….over the years the friendship has grown tremendously.”Walter’s precise works and pure dedication made a few heads turn…in the right direction. In 1985 he was offered a fellowship to study in Holland at the I.H.E – The Institute of Hydraulics and Environmental Engineering. He pursued studies for his diploma in Hydraulic Engineering.Willis opined the Dutch training really placed a new light on his career. He said he was exposed to numerous new aspects of his profession.“The Dutch would always say that what you don’t know about you don’t talk about ….get your facts and research thoroughly….always do your calculations. I always tell the young engineers to do their calculations. When you do your calculations you can always go back through it to see if and where a mistake was made.”When he returned to Guyana he continued working at the company but moved on and began his stint at the Kayman Sankar Group of Companies.Once he began working there, his earning power increased tremendously, to the point that he was able to stop his wife from working.With his wealth of knowledge in the engineering field, Willis quickly developed a number of strategies which proved to be very beneficial for the company.He stressed to me that he did not want to toot his own horn, but explained how he developed the rice mills with its silos and dryers. He also helped to develop the Velbetta Rice Development Scheme,Cheap Jerseys From China, which was comprised 12,000 acres of land.During his time at Kayman Sankar, the company had recently bought its rice mill from GuySuCo. Willis said working at Kayman Sankar he had to get accustomed to doing things the rugged way – something he cherished.After leaving the Sankar Group of companies, he was employed at the Ministry of Public Works.At the Ministry, it was a totally different experience, he quickly recognised that the varied attitudes of the private and public sectors didn’t go well together. “The bureaucracy which resulted was numbing…with regards to if you need to change anything or share experiences. At Kayman Sankar I was accustomed with dealing with a father and son only two persons to make a decision. Now at the Ministry if a decision is to be made, a lot of stakeholders have to be involved, which sometimes sees a lot of mind games before there is consensus.”Willis said the highlights of his career honestly began at the Ministry. “Everything became very challenging but I really love a good challenge.”He said he was very pleased to have been associated with the completion of the road project in Essequibo, in which three contractors had tried and weren’t able to finish the job.The soft-spoken Willis has been involved in a number of high profile contracts. These include the completion of the Guyana National Stadium at Providence, the Caricom Headquarters, The International Conference Centre, the Olympic-size Swimming Pool and the four lane highway on the East Bank Demerara.Presently his main focus is on the Georgetown Solid Waste Programme, which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank,Wholesale China Jerseys Free Shpping, and which he says is behind schedule – something that the consummate professional is not very pleased with.On a daily basis he operates out of an office environment, as he recognises the need to be present to oversee the projects. But his career has affected his life in other ways, and he is quite cognizant of it.“It’s time consuming; the projects are not always in the same place. There’s a lot of moving around. It can really put a lot of pressure on one’s family life. I missed out on some very important aspects in my children’s life. I can never recapture them.”Willis is also involved in the Amaila Falls Hydro Project – the largest undertaking in the country’s history – which has seen its fair share of controversy.This grandfather of two said he really doesn’t think he is special, but merely thinks that he stands out because he puts his best foot forward whenever doing anything.“I would rather not sit down and debate about projects; I just want to get the drawings and do the job. That’s my profession and I love it. Where the funds come from is not important to me.”It’s been 11 years of working at the Ministry and Walter Willis said he wouldn’t change anything because he is doing his fellow Guyanese a service in the interest of development.We think that Walter Willis is a special person. We know we aren’t wrong.
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