Street boys find their wings

Accomplished jetsetters

18 May

Report by Anna Cuthel

Ask any group of boys anywhere in the world what they want to be, and chances are there’ll be a few of them will say they want to be pilots. The I Afrika boys are no exception!

I Afrika’s 40 special boys are all former street kids from the back alleys of Nairobi’s poorest neighborhoods. Some abused, many orphaned, and all discarded by an unforgiving world, these children survived out in the cold from as young as 6 years old.

“Life in Kenya for a street boy is typically dirty, violent and short”, says I Afrika’s Director, Peter Nduati. This small, grass-roots organisation was established in 2008 to care for orphaned and vulnerable street children after Kenya’s tragic post-election violence. In 2009 I joined the team as Board Chairperson for I Afrika. Recently identified by the Kenyan government as an exemplary model, I Afrika does great work both with kids still on Kenya’s streets, and with the 40 boys who have left the streets and live in the home.

After six and a half years in Kenya, my husband, MAF pilot Ryan Cuthel, and I, together with our son Luka, felt God was calling us back home to Australia. As a farewell gift to the boys, and as a fitting and celebratory last flight with MAF, Ryan took all 40 boys on a flight up and over Nairobi in the Cessna Caravan.

Watching from the hangar doors

Arriving at Wilson Airport crammed solidly into two matatu minivans on a Saturday morning, the boys could scarcely contain their enthusiasm. Josephat, 17, even came dressed in a full suit and tie, because “that is what important men wear when flying on aeroplanes”.

Ryan’s circuits took the boys, their teachers, and Luka and I up over the animals grazing in Nairobi National Park, past the wealthy houses in the suburb of Karen, and came into land looking out over the massive Kibera slum, a place many of the children once called home.

Ryan explaining the aircraft

They loved it! With their young faces alternating terror and exhilaration, each one gripping their seat tightly, the sound of the boys laughter filled the cabin. After each circuit Ryan landed and shut down, and one elated bunch of boys filed off the plane, giving way to a more nervous group getting on.

Those waiting on the ground, plane-spotting from the hangar doors, were given talks by MAF’s Kenyan staff as to the many and varied types of jobs in the aviation industry. Perhaps MAF-Kenya’s next generation of engineers and ops staff will come from this pool!

For most of these boys, this flight will be the first and last time they set foot on an aeroplane. The chance to take them up was a huge blessing to them and to Ryan and I, who have cherished our time with them over the years. I Afrika’s Director reported that for the boys, the experience was “unbelievable and exciting, giving them the knowledge that even for a boy from the street, nothing is impossible with God. Each went home that day filled with pride!”

This flight was a delightful way to end Ryan’s service in MAF Kenya, and my involvement as I Afrika’s Chairperson. We’re thankful to MAF and to God for the opportunity to make 40 dreams come true!

Mark and the boys nervous before takeoff

The end of a chapter

Well, 6 1/2 years, 3,100 mission flying hours, thousands of clubfeet healed, 45 former street boys re-homed and one cute little son later, we are back on Australian soil. Our years in Kenya and South Sudan have been an incredible time, a time of growing, learning, mourning and rejoicing—years of incredible adventures, friendships and experience. We left with the blessing of MAF Kenya and I Afrika, both organisations throwing wonderful farewell parties and leaving us with very kind words and a permanent welcome back.

Though many tears have been shed over the last few months, we leave Kenya in the sure knowledge we’ll visit again (God willing), and with the comfort of friendships and experiences which cannot be erased.

We are now back in the Redlands, living with Anna’s parents while Ryan gets his Australian license current again and looks for work. We hope to stay in Brisbane but are trusting God’s plan for wherever we may end up as we make this transition.



Bake Off to Take Off - order your pack todayPilots wanted for mission possible

Mission Aviation Fellowship

Castle Hill Avenue, FOLKESTONE, CT20 2TN UK, Tel: 01303 852 819

Registered Charity Number 1064598 (England & Wales) and SC039107 (Scotland)

Website by Baigent