Students studying science at Nomad Mougulu High School, PNG’s Western Province

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Students studying science at Nomad Mougulu High School, PNG’s Western Province
01 Dec 2022
MAF UK launches ‘Flying for Life’ podcast
Nomad Mougulu High School - one of the remotest schools on earth – features in the first episode.  Set in the heart of the jungle in PNG’s Western Province with no road or river access, its founder Sally Lloyd tells presenter Josh Carter how they rely on MAF to survive ...
Child receives oral polio vaccine
24 Nov 2022
Polio is back! MAF supports Tanzania’s vaccination drive
When wild polio made a comeback this year after 30 years in neighbouring Malawi, the WHO, UNICEF and others joined forces in a critical campaign to vaccinate the region. In Tanzania, MAF transported health workers and the lifesaving polio vaccine in a bid to protect isolated children against this deadly disease ...
Physiotherapist Ruan Swart flies to work with MAF every week
11 Nov 2022
MAF enables disability physio service for remote Australian islanders
Thanks to MAF, Ruan Swart is able to provide physiotherapy every week to some of the remotest people on earth. Ruan chats to MAF’s Stephanie Gidney about his work and how MAF’s daily shuttle service to Australia’s Elcho Island makes a world of difference ...
Princess Anne and Sir Tim Laurence in front of MAF plane
28 Oct 2022
MAF flies HRH in Uganda marking 60 years of independence
As part of her four-day tour in Uganda in support of several charities, MAF flights enable HRH The Princess Royal to access two refugee camps. She visits Nakivale – the oldest refugee camp in Africa – near the Tanzania border, and Kyangwali Refugee Camp in the west of the country ...
Nepo is pulled out of the debris
26 Oct 2022
MAF medevacs man to hospital after house collapses on top of him
It’s a miracle Nepo is alive. Whilst working under his house on 19th August in the remote PNG village of Pyarulama, the stilts holding up his home suddenly gave way on top of him. The weight of the building nearly killed him, but a swift MAF medevac to Kompiam Hospital saved his life. Dr Diana Zwijnenburg has been overseeing Nepo’s recovery… Houses in rural Papua New Guinea are traditionally built on two-metre stilts to avoid flooding, improve ventilation and to keep out vermin. The area underneath the house also offers much needed respite from the sun – a place in the shade to work on various projects. Unfortunately, Nepo – in his late forties – was working under such a house when it suddenly collapsed on top of him. Large fireplace stones from the floor above fell onto his chest and a wooden beam has crushed his leg. Screaming in pain, he’s pulled from the debris. Mathew Panglas, the local health worker, gives him some morphine and calls for a MAF medevac. Pilot Mathias Glass medevacks Nepo from Pyarulama to Kompiam Hospital. This mere twelve-minute flight saves his friends from carrying him in a makeshift stretcher over rugged terrain for two days. A&E in the middle of nowhere Nepo is admitted to Kompiam Hospital just before 5pm. Dr Diana Zwijnenburg, a volunteer doctor from Holland, gets to work on him straight away: ‘He’s badly injured and not very responsive. Although barely conscious, he’s breathing ok. I’m concerned about a possible skull fracture because there’s blood coming from his ear. His right upper leg is broken and there’s a nasty graze and bruising across his chest.’ Unfortunately, the x-ray machine is broken and they’re still waiting for replacement parts: ‘We have an ultrasound machine instead - a real blessing in this situation. Fortunately, there are no collapsed lungs or blood in his abdomen or pelvis, so I’m reasonably confident that there’s no major pelvic fracture.’ In the West, it’s standard practice to protect the neck in all trauma cases, but for doctors like Diana in the middle of the bush with limited resources, there isn’t that luxury: ‘His head has been wobbling around unprotected from the time of the accident. Should I put him in an ill-fitting collar, which might increase the pressure in his head and make a potential skull fracture worse? I decide that is probably worse, so I leave the neck, assuming it’s uninjured.’ Then there’s the other matter of his leg: ‘Under a lot of local anaesthetic, I insert a traction pin into his lower leg and hang some weights on it. This instantly makes his broken leg look a lot straighter.’ Nepo takes a turn for the worse Although Nepo looks better the next day and is fully conscious, bruising on his lungs from the falling stones start to cause breathing problems. Diana is worried: ‘Stones falling from a height of two metres are bound to cause significant damage. I examine him again but can’t find any broken ribs. His condition worsens - by morning he needs nasal prongs to give him oxygen and over the next 24 hours he deteriorates further. By Monday he’s on dual oxygen.’ Nepo urgently needs a ventilator to survive: ‘We need to intubate him (a breathing tube inserted into the airway) and put him on a ventilator until his lungs have healed enough for him to breathe again on his own.' This would be an easy decision in the West, but here in the middle of nowhere with few resources, staff have never seen, let alone looked after an intubated patient. Dr Diana Zwijnenburg, Kompiam Hospital His family consent to him being put onto a ventilator. Diana has to work fast: ‘I get some stuff together - a simple oxygen powered ventilator, intubation equipment, the suction machine from the labour ward, and various drugs.   ‘Two very competent junior doctors and a health care worker are willing to help even though they’re completely outside of their comfort zone. By now, Nepo is on his last few breaths, bathed in sweat from his effort to breathe.’ Divine intervention required! Diana and the team pray for a miracle: ‘We pray for the God of heaven and earth, the creator and sustainer of life to help. We pray for peace for the family and for a smooth intubation. We pray for this man to live - for God to give him a second chance, so that he can glorify God’s holy name.’ After doing all they can, they leave the rest to God. Nepo stabilises, but needs 24-hour care – a concept lost on the nurses of rural Papua New Guinea says Diana: ‘I discuss the importance of one nurse being with Nepo at all times. Regardless of lunchtime, breaks or other jobs, he needs to be watched. I realise that most of them have no clue what to watch out for or what to do in case of a problem. ‘Then we discuss suctioning - every hour his tube needs to be suctioned. More blank faces! Then there’s the matter of regularly turning him, feeding tubes, alarms, the pump and when to get a doctor. The staff have never experienced this before, yet in normal Melanesian fashion, they all nod and say “yes”, indicating their willingness, but I know I will have to show them first.’ With every changeover of staff, Diana patiently explains how to care for Nepo over and over again. Everything is harder in the bush As if broken equipment and inexperienced medical staff weren’t enough to contend with, there’s also the matter of out-of-date drugs, scarce medical supplies and blocked roads caused by election violence says Diana: ‘In a western Intensive Care Unit (ICU), drugs are administered through different syringes and pumps, which are adjusted to the patient’s needs. Here, we have one pump, so it all goes into one syringe. ‘Next, we realise that we’re going to run out of oxygen bottles before the weekend. Normally we get new supplies, but the road to the provincial capital is blocked due to election violence. Kompiam drivers are not keen to risk it.  ‘We’re also running out of bandages, gauzes, and other medications. After much procrastinating, two drivers finally pick up some supplies. When they return safely, everyone is so relieved.’ In the meantime, Diana is having issues with the contents of Nepo’s syringe and the quality of ICU care: ‘I need to change the contents of his syringe constantly due to some drugs not working properly. Most of our drugs are either 5 to10 years out of date or out of stock altogether. ‘The continuous supervision of his care has also become very tiring. One night I found both night nurses fast asleep with nobody watching Nepo. It didn’t happen again! ‘He has also developed some pressure sores because he hasn’t been turned every two hours. We dress all his wounds and turn him to prevent deterioration.’ All this time, Nepo’s family are keeping their distance. Diana learns why: ‘They are terrified. They’re convinced that a bad spirit is to blame - the spirit of Nepo’s wife’s first husband. They blame this spirit for the house collapse and are afraid of more trouble. They also don’t know what’s happened to Nepo’s spirit. ‘The amount of fear is heart-breaking. Our local pastor visits and speaks to them in their own language. Then we pray - God is so much bigger than all these spirits and fears.’ Slow road to recovery On day five, it appears that Nepo may be able to breathe by himself without a ventilator. Diana is pleased with his progress: ‘His airway pressure has been quite reasonable, and his numbers are looking good. There’s also a lot less debris when suctioning.  We get all our equipment ready and stop the sedation. We wait for about three hours but not much happens. Nepo starts to breathe again, but not enough to support himself. ‘The unpredictable effects of the drugs are not helpful. On top of this, the people in PNG seem more sensitive to some of the drugs. I admit defeat and put him back on the ventilator with a different sedative.’ A simple ventilator out in the bush is a lot less sophisticated than ventilators in the West: ‘A good ventilator synchronises with the patient’s breathing pattern. A patient is then weaned off the ventilator and their breathing tube removed after their medication is reduced. ‘Our little ventilator is unable to synchronise at an advanced level – it’s all or nothing so I have to keep Nepo in a much deeper state of sleep so he can tolerate the ventilator.' The disadvantage of this particular sedative is that it runs out much quicker than the previous one explains Diane: ‘Every four hours - day or night - his syringe needs to be changed. After two days, we try again to wean him off the ventilator. We pray again, leaving it all in God’s hands. ‘We stop the syringe and I suction all the debris that he coughs up. Nepo starts to breathe. We stop the ventilator and connect oxygen to the end of his breathing tube.' Nepo’s breathing is shaky at first, but gradually it improves: ‘Eventually, I take the breathing tube out – he’s on his own. We give him double oxygen and make sure he sits up as much as he can tolerate. We wait - the next hour is crucial. ‘Will he have the energy to sustain his breathing? His lungs are still very stiff and will take effort to overcome the trauma. ‘Two hours later Nepo opens his eyes after a family member calls his name. He improves quickly. Initially confused, Nepo manages to stand on his good leg wondering why his other leg is tied up. He’s reminded that his leg is broken and in traction.   ‘We remove his feeding tube and he’s able to eat and drink. Success! God has done it!’ On 25th October, Nepo was discharged from Kompiam Hospital and flown back to his village, Pyarulama, by MAF: Thanks to MAF airlifting me and the work of the staff at the hospital, I am finally leaving this place. I am now well again. May God bless their hands. Nepo, a MAF medevac patient Without MAF’s initial medevac, the ending to this story could have been very different.
25 Sep 2022
Elisha Moita – MAF passenger and evangelist – retires after 45 years
MAF’s been partnering with Malambo Bible College – founded by Elisha Moita in northern Tanzania - for over 35 years. Every year, new evangelists graduate and every month MAF fly them to remote communities to spread the Gospel. Only 63 Christians used to live amongst Tanzania’s Maasai, but today as Elisha retires, there are nearly 10,000 converts. MAF Tanzania’s Country Director Stuart Ayling attends Elisha’s retirement celebration… MAF Pilot Jarkko Korhonen flies some special guests to attend Evangelist Elisha Moita's retirement service. The 45-minute flight from Arusha to Malambo has saved them nine hours of overland travel. On board the plane, MAF Tanzania’s Country Director Stuart Ayling is accompanied by Bishop Solomon who will be participating in the ceremony. The service is packed with representatives from a range of Maasai churches, testament to Elisha’s ministry says Stuart: ‘It’s a joy to witness Elisha’s many years of faithful service being recognised and celebrated.’ Four new evangelists from different Maasai villages are commissioned by Bishop Solomon to continue Elisha’s ministry. Although Elisha has retired from his senior position at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, he will continue to oversee the work of Malambo Bible College. Christianity is flourishing amongst Tanzania’s Maasai One year ago, a new cohort of Maasai evangelists graduated from Malambo Bible College following four months of intense study. For over 35 years, MAF has been flying trained evangelists every month from Malambo Bible College to isolated Maasai villages in a bid to share the Gospel with their own people. A series of short flights over a few days or ‘evangelism safaris’ enable the evangelists to visit various remote communities in a short space of time, which would otherwise take many hours to reach by road or days on foot. Lead evangelist and founder of Malambo Bible College, Elisha Moita, remembers the time when he evangelised barefoot: I got sunstroke and couldn’t walk because of the pain. I stopped under a tree and cried. MAF was the answer to my cries. Some villages are so remote but with MAF, our evangelists reach people more easily without too much energy and preach the Gospel. Before, walking so many hours was difficult. Now we have the strength to sit and talk to people because we’re not tired. Through MAF, we’re really seeing the hand of God - we are harvesting much fruit. Flying helps our ministry work faster. Lead evangelist and founder of Malambo Bible College, Elisha Moita Nowadays, Elisha and his ever-growing team of evangelists can cover over 100 kilometres of Maasai territory by MAF plane - a distance not feasible on foot. Women are taught to read For 16 studious weeks, the 15 graduates have been staying at the college learning the tools of their trade. As part of their course, they undertake the ‘Maasai Link Initiative’. They travel to a different part of the region to apply what they’ve learnt to real life situations and practice outreach amongst the Maasai. At the customary annual graduation ceremony, the newly trained evangelists are excitedly joined by friends, family and church colleagues. Following a feast of roast goat, chapattis and milky tea, speeches and worship songs ensue. A short sketch based on the Good Samaritan - adapted for a Maasai audience – is thrown into the mix. Bible readings by seven of the graduates are greeted with applause. Before the course, they couldn’t read. Now they are able to share the Bible with their own communities. MAF Tanzania’s country director Stuart Ayling is particularly moved by proceedings: ‘It really strikes me how the love of Jesus is transforming Maasai communities. In a patriarchal culture, where many girls aren’t sent to school, young Maasai women are being taught how to read so that they can explain the Bible alongside their male counterparts. ‘These women will be sent out to isolated villages to share the Good News with whole communities. It’s easy to see why this is such a celebration - many obstacles have been overcome. It’s exciting to see what God might accomplish through these graduates.’ Ordinary people doing extraordinary things MAF pilot Andrew Parker - who regularly flies Maasai evangelists from Malambo to mountainous or remote areas such as Loliondo, Piaya and Loolbilin - says MAF’s work in these areas is positively palpable: ‘I love to see the impact of what we do in Tanzania. Malambo Bible College trains very ordinary people - some can’t read and write or haven’t been to school, yet they teach them to read the Bible in Kimaasai before MAF returns them to their community to spread the Gospel.’  These evangelists are not community elders or educated pastors – they’re just ordinary people doing extraordinary things as Andrew testifies: ‘What struck me about one particular flight was that the lady who I picked up from Loolbilin had her baby with her. We’ve seen quite a number of evangelists flying with their babies back to their home villages. ‘These young ladies fly to Malambo Bible College and fly out again to do the work with their babies. They are going out to their own people who can relate to them - that’s really effective. It’s exciting to be a part of that.’ 'The plane makes our ministry more attractive' So once they graduate from college, what does the typical work of a Maasai evangelist look like? In one week, MAF could fly five pairs of evangelists and a generator from Malambo to ten remote villages where they visit people, pray, run Bible studies, share communion and encourage those who are struggling with their faith. The evangelists also help to settle disputes and support the village churches who are already working to reach their communities. The generator is used to power a projector to show ‘Jesus’ – a powerful evangelistic film, which has been watched by millions of people all over the world in their own language since 1979. ‘Jesus’ is watched outside every night on a big screen in every Maasai village scheduled for the trip. Hundreds of people receive the Gospel for the first time. People are healed and demons are cast out. Baptisms are performed and a witch doctor surrenders to Christ. Even the MAF plane is an evangelistic tool in itself. It’s a sign of encouragement for the Maasai Christians and grabs the attention of non-believers as Elisha explains: ‘When the plane lands in the village, people come closer. Some come just to see the plane, but they end up staying, so we have time to talk to them. The plane makes our ministry more attractive.’ Serving a living God Elisha continues: ‘We thank God - who gives us courage and wisdom - for our new students. The remote villages where they will serve are challenged by many things - extreme poverty, harassment and oppression of women, and children not attending school. ‘Many people follow traditional beliefs, but they need Christ to save them. God is delivering them - instead of worshipping idols and creatures, they’re believing in and worshiping the real God.’ It’s MAF’s privilege to support the work of Malambo’s evangelists and to see the fruit of their faithful labour over so many years.
16 Sep 2022
MAF responds to 7.6 magnitude earthquake in eastern PNG
In the wake of an earthquake, which struck Markham Valley in eastern Papua New Guinea on Sunday 11 September, MAF has been medevacking injured people and undertaking aerial surveys in partnership with the UN, WHO and PNG government to assess the damage. We bring you the latest on the relief efforts… The first earthquake, which struck at 9:46am local time on Sunday, has left at least nine people dead with many more missing or buried under landslides. Its epicentre, Markham Valley in Morobe Province, is 67 kilometres from the town of Kainantu, but tremors were felt some 310 miles away in the capital Port Moresby, according to the US Geological Survey. Morobe Province, Eastern Highlands and Madang Town are the worst affected areas according to the ‘Papua New Guinea Disaster Management Team’, which comprises of UN agencies, PNG’s National Disaster Centre and various NGOs. These remote, mountainous areas make relief efforts impossible to execute by road. Three hours after the first earthquake hit, MAF was airborne at 12:46pm undertaking aerial surveys to assess damage and to ascertain ‘immediate need’. This was initially hampered by dense cloud cover. A second such flight took place on Monday 12 September revealing a number of landslides, which have damaged the region’s power grid causing a bush fire. Internet cables and health centres have also been damaged along with major disruption to the Highlands Highway, which connects several of PNG’s main cities. Such critical information gleaned from these flights - piloted by MAF’s Arjan Paas, Brad Venter and Tim Neufeld - are informing the UN’s disaster response. Further aftershocks Since the first earthquake, two smaller earthquakes (aftershocks) of 5 and 5.2 magnitude occurred hours later near the first epicentre of Markham Valley causing further damage, according to the US Geological Survey. Over 450 houses have collapsed in Madang Town, Leron-Wantoat and Uni-Atzera, injuring around 30 people. More than 50 families have been displaced in Morobe Province and schools have been closed (source: PNG Disaster Management Team). Many of the collapsed houses were ‘semi-permanent’ structures made from lightweight materials and elevated on wooden posts. Immediate needs include emergency shelter, access to clean water, bedding, basic kitchen and household items, and psychosocial support for children. At the University of Goroka, more than 1,600 boarding students are currently staying in classrooms or with relatives, after their multi-story dormitory was damaged. Some students are recovering from their injuries in hospital. The university has suspended classes for two weeks. MAF medevacs the injured On Monday, MAF medevacked a total of five people injured by landslides. Most of the casualties were flown from Mibu in Madang Province - 30km from the epicentre - to Saidor, so that they could receive medical care. Another patient was medevacked from Andakombe to Goroka. Injuries ranged from open wounds, damaged legs and a torso pierced by a broken branch. 117kg of food aid was also delivered from Goroka to Mibu. Mibu Airstrip was only re-opened last October following substantial repairs to meet safety standards. PNG’s ‘National Command Centre Response’ has warned residents about potentially more aftershocks and landslides. People living in the coastal areas, which could be at risk of tsunamis, are being urged to travel inland. Fortunately, this latest earthquake and aftershocks have caused less damage than PNG's 2018 earthquake, which struck Hela Province in western PNG claiming around 150 lives and displacing 20,000 people (source: UN). MAF PNG's country director Todd Aebischer, says: ‘This earthquake is much less severe than the 2018 quake that did so much damage. The 2018 earthquake occurred during the wet season when the ground was very susceptible to landslides. ‘This time, the ground has been quite dry, so it’s more stable. We are grateful that no injuries or major damage to MAF staff or property have been reported to date.’ Thrown in at the deep end MAF PNG’s programme safety manager Dom Sant has been helping to coordinate MAF’s response, which includes assessing security and community damage reports from rural communities. Having only moved to PNG in January this year, it’s the first disaster response Dom has been involved with: ‘I received an early call on Sunday 11 September on my emergency phone from our MAF base in Madang and was asked to take the lead on mapping communities that were affected by the earthquake. ‘We've been helping with aerial assessments close to the epicentre in Eastern Highlands Province. This is the first disaster I’ve supported since moving to PNG and I hope it will be my last!’ Dom Sant, MAF PNG’s programme safety manager No MAF staff have been harmed, but MAF’s hostel in Aiyura, Eastern Highlands has sustained damage to water tanks, appliances and supplies. MAF will continue to offer surveillance flights and medical assistance where required.
Grace*and her father Akech get ready to board MAF’s plane
10 Sep 2022
MAF enables child rape survivor to have life-saving surgery
Grace* was 7 when she was brutally raped on the outskirts of Juba a year ago, which left her with severe internal injuries and in desperate need of surgery. Thanks to MAF, Grace was able to access vital restorative surgery in neighbouring DRC under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Denis Mukwege... After 36 days of care at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern DRC, which specialises in gender-based violence corrective surgery, *Grace – now aged 8 - was finally discharged in September. She was flown home to Juba, South Sudan by MAF. Having struggled for many months with pain caused by severe rectal and urinary injuries, it was the long-awaited transformative surgery carried out in August by MAF partner Dr Denis Mukwege and team, who finally set Grace on the road to recovery. But Grace could only access the pioneering Panzi Hospital– recently visited by Sophie, Countess of Wessex – with the support of MAF. Following years of war, both South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have endured some of the worst infrastructure in the world. Roads are badly damaged and notoriously unsafe given the frequency of armed robbery. Only the brave with means of transport attempt to drive to their destination. The desperate – sexually violated women in search of medical treatment with no access to affordable transport – just walk. Some of Panzi’s patients have walked for weeks just to get help. A little girl walking to Panzi Hospital was obviously not an option. Finding available specialist surgery in South Sudan, which has the highest rate of poverty in the world and languishes at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, was not an option either. MAF was the only way. ‘She has double fistula and living a miserable life’ When it became clear in July that Juba Military Hospital couldn’t offer Grace the right treatment for her complex internal injuries, Dr Ajak Makor made a public plea for help on Eye Radio. Without proper treatment, Dr Makor feared for her life: ‘I am shocked to hear that this child has been suffering for so long because of rape. Her uterine wall is torn and she has double fistula (vaginal and anal). Going to the toilet (both ways) is a big issue – she is living a miserable life. ‘Her father has tried a number of clinics in South Sudan without success, but the matter is getting worse. She is traumatised and needs two surgeries. No treatment will cause sepsis and death.’ Angela Gorman MBE, Co-founder of ‘Life for African Mothers’ – a charity which aims to reduce maternal mortality - was particularly moved by the appeal and contacted Panzi Hospital for help. Given Panzi Hospital’s existing relationship with MAF, Panzi Hospital began coordinating flights with MAF to get Grace in for surgery. Thanks to generous MAF supporters, funds were quickly raised to fly Grace to hospital and back. ‘This is why MAF is here - we live in a broken world’ In early August this year, it was MAF Pilot Pieter Room who flew Grace, her family and medical personnel on the first leg of their trip from Juba, South Sudan to Gomer in eastern DRC. During the two-hour flight, Pieter realised that Grace was the same age as his own daughter who turned eight that day: I am greatly moved by Grace’s situation. My daughter celebrates her eighth birthday today - the same age as Grace on the same day as this flight. When I first saw Grace, she looked so innocent, and it really hit me why we’re doing this flight. Her life will be tremendously changed by this surgery. This is why MAF is here. We live in a broken world, and we’re called to follow Jesus in restoring people’s lives. I’m honoured to be a part of this. Pieter Room, MAF Pilot The next leg of the trip – another MAF flight from Gomer to Bukavu - took around 40 minutes followed by a short drive to Panzi Hospital. The round trip comprising of four safe and smooth MAF flights saved Grace and her family several days of dangerous overland travel. Grace’s father is relieved and grateful that his daughter finally got access to the treatment she desperately needed for so long: ‘Thank you MAF for the good work that you are doing to support vulnerable people. May God increase the days of people behind this great work, which has helped my daughter.’ We wish Grace a speedy recovery and pray that she will go on to live a fully restored life. *The name of this child has been changed.
02 Sep 2022
MAF pioneer Jack Hemmings does it again at 101!
MAF co-founder and RAF veteran Jack Hemmings AFC* took to the skies once again today in a surprise flight to celebrate his 101st birthday. The retired airman took off from Spilstead Farm Airfield near Hastings in East Sussex watched by delighted friends, family, former MAF colleagues and the BBC… Jack Hemmings AFC*, son-in-law Chris Watts – a retired British Airways captain – and MAF UK CEO Ruth Whitaker, took off in a Robin DR400 aircraft for a short circuit around Beachy Head. Jack loved taking control of the aircraft mid-flight before they safely landed back at base. Another birthday surprise! On his birthday, he was also greeted by a surprise landing from a 1947 Miles Gemini aircraft piloted by its owner Stu Blanchard. Earlier this year, Jack had the privilege of flying Stu’s Miles Gemini– a model he hadn’t flown for 74 years – in memory of his friend and fellow MAF co-founder, the late Stuart King. It was in 1948 that Jack and Stuart flew a Miles Gemini from Croydon to Nairobi – the first British aerial survey across Africa, which assessed humanitarian needs of some of the world’s most isolated people. Jack sums up his memorable day in East Sussex: ‘There were whispers about a surprise, but meeting folk from MAF and the BBC to see the Gemini and to watch my flight in the Robin DR400 was thoroughly enjoyable!’ An ‘inspiration’ MAF UK CEO Ruth Whitaker who has known Jack for sixteen years was in awe of his latest feat: ‘Witnessing Jack take control of the aircraft today was such an inspiration. It reminds me that thanks to the skill and passion of dedicated airmen and women like Jack, MAF has grown to become the global, lifesaving organisation that it is today. ‘Also seeing Jack alongside the Miles Gemini aircraft – the same model he flew to launch MAF in Africa 74 years ago – was a really wonderful moment, and a special way to mark his 101st birthday’. Ruth Whitaker, MAF UK CEO Jack – who has won awards for his contribution to aviation and performed aerobatics on his 100th birthday last year, is thought to be one of the oldest British pilots still flying and performing manoeuvres of this kind. Happy birthday Jack! *AFC = ‘Air Force Cross’, which is a military honour awarded to officers for acts of exemplary gallantry while flying. News coverage BBC South East Yahoo MSN
31 Aug 2022
MAF operations in Bangladesh close
Following 25 years of service, MAF operations in Bangladesh have ended. Significant infrastructure development including the opening of Padma Bridge, which connects the southwest to the north and east, has revolutionised transport links leading to less reliance on MAF. As MAF winds up its activities, we look back on what the charity has achieved... Due to massive growth in Bangladesh’s transport links in recent years, which has led to the decline of MAF’s services, MAF Bangladesh officially ceased operating on 1st August. The six-kilometre, two-story Padma Bridge from Shariatpur to Madaripur over Padma River opened on 25 June this year. This feat of engineering will significantly reduce overland travel time for trains and road vehicles heading to 21 southern districts, many of which MAF used to serve with its twice weekly ‘Southern Shuttle’, which launched in 2008. Dave Fyock, MAF International’s CEO reflects on the end of an era: ‘We celebrate with the people of Bangladesh the progress that has been made and are glad for the dramatic difference that this will make to the southern region. ‘MAF values the wise use of resources and seeks to balance the benefits of investment with the costs involved. Following a review of the Bangladesh programme in late 2021, we concluded that, in conjunction with the improved transport infrastructure, there was insufficient demand for MAF in the country. ‘MAF’s priorities are shaped by the greatest impact on isolated communities. Closure of the Bangladesh programme will release resources to invest in new opportunities where we can make a more significant difference. Please uphold the team in prayer, as they work through closure activities.’ Dave Fyock, CEO of MAF International MAF Bangladesh is born It was one of the world’s deadliest natural disasters ‘Cyclone Bhola’ which wreaked havoc across East Pakistan and India’s West Bengal in Nov 1970, that first mobilised MAF in the region. (Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971). A 34-foot storm surge over the Bay of Bengal devastated the lowlands killing at least half a million people (source: BBC). A small team from MAF Sweden responded to the tragedy. MAF envisaged how it could operate from both land and water to reach millions of isolated people in minutes rather than days, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that MAF was officially invited by the Bangladesh Flying Academy to assist in operating two amphibious aircraft (floatplanes) for medevacs. It became clear that a small aircraft charter service could support and develop remote communities, giving thousands of isolated people access to lifesaving help. With the capital Dhaka as its main base, MAF Bangladesh began to take shape. Registering as an international NGO in 1995, MAF Bangladesh was finally issued with an Air Transport Operating Licence in 1997 and began operating the only floatplane service in the country. Saving time saves lives Bangladesh is home to almost 5,000 miles of rivers, which cover more than a third of the country’s surface area. In the absence of a good national road network, MAF built up invaluable experience flying over and landing on a myriad of waterways. Journeys that previously took one or two days by land and river, only took MAF around an hour by air. Reaching people in a fraction of the time, transformed and saved lives. Faster access to remote areas saved time, which enabled services to run more efficiently. From 2003, Friendship’s Floating Hospitals depended on MAF to fly in patients, doctors, surgeons and supplies, which allowed more time to perform operations says Runa Khan – Friendship’s founding director: ‘For every hour saved, a person’s life is saved. If MAF hadn’t been there, two whole days would have been wasted in travel - one whole day going and one whole day coming back. How many operations not carried out in two days? Maybe a third if we hadn’t had the services of MAF. MAF understood.’ Similarly, for Operation Cleft - which carries out life-transforming facial surgery - their work simply would not have been possible without MAF, says company secretary Bruce McEwen: ‘We spent a very busy two weeks attending surgical clinics in seven cities where we performed more than 60 free cleft lip/palate operations. ‘One of the cities was Barguna in the south. There was no way we would have been able to visit this remote area without MAF’s very special floatplane services. ‘Not only was the flight quick and comfortable, but Mark Blomberg made us feel very welcome and safe. Thanks again MAF for looking after us in Bangladesh.’ Supporting development Over the years, MAF has flown thousands of aid workers, medical professionals and international development specialists to Bangladesh’s most isolated places, enabling practical help to reach the most vulnerable, quickly, reliably and safely. ‘Co-operation in Development’ for example is an organisation which focuses on the prevention of drowning, which is the biggest killer of under-fours in Bangladesh, according to the RNLI. Too many children are trudging through thigh-high waters during wet season (June to October) just to get to school. Many of them never reach their destination. The Co-operation builds bridges over waterways and fills in ponds in a bid to make school journeys safer. Much of this work takes place around Bhola Island – Bangladesh’s largest island located in the south of the country, which can either be reached by a short flight or many hours by river and road. The latter is not really an option says Dr Olav Muurlink – the Co-operation’s country director in Bangladesh: ‘MAF is literally the best way to get to Bhola Island, which has no landing strip, let alone an airport. MAF takes us straight from Dhaka to the river off Bhola and saves our volunteers around 8 or 10 hours each way. Saving just a single day travelling makes a huge difference.’ MAF on the frontline in a disaster Besides supporting the ongoing development of the country, MAF was quick to respond to several natural disasters – Cyclone Sidr in 2007, Cyclone Aila in 2009 and Cyclone Mahasen in 2013. Thomas Pope from USAID recalls MAF’s critical support following Cyclone Sidr: ‘A lot of life saving materials were carried by MAF to areas with no communications whatsoever. The roads were all gone and the task was only possible by aircraft. ‘If it wasn’t for MAF, we would have had to get a commercial flight to whatever the closest airport was and then drive hours and hours to get to wherever the place of need was, but the floods would have prevented us. MAF flights obviously saved time and resources.’ Colum Wilson from DFID’s disaster management team echoes Thomas’ sentiment following Cyclone Mahasen: ‘Because of MAF, we were able to access places in greatest need in some of the really difficult corners of Bangladesh. MAF could transport relief workers there very quickly. ‘In the wake of Storm Mahasen, we had no idea what the impact was. We knew it was big, but we had no way of getting a quick overview of what had happened. That’s where MAF came in. ‘We commissioned a MAF flight with some technical experts on board to take a very quick fly over. MAF flights became an integral part of our assessment capability for international humanitarian relief in Bangladesh.’ Investing in Bangladesh’s future Despite the programme’s closure, MAF has made a conscious commitment to the long-term development of the country. Over the years, MAF employed and trained many national staff, seeing aircraft maintenance engineers, managers, logistics and administrative professionals flourish with specialist skills. Raju Mondal (pictured right) - a former anchor boy from a remote Bangladeshi village - used to help MAF anchor the floatplane when it landed on water. Now - thanks to MAF - he is a qualified aircraft mechanic, which will hold him in good stead for the future.
30 Aug 2022
MAF UK’s newest engineer follows in grandad’s footsteps
At the height of the pandemic with the aviation industry collapsing around him, EasyJet engineer Mark Draper’s future looked uncertain. Inspired by his late grandfather, RAF engineer Leslie Draper - who helped assemble MAF’s first ever Cessna aircraft - Mark decided to apply to MAF. MAF’s Jo Lamb, takes up the story… On furlough between April and July last year, Luton based EasyJet power plant engineer and married father of three, Mark Draper, faced uncertainty as coronavirus devastated the airline industry. Mark’s wife Stephanie - a midwife at Dunstable Hospital – continued working while Mark stayed home to school their three daughters - Lexi [9], Evelyn [7] and Raya [4]: ‘Being furloughed during lockdown was really difficult. Going from doing what I love to being a full-time dad overnight was crazy and so tough, but I’m so grateful for where I am today. I will be working for MAF when I know so many have suffered greatly in the airline industry.’ Mark Draper, MAF UK’s newest engineer Mark had dreamed of working for MAF for a while, having been inspired by his late grandfather, Leslie Draper – one of the engineers who helped co-founder, Stuart King, assemble MAF’s first ever Cessna 180 aircraft. Leslie also worked on de Havilland Mosquito planes during WWII. MAF’s first Cessna aircraft came out of a crate MAF’s first four-seater Cessna arrived from America at Heathrow Airport in a crate in 1956. Leslie – a former RAF radio engineer who also worked for British European Airways as it was known then– was one of twenty volunteers to help Stuart assemble the plane piece by piece. Leslie used his particular skills to fit the Cessna’s radio and other electrics. In his book ‘Hope Has Wings’ (1993), Stuart King recalls the challenging task of assembling the Cessna 180 assisted by Leslie and the team: ‘Here was a crate full of tightly packed components, large and small, with no sign of where they were supposed to fit. With no manual, parts book or labels, the British Airways Christian Union engineering staff came to my assistance when they were off duty and helped greatly in putting together the carefully designed flying machine. ‘When it had been assembled, we pushed the little aircraft out to be fuelled. An airport official looked quizzically at the plane – an unusual model for Heathrow. He handed me an invoice for a landing fee. When I objected that the aircraft hadn’t made its first landing – he said, “Did it come up through a hole in the ground?” He wasn’t used to planes being put together out of a crate.’ It would be Betty Greene - MAF’s first pilot and the world’s first female mission pilot - who would pilot the MAF Cessna 180’s virgin flight to Malakal, Sudan in 1957. On board were Stuart and Phyllis King with their children, Rebecca and John. Like the Drapers today, the Kings were about to start an adventure of a lifetime. ‘My grandad would be thrilled I’m working for MAF’ Mark cites his grandfather as a source of much inspiration, motivation, and friendship until his death in 2011. Mark believes his own dream to serve with MAF stems from his grandfather’s faithful commitment to the charity, and passion for aviation: ‘My grandad was so kind, humble and inspiring. He's the reason I'm so into aeroplanes - a lot of what I am today is due to him.  I loved hearing him talk about his RAF service. He was based in Egypt with the 256 Squadron. He heard about MAF whilst working at Heathrow Airport for British European Airways – as it was called then. ‘Grandad supported MAF from that first encounter with Stuart King when they built MAF’s first Cessna 180. He would be thrilled to know that I’m working for MAF – he spoke about MAF to everyone he knew.’ ‘It will be a massive adventure for us’ Inspired by his grandfather and moved by Joyce Lin’s tribute film - the late MAF pilot who was tragically killed in Papua last year – Mark started making enquiries to MAF. Mark made a formal application to MAF on 8 June. Having almost completed his Aircraft Maintenance License – a process which has taken ten-years of self-study - Mark left EasyJet on 27 August 2021. He will receive his certification later this year. The family will relocate to MAF’s headquarters in Kampala, Uganda next year where Mark will take up the role of aviation engineer. Mark - who has never been to Africa - contemplates his next chapter: ‘It’s slightly scary not knowing what it will be like. Although it’s a leap of faith, it will be a massive adventure for us as a family. We want to live our lives supporting other people – especially those less fortunate than ourselves. MAF’s humanitarian air service is a perfect way of combining my aviation skills with making a positive difference in people’s lives.’
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