Vice President U Henry Van Thio of Myanmar visited the remote community of Lailenpi on 27 February and authorised development of an airstrip by MAF, in partnership with Health and Hope.
The remote mountain village is the birthplace of Health and Hope's inspirational founder Dr Sasa, who has already helped to transform life for many people in Lailenpi and the wider Chin State.
'This is exciting for us as it's almost one year the date that we made original assessment visit,' explained MAF’s Myanmar Country Director, Chad Tilley, who made the trip to Lailenpi for the occasion.
Dr Sasa, the founder of Health and Hope, pursued the initiative to build an airfield in Lailenpi in an attempt to increase access for the people. Currently the journey to the nearest town is four days’ drive one way on treacherous mountain roads.
In late January, Dr Sasa attended a strategic meeting with the VP of Myanmar, Ministry of Transport, and others to discuss the Lailenpi airfield project. It was following this meeting that the visit was arranged.
‘What is very encouraging is that all of this was at the initiative of Health and Hope. They are promoting us as an organisation to help them achieve their needs,’ said Chad, highlighting the importance of the partnership with the community-based and community-led organisation that responds to local needs in the areas of health, education and food security.
The project gains approval
The Vice President was joined by leaders from Chin state, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation for the occasion, with two large military helicopters transporting them to the location. MAF was asked to attend, represented by Chad Tilley and MAF Myanmar's Office Administrator, Deeram Khong who will be key to moving the project forward.
It was a highly significant occasion for the community, as no one from the presidency had ever visited before. Many local people gathered to hear the news as it was announced that the plans for the airstrip were to go ahead.
‘I am so happy to report to you that just this week we were given approval for the airstrip in Lailenpi by the Minister for Transport,’ confirmed Dr Sasa.
The government also granted the people of Lailenpi over $1 million infrastructure support for the town, to develop a hospital, community centre, roads, and a generator.
The next steps
After reviewing the survey by MAF, the plan is for MAF and the Health and Hope teams to start construction of airstrip as early as possible. Discussion will follow concerning the operation, regulations and conduct of the airfield.
It is hoped that the airstrip’s construction will lead to further projects and ultimately the commencement of MAF flight operations in Myanmar.
Story and images by Chad Tilley