09 December 2011

More Tea Vicar?

Recently Mercy Air was given 130 Kg of malarial medicine (enough to treat over 2300 people and well worth the effort of raising the money to cover the cost of flying it there) and asked to take it up to a mission station in the north of Mozambique that specializes in natural medicine.

Getting it from Durban wasn't too hard - it just arrived on a truck. Getting it to Nacala, on the other hand, was a different story. Nacala is half way back to the equator from where we are and 200 km further east than a line with Moscow.
We had a plane and a pilot, all we needed was money and fuel. People in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the USA responded brilliantly to a request for funds, raising about half the costs. A week before our intended departure some guys from Hope for Africa (www.hopeforafricamission.co.za), rang with a request for help in getting three of them to Blantyre, Malawi. As it happened Blantyre was one of the few places that had avgas, so by having them cover most of the cost of that part of the flight, we could refuel there and still get to Nacala.

So, the packing began.
The nose, wing lockers and back of the plane full to the brim.

The total flying time from SA, via Blantyre, to the military airstrip in Nacala where we loaded the medicine into a pickup truck, was 7 hours.
Then there was a 2 hour drive mostly on dirt roads to Memba where they are based. We wouldn't say the road was bad but on the way we passed a grader that usually shapes the roads in Africa. I guess this one lost.
We arrived after dark and so delivered the medicine to various clinics the following day.
Martin and Simone Schumann along with Myriam Wahr, the missionaries working in Memba, have set up many rural clinics and use natural medicines, many of which they grow themselves.

Memba itself is a real back of the beyond type of place. It was attacked three times during the war (which ended 20 years ago), but nothing seems to have been fixed since then.
This was the hospital which was left in ruins...
and this is one of the main streets where trees in blossom provide a temporary relief from the usual dusty monotone appearance.
Martin and Simone have built a small three roomed house where Mercy Air helped install the electricity a year ago (http://mercyair-sa.blogspot.com/2010/11/woken-up-by-whales-but-not-whilst.html).
They get water from a public well on the other side of town...
but in the mean time are digging (chiseling) their own well.
The night before we left, we got a call asking us to pick up a lady who had been ill for a couple of weeks and needed to return to SA for further tests. So on the way back we routed via Lichinga to collect her and her kids as well as the guys we had dropped in Blantyre earlier.
The flight across to Lichinga took us past some very impressive scenery that shows the ruggedness and remoteness of parts of the world we fly into.
So, after 4300km (2700 miles) and 16 hours of flying, this is primarily written to thank those people who gave so freely towards the cost of this flight. Because of your generosity many other people will benefit and many of those will probably live longer than they would have done if we'd of all stood back and done nothing.

Mercy Air Team

02 August 2011


No joke actually.

After yesterdays mammoth flight to Chimoio we had planned having an easier day today. Well that all ended at 05:30 when we were alerted to a fire in the main house at Mercy Air. We rushed round to find the house filled with acrid smoke and the living room ceiling on fire. On top of this the electricity had tripped so inside and out was pitch black with the only light being the flames.

Guests had made a fire in the fireplace the previous evening and we suspect that some soot in the chimney had ignited and found its way through gaps in the mortar and then set light to old bee hive and rats nest material in the roof, which had then spread along the eves and up into other parts of the roof.

The back of the main house is almost completely made of wood but fortunately the fire was restricted by the small space between the ceiling and the tin roof. This hadn't stopped it spreading as such, but it had prevented it getting well out of control.

We knew the fire brigade wouldn't come out to us so we had to make our own plan. This amounted to stringing a line of garden hoses together to extinguish the visible flames inside. After that the darkness worked in our favour as we could then see additional flames flickering through other small gaps. This now meant that we had to get a ladder and axe and break down other parts of the ceiling and walls to get access to these different areas.

All in all it took us about an hour to bring things under control and make sure everything was well and truly out. This also included taking some of the corrugated roof sheets off.
This is the scene from inside after it got light.
All the black bit in the photo above was ablaze when we first arrived.

So, not a good day at all, but one which we realise could have ended far far worse if it hadn't been for God's protection.

So, not a good day at all, but one which we realise could have ended far far worse if it hadn't been for God's protection.

One week on from the fire and a couple of pics to show progress on the reconstruction. The first was after the corrugated sheets had been taken off showing the fire damaged portions.
And the second, a day later, when the internal tongue and groove had been removed.Mercy Air staff and volunteers are doing the work as there was no buildings insurance and we expect to complete it in about a weeks time.

Mercy Air Team

Quick Trip to Chimoio

The title of this entry is a bit misleading as you can never really have a quick trip to Chimoio. If you drive it takes you at least two full days and even if you fly it's about 3h30. If you fly there and back in a day it requires getting up very early and just making it back before dark. This was the case yesterday.

We flew three Canadian mechanics up to ASAM in Chimoio, the same place Mercy Air is building a remote base. We flew Rick up in March as he was preparing to start a mechanic school and build a workshop to help service the mission vehicles (all on his site at http://mercytechmission.com and his blog at: http://mydustyshoes.blogspot.com/2011/07/leaving-on-jet-plane.html).

This time he went with two friends, Todd and Ed who were also instructors and technicians and they will stay for up to a month. They spent a few days at Mercy Air prior to traveling up, which gave them the chance to do some boy shopping for socket sets, screwdrivers and other tools to equip the workshop. Despite the simplicity of the task, this still took a whole morning!

At the risk of including another, 'here's us on the way up' type photo, what else can we take a pic of to grab your attention and save this being a blog entry full of just words?
So, here's us on the way up!

Mercy Air Team

OK. We wrote this as soon as we got back and now the team have posted some photos on the net, so, we're sure they won't mind if we plagiarise their efforts and include them below.
The boys at Vilanculos, our port of entry into Moz.

Some of the tools and manuals they took up with them.

Their home for the next month and the same tents we usually stay in when we go up there.
The Training Centre well on its way to completion.

The first motor mechanic class in Chimoio.

Putting their new found knowledge into practice.

Mercy Air team

19 July 2011

Sunny Durban by the Sea

Last weeks business overflowed into this week as we did a flight for a UK church missions team on Monday.

Their church has been helping a Durban hospital who run a rural baby project supplying new mothers with a birth pack containing various items including clothes, nappies and a teddy bear.

Whilst the team visited the sites Paul stayed at the airport and caught up with a few flying friends as well as his son, Matthew, who was able to join them for lunch.
Typical of a lot of these types of trips that the only 'action photo' we can
come up with is one of us all in the plane on the way back - sorry!
The 1 hour 40 minute flight saved them a 9 hour drive.

Mercy Air team

Doing Something Usefull

A moderately productive day in the office was interrupted by a call to get a couple out of Mozambique who had been in an accident. They were part of a 21 strong group from churches in Cape Town and Rustenburg in South Africa, who were at the end of what had been a very successful three week mission trip. They had left Mocuba at 04:00, to get an early start for the first of a three day drive home.

Whilst it was still dark one of their minibuses hit an unmarked and unlit parked lorry in the middle of the road. Two people were killed instantly whilst another, the minister of their church, suffered serious head wounds rendering him unconscious and the drivers wife, Beryl, broke her femur. They were transferred to a local hospital but obviously needed to get back to SA as soon as possible.
The minister had international heath cover and so was medevac'd out later that same day. Beryl's medical insurance, however, only covered her in SA and so Mercy Air was asked to repatriate her and her husband. We quickly prepared the plane and obtained flight permits so that Paul and his wife Cathy could set off as soon as the local international airport opened the following morning.
To give an idea of scale, we flew further than Land's End to John O Groats (the length of the UK) just to get to where we had to pick them up.

As she didn't need any medical attention during the flight she could technically travel as a normal passenger, but of course due to her broken leg she had to lie on a stretcher which she wouodn't be able to do on scheduled airlines. Driving three days back to Johannesburg was obviously out of the question.

On our arrival we found out that the hospital hadn't got the patient ready for travel and also hadn't got a trolley or stretcher available for transport, so she was loaded on an old mattress into the back of a pickup truck and driven to the airport. We then had to pay $12 to allow the truck onto the apron to get near to the plane.
On top of that, and despite pleas on compassionate grounds, the police, who had detained her husband, would not release him as they still wanted him for questioning about the accident. This was very upsetting for them, but it was best that she at least traveled with us and so we began the long flight to Johannesburg.
We arrived in Jhb just before dusk where a proper ambulance met us and whisked her away for surgery.
Paul and Cathy made time for a quick burger and cup of strong coffee before flying back to Nelspruit in the dark.

So, 1700 miles and over 9 hours of flying but the weather was good and it was nice for Paul and Cathy able to spend the day together, doing something useful.

Mercy Air team

11 July 2011

Classroom in a Box

Imagine living in a village so remote that learning to read is only a distant dream.

There are many faced with this exact problem in the delta region of the Zambezi and because of this Anne Herbert, a Mercy Air staff member with 27 years teaching experience and Caitlin Mbewe of YWAM in Marromeu, herself a physics teacher have developed the 'Classroom in a Box' project.

The airstrip right in the middle of Marromeu

The project aims to provide literary resources and training materials to to the people in the delta in their own language and last week we flew a team up to Marromeu to start the process. The first 10 weeks of the Classroom in a Box is based on a chronological childrens Bible and the curriculem covers four learning areas, Bible, Language, Numeracy and Life Skills. It starts with the basic skills needed to master the learning areas.
Anne sorting out the box contents after our arrival

Mercy Air has been working with YWAM in Marromeu for a number of years now using both fixed wing aircraft and the helicopter. The town is the last sizable place on the Zambezi before it empties into the Indian Ocean 40 miles downstream.

The Russians, or at least some of their military hardware, were here during the war, although it seems they had some difficulty in leaving.
This Antonov 32 finished its days after a crash in 1992. (The 210 in front is ours and is working just fine).
There are a number of artillery units around. This T34 tank is in the garden of some YWAM workers but at least it saves having to build a climbing frame or swing - if you can handle its gun barrel being permanently pointed at your house.
Anyway, back to business. The idea is to teach local teachers how to use the box and so Anne, Sally and Samantha bought one up and shared its contents with some teachers and spent time some time getting feedback on how they thought the methods would work.
We will send another team up with the helicopter next time it goes there and they will be able to take it into the really remote areas in the delta. Once this is established the idea is to then extend the project into other areas in Mozambique where we already have existing relations with missionaries.

You can read more about the project at:

Mercy Air team

15 June 2011

Chimoio Mercy Air base

We have just got back from another trip to Chimoio where we worked on the Mercy Air house.

Building a house in the African bush is a long process where just about everything is done by hand so having a team of five of us go up for a week really helped accelerate things. Paul and a Dutch pilot called Arzaja spent most of the time making about 30 windows and installing them in the frames.
Ron had already cut and milled the wood from trees on the farm but even with all the drills, saws, chisels and routers we could ask for, it still took a whole week to make and fit them.

A big diversion on the first day was the arrival of a 40' container that had started it's journey from the US in January. It made it's way down our dusty road and then backed into a quarry where we could unload it.
Out of it came many mechanical implements that had been donated in the US, including a John Deere tractor and what people in the UK would call a JCB, but here they are known as TLB's (tractor, loader, back hoe).
Then it was back to the frames.
The next day's diversion from the wacky world of wood came in the form of trying to help fix a grass cuter that will used to keep the grass on the airstrip in order (when we manage to get some to grow on it).
Then it was back to the frames.
Day three was window frames all the way, except for a brief interlude where we helped rig a ladder in the bucket of the TLB for access to get a big wall painted.
Then back to the frames.

On the Sunday we went to a local church.

One of the other things we had managed to bring up with us was a box of Bible's in the Sena language which we gave out to local pastors. Apparently they are one of the 10 rarest bibles in the world.

Not that we needed many diversions on a Sunday, but if we did it came in the form of a Puff Adder which Dwight had caught on the path near his house.
These boys are quite nasty.

The last full day was spent getting most of the windows installed. Some last minute adjustments...
Then all but one of the windows fitted.
And this is just one side of the house.

Of course the who week didn't just revolve (or hinge) around windows. Tim worked hard on a number of things plumbing related including the solar hot water system...

 and the loo.
Which Ron was first to load test..

His wife Christiana helped Barbara and Swenky with the painting..
Whilst Swenky also lent a hand with fitting the windows.

On the day we left we visited the school that ASAM has run for many years now. Some of the children walk up to 10km through the bush to get there.
We were quite impressed by Mr. Incredible who, with his mates, had made some wheel spokes out of bamboo. We'd love to see the rest of the bike when they finish it.
We also visited the clinic..

This is the total contents of the dispensary which is in dire need of a re-stock.

Then it was on to the airport for our four hour flight back to South Africa, a journey that would take two days by road.

Thank you

Mercy Air team