01 December 2014

The Horn of Africa

Last week we were able to do our little bit towards combating the ever increasing rhino poaching situation here in Africa.

Animals are often shot but don't die immediately. Many make it to more open ground and are found by game rangers before the poachers can get to them. It is then the responsibility of each game lodge to recover the animal and in particular remove the horns. These were kept in a central location in the Kruger National Park but recently it was decided that a more secure location was needed.

The stakes are high and even driving the cargo in an armored vehicle was considered too risky, so we were asked to fly it out of the Park. I arrived at the pick-up point at the prescribed time to find that the airfield had already been 'secured'.
Knowing I was there waiting, the cargo was flown in by helicopter.
Some scanning, counting and signing of many documents took place...
...before we could load it into our aircraft.

In all there was about 80 Kg with a black market street value in excess of $8.5m. $8.5m that now won't get into the wrong hands in Asia.
Quarter of a million dollars right there.
And this one's over a million.
Good job we bought the big plane!

Thank you

Mercy Air team

24 November 2014

ASAM school bridge dedication

Recently Mercy Air completed another flight to ASAM in Mozambique. Again this was a multi purpose trip as we also took John and Helen, visiting from a church in the UK, as well as Paul, a videographer, who was making a film about the work of Mercy Air and ASAM.

The bonus in this trip was that we were also there for the dedication of the bridge that had been recently constructed to allow school kids to access the missions school without fear of being eaten by crocodiles (see previous posts).

Our visitors from the UK had some hidden talents in that there were a recently retired doctor and head teacher. So as well as visiting the mission to see what goes on, there was plenty of scope for them to get involved.

The dedication was set for the last full day so after a tour of the mission it was off to the first clinic.

After over 30 years as a GP John is now involved in teaching in a number of African countries and was able to share his skills with the local health workers.

Cathy was also there to lend a hand.
Later that day we visited the school where John and Helen were able to see the progress on the school library. It's completion was funded by a donation from their church in the UK. Now it is finished, another gift from Canada will see it equipped with books and furniture.
The kids were in the classrooms enjoying a week long VBS.
Cathy helped them make name tags
The kids love having their picture taken.
...and then shown to them.
Or better still, seeing themselves live on a cell phone.
Paul the videographer, in action...
Dr. Attenborough I presume?
...and posing himself for a change.
After that the kids enjoyed a meal that the school provides for them each day.
Then there was just time to put some finishing touches to the bridge. Side cable stays.

That evening we walked to the 'Rock' to see the sunset. In reality it just got dark as it was quite cloudy but it was still quite a restful place to be.
From the rock you can see the airfield.
OK perhaps we lie, but you can see the windsock half way down the strip. Gives you an idea of how remote and hidden things can be round there.

The next day we did some house/hut calls in the local villages.
This guy had been quite ill but was recovering well.
He lived in a hut a short bumpy drive and a short walk across the main road from the mission.
John gave him a check over.
A bit further on was another guy who had been hit by a car six months ago.
His wounds weren't doing so well.
John looked at his x-rays of the pins in his leg.
Before care was given.

The next day was set aside for the bridge dedication. People from miles around pitched up - and then the dignitaries arrived to dancing and singing from the school kids..
In typical African style, proceedings and speeches were conducted under a large shady tree...
...before the official ribbon cutting...
...and a few more speeches.
Then, doubling as a non-destructive load test, everybody danced and sang their way across the bridge to the other side...
...where they danced and sang a bit more before... dancing and singing all the way back again.
This continued for a while - until it was time to eat.

That went well - for a while, until some kids decided it would be interesting to see what happened if they threw some rocks at a bees nest. Unsurprisingly that somewhat bought proceedings to a rather abrupt end and we all met vary much later that evening to swap our escape and war stories.

The last day John gave a talk at morning devotions

...before we loaded up the trusty steed in the relative cool of the hangar...
...and headed home.
The obligatory flying home picture. Well tired after all the last few days activities.
Thank you.

Mercy Air team

A few more pictures and John and Helen's perspective can be found at the Aldridge Parish Church website at:

14 October 2014

Educating a Medical Bridge

Recently all of Mercy Air's aircraft were in Mozambique at the same time. The heli was in the south of the country whilst the two fixed wing aircraft went to central Mozambique.

The fixed wings took a variety of people in a variety of planes to do a variety of jobs but at least all the people, planes and jobs were at the same location at ASAM just north of Chimoio.

The 310 went up a couple of days earlier with a bridge building team - more of that later.
The Kodiak took a total of eight people, an education team of two and a doctor/nurse team of five and one pilot of course.
Paul and Dr. Roger Pacholka
It was 38 deg when we landed in Mozambique.
The airstrip and hangar at ASAM that Mercy Air helped build and perhaps showing some of the remoteness.
Squeezing all three planes in the hangar was a mission in itself.
The medical team were there to run a number of clinics as well as give seminars on various subjects.

Say Ahhh!

One of the patients seemed to have been expecting us.
One of the mornings we were walking out of a house when we almost stepped on a Mozambican Spitting Cobra which then slithered for cover under a gas bottle. We're not usually the violent sort and just aim to relocate the offending creature, but this was a bit too close to the house so... the hunt began.
All are not huntsmen who blow the huntsman's horn, but a while later with the aid of a large stick and the gas bottle itself... Result: People 1 Snake 0. We're sure there will be a rematch soon though.
Probably a good job then that one of the doctors did a talk on snakes and snake bites.
Followed by a practical session on resuscitation and intubation

This was requested as a result of a girl who lost a leg after being bitten on the ankle by a Puff Adder a while back. We met her on the way back from one of the clinics.
Some of the medical visits required a lengthy walk through the bush...
..crossing crocodile infested waterways...
..to bring help to people in their villages...
..and huts.
Planning and fundraising for the bridge had taken many months but the team worked really hard over a few days in often less than ideal weather to make the dream a reality.

John welding.

Finishing touches.
The team with the 'almost' completed product. Just a bit of concrete work at each end to finish it off.

These kids walked back and forth across the bridge many times just for the novelty of it.
Dwight and Lynne Lagore with a few of the kids who will benefit greatly from this endevour.
No less valuable was the many days Anne and Santi spent doing evaluations and teaching the mission staff.

As the bridge was finished the team left a couple of days early - after a slight delay in departure whilst some African Killer Goats were chased from the airstrip.
The medical sorts did some more clinics...

..and visited the ASAM school to do a talk and give out some caps.
It was children from this school that the bridge had primarily been built to help, as two of them had lost their lives to crocodiles earlier in the year. We heard that even two weeks before we arrived a cow had been taken by a crocodile.

This school is also the location of a partly built library that can now be finished thanks to a kind donation from a church in the UK. We will likely get more involved with this in the coming months.
On the last evening we clambered up a rocky outcrop to enjoy the last few rays of the day.
Then it was the turn of the Kodiak to depart after packing the aircraft in the relative cool of the hangar...
..posing for a photo...
..and pulling it out.
Hard work!
After takeoff we flew over the bridge on our way out...

Thank you.

Mercy Air team