With your help the people of West Africa have "a chance, not only to change their own lives and their own destinies, but to change the future of an entire generation".

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our year at Kpong Airfield….

Jonathan Porter
Another year has sped by, and more challenges have been thrown in our direction than you could catch with pair trawling out at sea in the heart of Tuna land....  Yet, here we sit in the balmy West African Harmattan, visibility at 3km, sounds dulled by the atmosphere, the squawk of a Grey Hornbill interspersed with the coos of some other bird and with a background chatter of the shrikes, creating a special year end orchestral moment that Beethoven, Bach or even Elton John would be jealous of.

For us, Christmas is a 48 hour R+R time.  We try hard to stay out of the line of fire, and to focus on our annual ‘weekend’ – since we work 7/7 the rest of the year.  I find it hard to believe that some people get two whole days off EVERY week!  Amazing… they must get really bored.

Many of you reading this are living in area where access to electricity, water, amenities and facilities are taken for granted.  Strangely enough, we do not miss that as much as you may think.  For every disadvantage of living in the bush there are ten advantages over living in the city or the, mis-called, developed world.  After all, how many people live their lives around hangars, mud tracks, snakes, scorpions and spiders that seem to move at light speed!

Yes, there are challenges, but there are also opportunities.  No challenge, no rewards.  For all of us here, we would not trade the challenge life for the western lifestyle – perhaps it has become ingrained, but we do enjoy it.
As a treat for Christmas, we have slaughtered a sheep – so it is ‘lamb – lamb – lamb and lamb’ (it sounds better than mutton) for the next few days.  When you ‘do it yourself’ and work on a tight budget you make sure that there is no waste, but I shall spare you the culinary delights of cooking all except the bladder and a couple of bitter parts.  Waste not, want not, as my mother used to say!

For those reading this who already support the work of Medicine on the Move, we are pleased to let you know that the same mentality and methodology is applied; we make sure every cent or penny is used to further the efforts of our work here – every single one gets used more than once, it seems!

Of course MoM is part of a bigger picture, led by WAASPS, the commercial light aviation activity that supports MoM and, the AvTech Academy.  We believe that social entrepreneurship is the ultimate solution to the needs of developing nations – and, thanks to you, are making inroads to proving that way beyond a shadow of a doubt.  WAASPS has gained approvals and recognitions that are to the benefit of MoM and AvTech.  AvTech is a source of support to MoM and WAASPS, and MoM’s activities show case WAASPS potential…  a complex vinaigrette with a tangy taste on the tip of your tounge – that together ‘changes lives, one flight at a time’.

Over this year we feel that we have made great inroads, probably the best year of achievements so far, and here is a summary of the key points:- 
  1. GCAA (our CAA or FAA) approval to use amphibian aircraft to operate on the Volta Lake (the largest man made lake in the world), to take support to villages, and to begin amphibian training.
  2. GCAA gave approval to develop our aerial supply solutions ready for needs of the future. (our supply canister programme is now proven, and ready to roll out).  
  3. Mr Solo, our Ghanaian craftsman, and his team have achieved 95% completion of our the new hangar block, thanks to the support of many. With that, new working areas for teaching aircraft construction and the best servicing area we have ever had – pretty much up in the best 20% of the worlds light aviation service facilities.
  4. Patricia, one of our Ghanaian young ladies, fully trained in house, is now an effective assistant flying instructor.
  5. Patricia also lead two of our built in Ghana CH701 aircraft around the country on an incident free flight of a nature never before seen in West Africa, at this level, raising awareness of the Humanitarian Aviation Logistics that are the heart behind all of our activities. You can read more at http://www.medicineonthemove.org//blogarchives/2010/aogf/2010aogf.html
  6. Several successful visits to Battorkope, both by air/water with the amphibian and by land in a MoMmers 4x4.Providing support to their school, health care programmes, infrastructure and raising awareness of their potential medical needs as the ongoing floods that have ripped away nearly 100 homes (about 20%) of their lakeside community.
  7. A successful demonstration of an extraction from a community using a rough hewn wooden canoe to bring a person out to the amphibian aircraft and successfully transferring and departing with them.
  8. Breakthroughs in understanding of first aid in our Fulani camp work. After working successfully on a badly infected hand, there is now a change in an entire Fulani communities approach to first aid, hygiene and education. Subsequently, the Fulani camp leadership have now designated an area for an education ‘hut’.
  9. Matthew (tractors, generators and landscape responsibility) has completed and as much as possible perfected the roller we use for working on the 2,000m of runways and taxiways as well as the 4km of service roads that we look after at the airfield site. We have also completed a tractor ‘sled’ used to carry up to ½ tonne of materials and to level out many areas (although he is now thinking about a mark II of this). Developing agricultural attachments/implements is part of the long term goals of our operations.
  10. Thousands of safe and incident free movements at the airfield. Mainly training flights, which are the highest risk flights, for which are thankful to Rotax, Zenith Aircraft and X-Air for their products and support.
  11. Provision of 100 introduction flights to young ladies on the 8th March.
  12. The opening of the AvTech Academy, supported by WAASPS and Medicine on the Move, providing a training school for up to four girls per year, as they study aircraft engineering, basic piloting skills, computing, Robotics and production methods, airfield maintenance, car and tractor driving and maintenance
  13. Mentions in Parliament by the Hon Emmanuel Bedzrah of the work that we do.
  14. Establishment of xtended safety areas at 19/01 ends of the airfield.
  15. Development of a new Website for Medicine on the Move.

There is so much more, and we thank all of you who have supported it, financially, physically, morally and prayerfully, for this is a team effort.  You can start now to support the activities in 2011.

So, since we have a new year around the corner, it is time to plan.  In aviation we MUST have our plans, but it is rare for a pilot to stick perfectly to the plan they made before entering the cockpit.  There are too many factors that change the plan.  We plan to use one heading, but the wind changes and hence the heading changes; we plan a straight line, but find a storm in our path and route around it; we plan to make a landing, only to find the runway unsuitable, and have to work out a solution; we always work towards to reaching the end point and to meeting all of our targets, but in a pragmatic, safety conscious and professional manner.  And so, a plan is needed, but we know that it will require some working around to get to the end point.  We also know that this can be achieved – with your support and encouragement.

We have established a comprehensive plan, not a wish list, not a ‘new year resolution’ list – no, a serious plan – with many points, some of which will require great efforts and plenty of sacrifice.  Rest assured that, together with support of others, we will achieve most of it and far much more, upholding out motto of ‘Changing lives, one flight at a time’.

May your family have a fantastic final few days of 2010, and may your plans for 2011 be safely conducted as you climb into your cockpit for ‘Flight 2011’…
The MoM Team in Ghana http://www.medicineonthemove.org/

Friday, December 17, 2010

Back into the Fulani camp

Submitted by Matt Porter
On Thursday, after a long absence (about 2months), due to Amina, a key member of the community, travelling up north to see her mother, Matthew and nurse Lydia went back to the Fulani camp to get up to date with life there and see how things were going, mainly for the women and children.

Getting nomads togther in the same space is always a bit of a challenge, so it took about an hour of us arriving for enough women to have wandered over to the tree at Alai and Amina's house for us to start. Our main concerns were whether they had made us of the things that we had taught them up in the previous visits - that is some basic healthcare and sanitation, nutrition of children, and some basic education - the alphabet which we have put up on a board for them to learn with help from a couple of people who know it amongst them.

On most of these counts we were pleased - the children were all looking pretty good - one child in particular that we spotted the last few times who was showing early signs of malnutrition was looking a lot more lively, and walking a bit - previously, she had been breast fed only - almost at the of one it seemed, which nurse Lydia had pointed out was not enough, and had advised that she should be eating some solids foods as well - the mother was very happy to tell us that the child had been eating banku (cassava and maize dough - very tasty, full of fibre and goodness...). Lydia was very happy with this. Previously, Lydia had pointed out that they need more protein in their diets - the Fulanis are not local to this part of West Africa, not only on a political point of view but also from a geological point of view - the food available here is very different to what they are used to in the northern parts of West Africa. Up there, there is a lot more meat, they eat more leaves - down here, the consumption of fish is more common, and the diet consist of a lot of oil, small vegetables and large doses of carbohydrates. So we had noticed that they were having a little trouble mixing up the two diets - something I can understand, coming from a Western background and a diet of bread, potatoes and sugars.

Lydia had suggested adding fish as another source of protein, but we were getting the message that they are not used to fish - one of the guys even put it that some of the older women feel like throwing up at the smell of fish! Lydia always has an answer to these things though - add lime and chili pepper!

We asked if they had been using the first aid box we left there, and Alai pulled it out to show us - they had used a lot of the items for small cuts and bruises, which is very good - and I was assured that not of them had been used on the cows (one of my worries...!)

You may have all seen that our last visit to the Fulanis involved a lot of time taken with introduction to some forms of learning for the children (and adults!) - in the form of the alphabet, and charts of body parts. I had made a couple of small follow up visits since then, and despite designating a young man called Ilias (about 14years old) who has received some schooling to keep taking through the alphabet with people, he had not been making the effort - so the children are straight back to running around receiving absolutely zilch in stimulation, education or exposure. This is very sad, but not that surprising - we have about three or four generations living in this camp of illiterate people. They want to learn, but don't seem to have the techniques of learning - if that makes sense. It's like sitting down and learning things is very very foreign to them. But we had some ideas, and, this shows the desire to be educated, the guys have come up with wanting to put up a small shack - sticks and roofing sheets - for the children (and adults!) to learn in. We think this is a great idea - it fixes the idea of learning in a particular spot (in a clearing that is central to the community), and away from "under a tree, next to a kraal and house" - this should give it some discipline.

SO! A lot to catch up on - for the ladies, children, and some of the guys  - and Lydia and myself! The conclusion of this trip though has been - EDUCATION!!! This is the priority now. This is where they are suffering the most. Unfortunately, we also believe that unless someone from outside the community is going there on a bi/tri-weekly basis, it is not going to be kept up at the moment. Secondly. more work on nutrition. Lydia, to dispel the fish myths, wants to come and show them how to make fish that not make them want to vomit! She will also watch how they, in turn, prepare some of their dishes, to learn as well as get a better understanding of the diet. The first aid side of things is okay for now - after covering some more pressing issues, we will come back of explore these further.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Humanitarian Aviation mentioned in Parliament

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
Amazing as it may sound, today, in Parliament in Ghana the MP for Ho West spoke about the All Over Ghana flight and what has been happening at Kpong Airfield, Patricia's achievements, and inside the statement gave a place to Humanitarian Aviation Logistics. This is a first and an opening of a window of opportunity for MoM.


The story breaking today, will probably not make many waves - but, we are reliably informed, was welcomed by both sides of the house, establishing an informed instrument at central Government. This may seem a small thing to those in other places, but it really is a first here. It is like a key in the door, that we have been waiting for, for a long time...

We are all proud of Patricia for 'flying the flag' of Humanitarian Aviation Logistics,promoting the approach of MoM's sustainable, reliable, effective and relatively affordable solutions that really work to international standards and beyond.

Many thanks must go to the Honourable MP for Ho West, Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah for taking the challenge of promoting the achievement of young Ghanaians and bringing these activities to the forefront of the house of management of this nation.

Thank you all for your support - but please remember we are incredibly short of funds to achieve our goals. We REALLY do need to recruit full time staff, since those on the volunteer rota here at 'MoM Central' are overloaded and beginning to show some fatigue cracks under the strain... results like this boost us, but this needs to move to the next step. We have proved it, now we need to extend it - help us fund the full time crew that this operation needs. We have a Master of Public Health, a Doctor, nurse and a PR friendly Biochemist who are keen to come on board, they are not greedy, but they need to eat, they are ready to forego many of their current comforts to be full timers, we just need a solution to get them started - LET'S DO IT and change many more lives, one flight at a time!

Thank you all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wipe the blood off of the plane....

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
As you can see we had a 'bloody day' at the airfield today....

We all know that working around aircraft has dangers - the biggest one being what the propeller could do to your arm, if it hit it. And indeed, the mess it could make of the aircraft.

MoM in association with WAASPS, has helped to start the AvTech Academy, a training centre for young ladies in aviation, first aid, and a host of other skills. Over the past two days they have been learning introductory first aid from nurse Lydia.

Nurse Lydia is a real gem - she is patient, kind and incredibly practical - and hopes to soon do some airborne missions (once she is happy in the plane!!!), in addition to her work with MoM in the Fulani camp.
Nurse Lydia has patiently and practicably trained these girls in First Aid and Hygiene - and they have loved it. However, they had no idea that their final assessment was going to be a 'simulated' Capt. Yaw having his arm struck by a propeller.

First Aid is cool, but it tends to be remote from reality. We work in a very real world, and so a lot of effort went into a 5 minute practical test of their learning. Glycerine, food colour and tomato ketchup were combined and stored in small plastic bags. Silicone was used to stick a piece of bone and flesh (from the butcher) to the left arm of Capt. Yaw. Fake vomit was made from available items.... Matthew was primed to create a diversion, Patricia set to create the 'realism' pre-accident and Capt. Yaw was centre stage 'melodrama-man' and 'victim'..

The plane was positioned about 40m from the girls finishing their programme and having photo's taken. The plane struggled to start (because we deliberately set the mags to off) and so Capt Yaw made noises as if approaching the engine (but was really VERY safe at the struts). The engine suddenly flew into life (because the mags were now on) and quickly shut down, mags off, key out and throttle back....

Patricia leapt from the plane shouting 'Oh my God', whilst Capt. Yaw burst a 'blood capsule' over the plane (see above) and several over himself, falling to the ground screaming 'my arm, my arm'. The fake blood coursed over the flesh and bone 'protruding' from the Captains arm....

Here are the photos, in sequence, of the girls response to this totally unexpected 'challenge'....

Ciara and Juliet race to the gate....

less than a second has gone by....

Nurse Lydia 'forgets' for a moment that is a drill and runs with them...

the body is the other side of the plane, screaming

they remember to pass behind the aircraft

Juliet sees the blood and admits her fear

Nurse Lydia, now standing back (out of shot)

Interestingly they decide to move the body

clear of the prop, in case it starts up.... (good stuff)

The 'injured party' was making a lot of noise and needed calmed down. The 'bone and flesh' clearly visible through the hand clasped to the 'wound'...

Juliet and Emmanuella provide comfort and reassurance whilst Ciara and Lydia race for medical supplies (interestingly they did not use the kit from the plane.... but it was close to the briefing room, where they knew the location of items better...)

Now that the 'siliconed injury' is coming free, it is time for a shock moment and some pseudo-vomiting. The patients head was turned to one side and Nurse Lydia comes closer (seen entering shot from the right) just make sure that it was still an exercise...

As they clearly had the situation under control, amazingly, the Captain was suddenly fit again, much to the relief of the students who were still under the impression that it was real!!! Even Matthew and Patricia kept trying to get the eye of the injured fellow for reassurance that all was really well.

Congratulations all round - to the students from AvTech for their reactions and of course to Nurse Lydia who has inspired and informed these youngsters.

All hands then went to cleaning up the 9G ZAE, the plane chosen, since she also appears in the movie 'Somewhere in Africa'....and because the 'blood' was sticky!!


Back to the briefing room and for a group photo with 'Guy' our search and rescue 'man-dummy' who has had broken legs, heart attacks etc. during the course... (seen lying in front of the team) and for final de-briefings and marks.

From left to right: Lydia, Emmanuella, Juliet, Nurse Lydia, Ciara and in front, wearing a hi-vis, Guy.
Ciara and Juliet are now being awarded 'Designated First Aider' status and will be entitled to wear the MoM first aider band on their arms. Lydia and Emmanuella need some more experience before they can be given such responsibility, but it will come.

I have run many exercises, and I must say that this one was really impressive - not because of the theatricals, but because some young people, who are barely 12 weeks into their training programme made some really great decisions, furthermore, when we pointed out what they missed, and they listened and understood!!
Congratulations all of you.....

Soon, Juliet and Ciara will spend a day each with Nurse Lydia before they set off to a village to 'offer first aid' in a rural community environment....

These are the future of Humanitarian Aviation Logistics, and they are all learning to fly....(sponsored by MoM and WAASPS).