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Friday, March 11, 2011

Amphibian Woes!!!

Amphibian Woes!!!

Submitted By Jonathan Porter
We gladly set out to AD for a training flight in preparation for the planned mission flight to Battorkope on Monday. Melissa was all excited at the prospects... and all we had to do was to finish fitting the new trim system... then.... as if some gremlin entered my head... I insisted on checking the gear retraction system...

I had noticed a crack in one of the cable guides and replaced it yesterday, but it stuck in my mind 'WHY did it crack?'. So, we blocked up under the front of the floats and went for a nose gear activation... it is a manual gear pull up and a gravity assisted drop down. So, when I pulled on the retract cable and it 'moveth not' it was time to investigate.

Manually hauling the wheel up and down for a few cycles, including pinching my finger in the locking mechanism, did nothing for the gear movement, but a lot for my the demise of my good mannered-ness.

We sprayed it, we cycled it, we added oil above the gear actuation, below and on... and still it did not meet my 'satisfactory movement' schedule.

Cancelling the flight for the day, it was time to disassemble the little nose gear system... spilling oil on the hangar floor my arms, shirts and trousers... at the amusement of all around.

Together we worked the system, using 600 grain emery paper on the teflon 'plunger' that runs inside the nose leg. It seems that the heat and dust have taken their toll, and now it needs a little help.

So, eight hours later, we have a better moving nose gear, improved gear actuator system (we actually 'borrowed' a pulley from our 801 project along with a scrap of rudder cable from a 701rudder cable) and checked the main gear systems too.... in addition to completing the trim!

So, it looks like we have improved the amphibian trainer... so, tomorrow morning at 05:30 it will be time to test the new operation of the gear retraction and extension as well as the effectiveness of the new trim tab...
Therefore, if you watch this space, you will see whether 8 hours of working a nose gear retractor and elevator trim is worth it!

We gladly set out to AD for a training flight in preparation for the planned mission flight to Battorkope on Monday. Melissa was all excited at the prospects... and all we had to do was to finish fitting the new trim system... then.... as if some gremlin entered my head... I insisted on checking the gear retraction system...

I had noticed a crack in one of the cable guides and replaced it yesterday, but it stuck in my mind 'WHY did it crack?'. So, we blocked up under the front of the floats and went for a nose gear activation... it is a manual gear pull up and a gravity assisted drop down. So, when I pulled on the retract cable and it 'moveth not' it was time to investigate.

Manually hauling the wheel up and down for a few cycles, including pinching my finger in the locking mechanism, did nothing for the gear movement, but a lot for my the demise of my good mannered-ness.
We sprayed it, we cycled it, we added oil above the gear actuation, below and on... and still it did not meet my 'satisfactory movement' schedule.

Cancelling the flight for the day, it was time to disassemble the little nose gear system... spilling oil on the hangar floor my arms, shirts and trousers... at the amusement of all around.

Together we worked the system, using 600 grain emery paper on the teflon 'plunger' that runs inside the nose leg. It seems that the heat and dust have taken their toll, and now it needs a little help.

So, eight hours later, we have a better moving nose gear, improved gear actuator system (we actually 'borrowed' a pulley from our 801 project along with a scrap of rudder cable from a 701rudder cable) and checked the main gear systems too.... in addition to completing the trim!

So, it looks like we have improved the amphibian trainer... so, tomorrow morning at 05:30 it will be time to test the new operation of the gear retraction and extension as well as the effectiveness of the new trim tab...

Therefore, if you watch this space, you will see whether 8 hours of working a nose gear retractor and elevator trim is worth it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Melissa’s Blog

Melissa’s Blog

Kpong, Ghana
Fulani Education Center Meeting

After the completion of the Fulani school building (being called the Education Center) Matthew requested that all of the people meet under the roof one morning at 8 am. We of course arrived around 9:30 knowing that you should always tell people to arrive at least 1 hour before you actually want them to be there. When we arrived several of the men had gathered and the rest of the men, women and children quickly followed. 

It was great to see that the men and children had been stripping the bark from the trees that were used as the supports for the building in order to preserve the wood. They also cleared the debris away from below the roof to make a nice floor. This shows that they are taking pride in the building are will hopefully continue to maintain it in the future.  

The women were dressed in vibrant colors and sat quietly to one side and the children sat in a group together in the corner. Some of the older boys carried sticks across their shoulders in the same fashion that their fathers do when herding the cattle. The men were also well dressed and one elder in particular caught my eye. He was a good bit older than the others and had the face of a man who has experienced a lot in life and is full of wisdom. When he spoke, everyone listened. The men were the only ones to engage in the conversation as is customary. 

Ghana is filled mostly with a Christian population and the Fulani are of Muslim belief. It happened that three ‘holy men’ were present who traveled from the North and came along to our meeting. In the end they approved of the education center and what it would be used for.

Matthew spoke English and Cindy (the school’s teacher employed by WAASPS) translated into Twi, the local language. They spoke about what the building would be used for including lessons for the children, educational materials and seminars for the women and men on health, nutrition and anything else. 

One of the men asked if he could take his children out of their regular school to attend our classes and we explained that this was a learning center to be used as a stepping stone to the children who were not yet in school to learn what they need to in order to pass the school entry exams and that it is not a replacement to regular school. They will meet on Monday mornings and try to keep a sort of regular schedule. They will also pay a small fee per family so that they have a sense of contribution towards the classes and will need to have a level of responsibility. 

Ghanaian ‘PUP’ License

Erin and I completed the remainder of our 5 hour conversion course and solo’s in the X-Air Falcon only one day before Fly Me Day! Jonathan completed our check rides and that night in the dark out by the picnic table Patricia presented us with our Ghanaian PUP Licenses! Erin’s was number 21 and mine was number 22. The numbers just happened to be the same days as each of our birthdays! 

I feel very proud to be a part of the beginning of General Aviation in Ghana and I look forward to watching it grow under the watchful eyes of Jonathan and Patricia in the years to come. 

Preparations for Fly Me Day

The girls had a lot of work to do leading up to Fly Me Day including re-fabricing the tail on one of the aircraft and having to use the parts from 2 rudders in order to make one complete one… and they did it! 

We had a practice run the night before Fly Me Day where we did 2 rotations in the pattern. Jonathan briefed all of us on what our roles and responsibilities would be. We started with a girl in each plane with me, Patricia, Erin and Jonathan. On my first round I flew with Juliet! We landed in sequence, parked, shut down the engines and then went through the same procedure for switching passengers as we would the next day. On the second rotation me and Cindy flew together.  It was a nice treat for everyone to get a flight in after all of their hard work. 

Other Tasks around the Airfield

In addition to preparing the airplanes Matthew and Rex worked together with the girls to put together the new wind turbine. It is not completed yet but they did the wiring and were able to complete the main structure. The girls were able to learn about how the wind will generate power through the turbine to charge batteries. 

They had an extra special treat when we all went for a tour of the Akosombo Dam with some of the students who came down for Fly Me Day and were able to stand above the massive turbine powered by the water. 

The masons and Matthew also worked hard to clean up and place along with placing fencing and tents where the students would be between flights on the airfield and mowing the runway and surrounding areas. 

They have also been working on the student and teacher accommodation and the mud hut where the wind turbine will be used in the M.O.M. garden. I am looking forward to seeing how the M.O.M. garden project will look when everything is completed! I will continue to post photos as things progress. 

Fly Me Day

The big event that we have all been preparing for was finally here! The weather was looking a bit iffy but it held out for all of the childrens’ flights. We arrived and prepared the airplanes then went to meet the first group of children. We took a bit of time to introduce ourselves and talk to them about what we would be doing. Then we numbered each of them for their flights!

We started our engines and 5 hours later after 112 flights later we parked the 4 airplanes back in the hangar.  The children ranged in ages from elementary school age to their last year of high school. We only had a few that kept their eyes closed and/or clung to the pilots arms where the majority of the children did very well on their first ever airplane rides!

Most of the kids would be quiet at first and as the flight progressed they would ask more and more questions about what they saw on the ground, how the plane was constructed and how the plane flew.  I think that everyone had at least one child ask if they could come home with them and a few tell them that they were their new best friend! 

We gave a ‘thumbs up’ to the kids who expressed an outstanding performance in questions, observations and overall enjoyment. These children were put through a series of fun trust tests and questions after the flying was completed and awarded prizes of t-shirts applause. The most exciting part was when Jonathan chose 7 girls who would return to the AvTech Academy to do 1 week in the workshop learning along side Patricia and the other girls. Hopefully a few of them will show enough potential and interest to be come AvTech students themselves.

Jonathan gave a speech to the students and teachers about maintaining the runways in their towns, ways to avoid Bilhartzia  and aviation in general. Then he invited the students one group at a time to come and stand next to the pilot that they flew with. Our students told us ‘God bless you’ and ‘Thank you’ and we were given the opportunity to speak a few words of motivation to them. 

I will never forget the looks on the students’ faces and the incredible experience of taking 23 children for their first flights in one day.  I hope that they will be inspired to chase their dreams and encouraged to study hard in school so that one day they might sit at the controls to the same aircraft in which they took their first flight.

Documentary Progress

I am learning quickly that there is something called ‘African time.’ Rex put it in a great way in his last blog.. it is like a slow moving train, not in a hurry but steadily chugging along. A building that might take 2 days to build with your own crew may take 2 months using the local people in a village; but in long term it will make it last longer because they will take pride in what they have made. Interviews that we had hoped to get done in one day a week ago have turned into 1 interview every few days.. so we are learning to take things in stride and manage the time that we have as best we can to accomplish what we need to in order to make our documentary a success. 
Rex and I have worked on laying out our story line and so far have excellent footage of the Avtech Academy and the airfield and have gotten a good chunk of the interviews completed.  Our next step is to film Medicine on the Move operations, the heart of the WAASPS organization. 

We are 2 weeks in with 2 weeks to go and have used much of our storage space already and to say that we are excited/anxious/etc. to get things completed would be an understatement. The girls are meant to prepare the float plane today so that we can take it into a village on the lake.  Now that Fly me Day is over, Jonathan told us that his time will be more freed up to complete the things that we need for the film. 

After 2 weeks I am counting every second to get into a village and see M.O.M. in action and to understand the reason for all that is going on here at Kpong Airfield. I know that it will have been worth the wait!

P.S. Kpong is pronounced Pong… I was corrected several times by the customs man at the airport  :) 

Fly me day and Documentary

Submitted by Rex Pemberton
One hundred and eleven children, five hours of flying and over three hours of video footage later we have completed ‘Fly Me Day’. It was a massive success.

Imagine; a strip of cloud spreads across the horizon lighting up in a bright orange glow. The airplanes are pulled out of the hanger slowly, carefully, lighting up pink as they come out into the rays of a fresh day. Dewdrops are still on the ground as the four pilots have an intense focus, checking and re-checking the control surfaces, fuselage and engines. The pre-flights are always important to any pilot, but on this day, I noticed just a little extra focus.

 I could feel the sense the excitement, fear & apprehension, as the first bus of school children’s pulled into that airfield at 7.00am. From that moment, I knew this day was going to be special.

Melissa, Erin, Jonathan and Patricia wasted no time lining up the well-maintained aircraft. A heavy day of flying lay ahead. One hundred and Eleven school kids from villages all around Ghana. None of them has been in an airplane before, let alone a light aircraft without any doors! 

In no time, the call came over a cracking radio “Start engines in 3,2,1 start”. Four engines fired to life in perfect time.

The aircraft rolled down the grass runway and took to the air in perfect sequence, my 7Ds red record light was flashing as many kids realized the dream of flight.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will always walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward”.

Well I am sure we touched some kid’s lives after this remarkable day. I am sure they are looking skyward.

However there was a higher purpose than just fun. Jonathan and Patricia had a plan. Young adults that showed potential for learning, enthusiasm and a passion for flight we selected to spend 2 weeks with the AV TECH academy. From this small select group they may select one or two new students to be sponsored through four years of flight training. It is an opportunity that will change their lives forever. It is very cool. Fly Me Day was a massive success.

With ‘Fly Me Day’ out of the way, Melissa and I turn a strong focus towards the film and getting what we need to bring this story to life.

The first part of any good documentary is making sure you have a strong story line, then video to match. Within this story Matthew, Patricia and Jonathan make up the major charters. They will be the foundation of the film. So now our focus is extracting the individual stories. This is done by a casual ‘chat chat’ interview.

That enables Melissa and I to focus the core story and work out what shots we need to fill an editing timeline, to construct a film. It is a long time consuming and sometimes frustrating process. Melissa and I have learnt that in West Africa not everything works to a plan. Almost nothing does! So we take each day one at a time.

We have a mountain to climb ahead of us; sometimes it feels overwhelming as only 10% of the work is in the video shooting. 90% lays in postproduction. Wow maybe I need a production team for this…  Maybe this is the start of a new chapter in my life. Maybe it is time to take RPMP Productions and register it as a business name! 

Now my question is do we edit a trailer clip and try to get funding for the film? Or. Do we take on this massive project by ourselves?

Hmmm… Does anyone know of any production agencies that could help fund this film?

FLY ME DAY!!! Ghana's special type of Young Eagles...

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
5th March 2011: As the sun kissed the clouds, with a reddish tint prior to casting its light upon the runway at Kpong Airfield, four young Ghanaian women, Ciara, Juliet, Lydia and Emmanuella, were walking, eyes scanning the runway surface, making a final check before one of the busiest sessions of flying in West Africa.

By 06:30 a bus with twenty-five children from Techiman arrived.  Four aircraft lined up neatly at the runway edge.  At 07:30 four children were walked to the aircraft by the AvTech students who had just completed their FOD walk.  Ghana’s young people, who see a future in aviation, escorting four young people to their first flight in an aircraft, perhaps even their first time near one. 

Erin Nolan from the NYPD Aviation Unit led, flying in 9G-ZAE, an X-Air Falcon.  Erin, at the end of her annual leave, having spent five weeks in Ghana sharing her aviation experience, was ready to share ‘one-on-one’ the marvel of flight with youngsters from Ghana.

Melissa Pemberton, international aerobatics display pilot, sat in the second plane.  At the start of her annual leave, donated to the youth of Ghana in aviation and health-related matters.  9G-ZAA, the principal training aircraft at Kpong, was securely strapped onto her shoulders, for she prefers to wear a plane, as witnessed by thousands at shows, as she too received her first youngster to thrill into the skies.

Then Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi, Ghana’s own Aviation diva, the woman who had been one of the conversion instructors for the above two pilots, sat waiting for her ‘children’ to come out to the aircraft.  Patricia loves aviation and loves sharing it.  Sitting in the ‘freshly-re-clothed’ X-Air Hawk, registration 9G-ZKT, which she had completed the test flight sequence on the day before, an aircraft that has just been returned to a shiny new finish by herself and her team of girls in the workshops.

Finally, in the fourth plane on the line, sat yours truly, Captain Yaw, in 9G-ZAF, the CH701 STOL aircraft, emblazoned with the Medicine on the Move (MoM) logo.  Like the other aircraft, this aircraft has been built in Ghana, by Ghanaians.  Looking across at the fence line, the smiling face of the first youngster of the day changed the overcast to the brightest sunshine you could imagine. Life itself emanated from each of the four youngsters as they approached the aircraft and pilot that would release them from the bonds of earth for a few minutes.

As the Techiman twenty-five completed their flights, Kete Krachi’s representative youngsters arrived, fresh from their boat trip, courtesy of Volta Lake Transport Company, and kept the planes in-cycle.  Each student getting one take-off, one circuit of the airfield and one landing, in the cockpit.  After the Kete Krachi twenty, it was the Carol Grey twenty, from Somanya’s little school in Lower Manya.  Later, forty-five students from Upper Manya, mainly from communities around the lake edge, took their turn.

For five straight hours, the four pilots sat in their planes, welcoming child after child, awakening in each one something that only aviators can appreciate.  A special dawning of a glorious light that can only be experienced in a cockpit, a few hundred feet above the ground.  One hundred and eleven children were flown, plus Nurse Lydia who had been on first aid duty, a willing MoM volunteer who filled the last seat on the last run of the session.  There were no missed approaches, no bouncy landings, not one person was sick or injured, the only injuries of the day caused by excessive smiling – especially by the pilots – all of whom gave their time and energies freely.  As much as the first students of the day ‘beamed’ and transformed, so did each and every young person who climbed towards the clouds of inspiration, flew along the paths of discovery and descended to the runway of new opportunities.  These young people were changed and changed those around them, magnificently.

Such an event is only made possible by the ground team, led by Matthew and Kojo, those who mowed the runways, prepared the show ground, drove the buses, etc.  The focus group was the young people from rural Ghana, or the real Ghana as I prefer to call it.  Theo Ago, from Air Traffic Control gave up his day off to help and cover the radio in case of emergencies, others from a variety of companies, mainly Managing Directors and CEO’s came along and sat with the young people before, and after their flights, interacting with them, asking questions and realising that there is an enormous amount of magnificent energy waiting to be tapped into out there.  The energy from the real/rural Ghana is immense, and it is, in my experience and opinion, a much more pure form of energy than found in the urban areas.  It really is as if God has passed out a blessing to those who live in less fortunate surroundings, with few amenities and more challenges to make it through each day, than to those in suburbia and ‘down-town-central’.

All of this was filmed tirelessly by another volunteer, Rex Pemberton, who used so many cameras – in cockpit, on wing, on the ground and around the place, that at times we wondered what would be filmed next.  The team from e-TV was present, Crystal Jeanne staying true to her word that she would be at this event, from when she heard about it first at the Be Bold Show.  Those who have seen her emissions know that Crystal is a smiling person, but you could see on her face that her smile was being exercised some extra degrees – as all of our faces enjoyed the moments. This event was about changing lives, one flight at a time – even just watching one flight is all that it takes to transform a dull eyed ‘nowhere to go’ youngster to a beaming innovative energy of tomorrow – how much more so if in the cockpit!

During the ground discourses, a few outstanding students were selected to return to Kpong Airfield later in the year, for a week in the workshops.  Perhaps, just perhaps, out of these few, one or two will make it to becoming a flying instructor or aircraft engineer.  Perhaps, in a few years one of these students will be flying alongside Patricia leading more and more Ghanaian’s into the skies, flying missions out to their own communities under the Humanitarian Aviation Logistics programmes, changing more and more lives, one flight at a time… just perhaps.

Experience is a good gift.  Inspiration is a good gift.  Love is a good gift. When we give money we create a short term moment that is quickly lost.  When we give experience, we crack open a door.  When we give inspiration we open a door wide.  When we give love, we keep that door open.

It was expensive, but what price can you put on the transformational inspiration that poured out on this day?  For all of us who were involved, it was, without a doubt, priceless.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Arrival

Submitted by Melissa Pemberton
Kpong, Ghana
Our Arrival

As they opened the door to the airliner at Accra Airport in Ghana on Friday, February 25th Rex and I stepped into what felt like a wall of heat and humidity.  We were in Africa!  We quickly took off our extra layers of clothing from the trip over and made it through customs with all of our baggage to find Matthew waiting for us in the reception area.  He loaded us into the van, rolled down the windows and we were off for the 1.5 hr drive to Kpong Airport.  Along the way we got a glimpse of where we were.   Expensive buildings and cars next to shacks and huts,  a group of kids cooking a rat over a fire in the city next to an electronics shop, cars without headlights and even some without brakes driving on the roads and public transportation vans packed to overflowing with sweaty passengers.  The clothes are anything from dirty rags to beautiful vibrant colors to business suits.  There are billboards for the power companies and the dam (Ghana has the largest man made lake in the world and several dams for providing electricity) yet we drive through villages of mud huts and small homes with no electricity or running water and high tension power lines running 50 feet over their heads.  How ironic.
When we arrived at the Medicine on the Move airfield we quickly realized that it is a sort of oasis from the surrounding areas.  The green grass runways are kept beautifully trimmed and the buildings and hangars are well organized and clean.  The children are in uniform and the men working on the M.O.M. housing are all wearing safety hats and boots (Not a common thing I gather).  The people here have a lot of pride in their work and it shows. 

Jonathan was at the airfield to greet us between his running around from thing to thing… another common occurrence here.  There are so many things to do and not enough time or hands to do them.  The girls were inside working on a writing assignment from Erin on helicopters.  From day to day we see the ‘normal’ operations at Kpong field at the school, which range from the girls working on schoolwork, workshop (which is of course working on the airplanes) and flying lessons.  Matthew works with the garden and the upkeep of the airfield as well as manages the men who are building the rooms across the field that will serve as housing for the students and teachers in the near future. 

That afternoon we dropped the girls in downtown Kpong where people crowded the car trying to hawk anything from dried mango to trinkets through the windows and door and then proceeded to Jonathan and Matthew’s home where we would be staying for the duration of our trip.  The meals have all been delicious and not short of spicy pepper in anyway! 

First Flights & the Airfield

Erin and I each have had 2 lessons in the school planes since Rex and I have been here.  I did one with Jonathan and the real treat was my second one with Patricia!  She is calm and collected and very knowledgeable about everything flying.  She is a great instructor and flying with her gave me great confidence in the future of their school.  We did pattern work, stalls and a bit of orientation of the area.  I was able to see the expanse of the lake, the town and the surrounding mountains.  The weather here changes very drastically and I believe that the wind direction changed about 5 times in the course of our 1 hour lesson with clouds building from nothing to CB’s waiting to release their thunder and Jonathan is the only person around who is giving out any sort of weather observations or forecasts for the area.  Having day VFR flights only, maps that aren’t quite accurate and minimal navigation facilities in the country you can see how they really are forging the start to General Aviation in Ghana.

When you go on a cross country you cannot underestimate the importance of winds, navigation, weather and proper planning to get to where you want to go safely.  Medicine on the Move are their own search and rescue. 
Equipment is another hassle.  We take for granted how simple it is to get parts and tools for aircraft maintenance in the ‘Western world’.  After multiple trips over 5 months back and forth to customs and hundreds of dollars worth of fees, Matthew was finally able to pick up a shipment of parts for the tail section of ‘KT’, one of the school aircraft.  Of course… all of the parts were not there and the girls and Jonathan have been improvising over the past few days to make it work. Hopefully by the end of today after months of waiting KT will be back in the air.  Just to be sure that all of the resource are used; the girls are carefully removing the screws from the shipping box so that they do not go to waste. 

At the beginning of each month there is a staff meeting at the airfield.  At this particular meeting Rex, Erin and I were given the opportunity to give little presentations on who we are and what we do.  Rex gave a wonderful motivational talk to the staff and we each emphasized on safety and teamwork.  I was also given the opportunity to present the gifts of t-shirts, hats and other items, which were donated, from various people and organizations for our trip.  The remaining items will be given out as prizes to the children on fly-me day this Saturday (when we give 100 village children rides in the airplanes), which we are all busy preparing for this Saturday.
I have seen the aerial photographs of the lakeshore that Jonathan and Patricia are taking from their plane and the shorelines are filled with little villages that have no roads or any way of accessing the outside world.  The floatplanes will open up a sort of air highway to provide medical attention to millions of people who wouldn’t otherwise have it.  The gravity of this problem really hit me through our next experience in the Fulani Camp.

The Fulani

We drive through the Fulani camp on the way to and from Jonathan’s house.  We went there with Matthew to help to finish the building of their school.  I quickly learned that when we go to ‘help’ we are really just observers because they are getting the men to do the work themselves so that they will feel the ownership and pride of what they are constructing.  This gave me the opportunity to play with the children and for Rex to play with his cameras.  While the men completed the roof, Erin, Cindy and me worked on the ABC’s, 1,2,3’s and sang ‘our heads, our shoulders, our knees, our toes’ with the children under the shade of a nearby tree.   The thirst for knowledge is very apparent in the kids and they are like little sponges, soaking up everything that we have to teach.  They speak their own Fulani language so it is important for them to learn English, the national language of Ghana.   The school building will double as a meeting area for the family and for educational materials on anything from how to administer medicine to nutrition. 

One of the little girls in the camp has been battling a cut in her hand.  It has become increasingly infected and after several trips to the hospital and several courses of antibiotics it was still in very bad condition.  Matthew has been trying to explain to her parents that the wound needs to be kept clean and treated or else it could end up in permanent damage in the child’s hand.  We spent all of yesterday in the hospital having her hand x-rayed and treated.  It turns out that the infection was so bad and the swelling so great that it broke the bones in the growth plate of her index finger.  Asamau is only 4.  Luckily, the doctors think it will heal because she is so young.

Because the parents don’t yet know how to do dosage we are stopping by the camp 3 times a day to check her wound and to administer her antibiotics.  This is taking a lot of our time and causes a great deal of stress on the operation but it is important that it is done right so that the parents can see the results will save them money and heartache.  You can see that they care a great deal for their children and it is only a lack of education that allows something as simple as a cut to turn into permanent damage and even loss of limbs… and this is for a tribe that lives only 10 minutes away from a hospital… I can only imagine what sorts of things are going on in the villages on the lakeshore with no access to medical care.

Till next time!

Special thanks to Oregon Aero, Tempest, Women Fly and all of those who donated towards the gifts that we were able to bring to Medicine on the Move.  They have brought and will continue to bring many smiles! 
Melissa Pemberton

First Impressions

Submitted by Rex Pemberton
It feels like my right hand has had an operation. It feel like, I had my video camera surgically attached to my arm… 
It is just that I can’t put it down. Everywhere I look there is a story to shoot or photo to take.

It almost seems impossible to wrap your head around this operation, to understand all the moving components, the way it operates and the amount of people that are touched by it.

The operation chugs away like a steam train. The train moves slowly yet with great power and determination.  This train will never stop moving, it has an endless track.  The track is uphill and the mountain it climbs continues as far as the eye can see.

I must admit, when I left San Francisco with Melissa, I was nervous. I did not know what to expect. I was asking myself over an over in a very selfish way, is there a story behind this operation? Are we really going to be changing lives? And how can I make a difference to these people when there is so much that needs to be done?

It is easy to turn a blind eye when we live in such an amazing place like the USA or Australia. It is easy to forget. When you are here however, immersed in a country that needs help, you can never turn away. You are fixated on what needs to be done.  The western world falls into a shadow in the back of your mind.

You may have been wondering why Melissa and I took such a long time to blog… It is because of a complete emersion into this operation, culture shock and trying to understand all the moving parts of this train.  It because we now have an intense focus. A focus that has developed in a very short time, we are now shoveling coal helping the train move forward.

Within two days I had answered all of my questions… Firstly YES there is a story to tell. An amazing story. Now the question has changed for me. As an amateur filmmaker can I do it justice?

The second question was are we really going to change lives? Easy.. The answer is YES… we already have and it does not matter if you only change one at a time.  We are making a difference.

There is too much to shoot (video), such an amazing story to tell. Very little time to do it all.  It almost feels like another Mt Everest to climb.

“We have set an unachievable goal. In fact we don’t really have a goal, it is more like creating a sustainable legacy.” Captain Yaw.

These words ring around inside my head every day, and every day I am here they grow stronger as I release the size and pace of the undertaking.

Now I get it. After 6 days of being in Ghana I finally get how the lifestyle and operation that is WAASPS (flying school), MOM (medicine On the Move) & AvTech (plans for a CNC machine operation) all work to make one another exist, to make this train move forward.

They are three different operations all run by Jonathan, Mathew and Patricia. This operation is unique, challenging and always going at full stream ahead.

The best part is we are making a difference every day.
 In our short time here:
  • We have built a school for a local Fulani (nomadic) Tribe that lives by Jonathan’s house.
  • We have conducted school lessons with the kids of the Tribe.
  • We have saved a four year old’s broken hand from infection and possibly amputation. It had swollen up to the size of a golf ball and yesterday Mathew, Melissa and I took her to hospital for a quick operation to drain the pus out of her hand. Now we are:
  • Trying to educate the parents how to give their child the right dose of antibiotics and why it is important to keep the bandages on. This will be an on-going project for the rest of our stay.
  • Education is the key to sustainability here. If you ever donate money to Africa make sure it goes to Education.
  • We have flown, fixed and fueled airplanes to make sure the operation continues to run.
  • We are building a wind turbine for a Medicine On The Move Garden (this Garden will demonstrate how remote villages can live completely off the land in a sustainable way.   This is Mathew’s brain child and passion).
  • This Saturday Melissa, Jonathan, Patricia and Erin will fly 100 School kids during “Fly Me Day”. This day is an effort to bring the importance of aviation to school children of Ghana. My camera will be out to capture the smiles.
  • My camera has captured every moment. A task that many underestimate.

We have had a wild ride so far. Melissa and I are now strapped in tight and committed to the entire ride.
This will not be our only trip to Kpong and this little Grass Runway in West Africa…
More to come.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It is all about sacrifices

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
A friend said to me this weekend 'You are so lucky to be able to do all these things - I wish I could do something like this...' as he looked at the MoM garden, AvTech Academy and the Kpong Airfield operations flowing with minds eager to change their world...I responded 'This is the sort of thing we all like to talk about doing, but the only difference is we have made the sacrifices that are necessary for it to happen...' and I added 'in return for sacrifices, there is so much satisfaction...'

We currently have three volunteers in the house, each having made their sacrifices to be a part of what goes on in the field, and many of you are making sacrifices to support the efforts of MoM and the other life changing activities that go on around the airfield - and it really shows that sacrifice is not something painful, but something rewarding, if you add up the checks and balances!

I see the sacrifices that Matthew makes to be a part of all that goes on.  He has turned down a very wonderful job offer in France, he has given up the opportunity to do so many things.  Of course, his being out here has also sacrificed parts of his physical body too.  He still suffers daily from the effects of the accident five years ago.  Despite all of the pain, physical and mental, he continues to make sacrifices.  He gives his time to help with the Fulani school and all the other little challenges for individuals in that community.  He sits and chats at length with Mr Solo, Kojo, Amos, etc and talks about each person he deals with as a person with needs, abilities and potential far more than just 'employees' or 'friends' or 'contacts'.  He sacrifices the opportunity to be somewhere else, to do something else - and he complaineth not.  Of course he is frustrated, agonised and angry on a regular basis, but that is all part of the sacrifice - and the best part is - he does not see it as a sacrifice, he sees it as an opportunity given to him.

In the same way I look at Patricia.  She has made sacrifices in relation to her family, friends and opportunities to do something else, somewhere else.  She has had job offers all over the world, as well as offers to be a 'model' and more.  So many people tell her that she should persue a career in airline aviation, for she is really, really capable of it, but she refuses, she sees another opportunity.  She is so commited to the students and regular visitors to the airfield.  She said the other day 'I sometimes feel as if I have given birth ten times' referring to the 'demands' she receives as if she is the mother of ten children!  Of course, she may get twitchy at times, but she still focuses on the long term potential and possiblities of her sectors of activity.  Patricia's commitment to sharing her learning and skills with others is so inspiring, and yes, she gets frustrated and angry at times too, but the rewards outweigh the inconveniences.

I look at what I used to earn and have, and regret not one thing that has been a necessary loss or distancing that has become a part of making this happen.  I was once asked why I continue with this instead of 'earning good money' elsewhere.  I have turned down job offers, opportunities and proposals that would make most people gasp in disbelief, but I have not an ounce of regret, for the satisfaction, the reward of a smile, the amazing changes in peoples lives that are a part of what we do are irreplaceable.  Interestingly, that goes not only for the contact with the people in the rural areas, for I also have a lot of contact with business people and visitors from overseas - and I see a change in them!  I love to see when a business man sits next to a young person from a rural location and limited access to many things, and chats openly and freely, crossing the cultural and economic divides that simply cannot exist at an airfield.  It is as if the people who walk into the special place we call Kpong Field have a new identity as they cross the apron and become a part of a community, without race, colour, creed or other dividing limitation.  And, when the business man gets his solo or licence from the WAASPS flying school, he is cheered on equally as those who have come from another background.

All of us sacrifice the opportunity to earn more money, live in easier surroundings, have easy power solutions, easy water solutions and easy shopping/catering solutions - not to mention cars that give fewer challenges.  But we all accept it as a necessary part of making the changes to peoples lives in the way that MoM uniquely does.

With Rex Pemberton here, I was talking about what we do as he pumped me for information, and then I paused and said, 'but your adventures are so much more'... he looked at me and said 'but those were adventures for adrenaline, yours is an adventure that touches so many peoples lives'.  For a great adventurer and sportsman to make that comment, it hit me hard in the chest.  I had never realised that it was that.  We say 'changing lives, one flight at a time' but actually we are changing lives every second of every day 'sacrifice by sacrifice'.  Of course, Rex has turned that 'adrenaline pumping climb' into a motivational career that touches lives as he talks about it, but the point he made, caught me off guard.

When our Moslem neighbours sacrifice a sheep at Eid, they do so willingly.  It is a pleasure for them to make that sacrifice.  So, as we make our daily sacrifices by how and where we live, and count not the enormous opportunity costs associated with this way of life, I would like to thank all of you making your sacrifces to read this, the donations, the prayers, the gifts of school materials, loans and more - for without your sacrifices, our sacrifices would not be be possible, and without our corporate sacrifice, lives would not be touched, changed and given new hope, new opportunities - because we give first, and we receive the satisfcation - and that is payment enough.  

This weekend we will be doing our annual 'Fly Me Day' for children from the villages; 20 from Kete Krachi (their transport, accommodation and feeding sponsored by VLTC, thanks Martin), 45 from Battorkope and surrounding villages from the Eastern Region, Upper Manya flood affected areas (transport sponsored by PLAN Ghana), 20 from Techiman (Sponsored by the Aysitu International School) and 20 from Carol Grey School in Somanya (sponsored by the school).  There will be at least 12 teachers accompanying them.  So, you can do the math - 105+12 = 117.... and we will try to fly all of them.  WAASPS will cancel its flying school activities for the day, student pilots and pilots will come up to marshall and manage the crowd, Nurse Lydia will be on First Aid, we will all give our 100% to make it happen.  WAASPS will not charge MoM for the fuel or wear and tear on the aircraft, the pilots (Patricia, Capt. Yaw, Melissa and Erin) giving their time and energy without counting the costs.  

Sponsorship of the flying has been taken in charge completely by WAASPS, but we would be happy for any body else who is ready to help offset the costs.  All donations towards this event will be used towards the completion of the four seat air-ambulance, which is currently about $45,000 from being fitted out as required for the Lake Outreach (to those whose loans we need to clear, thank you for patiently waiting for repayments).  We encourage you to make donations directly to the account for MoM at Zenith Aircraft Company, that way we can avoid some of the heavy bank charges in our part of the world (over 10% of the original sum gets lost to transfers).

If you can make a little sacrifice, we can really start making a difference to those far from the roads, our sacrifices alone are not enough, we need more help.  Thank you for considering this, if you want to help on the cash side, please let us know, if you want to help in person on Saturday the 5th March - please let us know, we always appreciate more marshals... always!