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".

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 was a very busy year

2011 is making its way towards an ‘exit left’, whilst 2012 looms in the wings of the theatrical stage of life. 2011 made a good performance, slipped and nearly fell a couple of times, but gracefully put together a show without any major incidents that could not be recovered. Backstage, the performance of 2011 was supported by a larger than normal cast in the production of ‘Medicine on the Move 2011’, and it is clear that the 2012 cast and audience will grow dramatically. We are ever thankful to the ‘angel investors’ who have made 2011’s performance so solid, and together with others who have joined hands to ensure that 2012’s production will have more impact on more lives, in more auditoriums, than ever before.

Medicine on the Move, although filled with smiles, drama, adventure and laughter at times, is far from a pantomime, it is a serious dramatic production that reaches out, changing lives, literally, one flight at a time, in its 24/7 curtains up time. It is hard to measure the real impact of MoM’s activities, and we are often surprised at positive comments from individuals whom we have no idea that we have impacted on - both in the field and internationally. The recent coverage by the BBC and the exposure from Oshkosh, where Zenith Aircraft hosted the MoM team admirably, has totally changed perceptions about what and how we operate. It appears to all that this show, this life changing concert, is destined for a long production run, and is truly ‘on the road’ as well as in the air and on the water – poised to grab attention and change attitudes in ways never before imagined, even by the writers of the script that has made this evolving real life story what it is.

This year has been a year of surgical challenges with Lydia’s arm reconstruction surgery, phase one, and some ‘structural engineering’ needs for myself.

The year, inevitable with our conditions, has seen many vehicles and gensets breakdown, and some die beyond economic resuscitation. It has seen visitors from around the world all giving something, expecting nothing in return but gaining so much more than one can imagine. Our best ever Fly Me Day outranks the fact that we had to cancel the only air show in West Africa (an awareness event for MoM and light aviation), and we are learning from both experiences. It has seen a trip to Oshkosh that has resulted in hundreds of positive contacts, the soft launch of RPMP Productions documentary about MoM, ‘The Calling’, and nearly 16,000 on-line viewings of a video about ‘what we do’ on the AOPA site , as well as front page coverage on the WAI and 99s magazines - and coverage in many other magazines and on web-sites. We were thrilled to win a bid for support for the power systems and running ahead of our projections on the installation… Our first coverage in Australia is about to hit the stands too! 2011 has been a year with visits to our web-sites from every continent and we are always surprised at the ‘returning visits’ from some interesting places – not only in the coastal hills of California, but also in other developing nations where our lead is sought to be followed! 

On field practicalities were enhanced a thousand fold via a truck solution so kindly implemented by one particular flying family. Then there are the donations from so many ‘anonymous’ persons in cash, loans, extended credit agreements, driving folks around, airport transfers, in-kind and effort. EVERYBODY is important to us, and you are all a part of this journey, thank you, thank you for being a part of US –just by reading this, you are helping us to get the word out – the word is ‘it can be done – and we are doing it!’

The concept behind MoM is one of sustainability, and without the WAASPS clients and staff none of MoM’s activities are possible. This year we have had some wonderfully co-operative clients who have used their flying time and other aviation/engineering related needs in the interests of MoM and gained from it massively. This is the long term solution – the sustainability triangle – that thing that makes MoM different, makes WAASPS different and makes the AvTech Academy different – the concept that West Africans can build and train solutions for West Africans, by West Africans. And it is beginning to work.

MoM has also extended its network, become a National Player in the INSCI project and being a key start up partner in the ‘Partnership for Sustainable Disease Control’ (PSDC) – allowing us at least to have a meaningful sharing of the opportunities and solutions that is possible through the ETCHE principles, and MoM’s approach to reaching rural communities. This year we have proven beyond any doubt that ‘MoM has the ONLY practical, working solution to identification and servicing of needs in remote areas of Ghana’ – we knew it, but this year we have PROVED it. But that is, sadly, not enough – we now need to go on proving it day after day, struggle after struggle, obstacle after obstacle – changing lives and reaching new places, one flight at a time.

It has been a good year. It has not, however, been a year of achieving all that we had hoped for. We are still a long way from the 701 on floats and 801 flying and on floats and, it appears that, we will run out of support/funds before the roof goes onto the new multi-purpose education/accommodation/mini-clinic/office building that is now ‘out of the ground’. 

WAASPS is constantly planning new ways to make the MoM dream a sustainable reality, but without the ‘kick start’ from Angels (are you, dear reader, an Angel? If so, thank you!), it is going to be a very long road. In our opinion we need about $250,000 kick start and things will roll without the need for ‘constant appeals’ – for that is the aim, NOT to need to ask for funds. We do NOT want to FUND-RAISE, we want this whole operation, in time, to be ‘SELF-SUSTAINING’ – FUND-MAKING, using social-entrepreneurship to ensure sustainable humanitarian-aviation solutions. At the current rate of activity that target point is on a ramp-up period of about ten years. We want that reduced to less than 12 months and are thinking creatively out of the box in order to make that happen! We will always be able to use financial, equipment and other in-kind gifts as well as volunteers to boost the operations of MoM, but we need to MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE – and that needs to happen NOW, not keep on WISHING it to happen – we must, together MAKE it happen.

It is hard to keep on flying over community after community knowing that we are so limited in our ability to ‘just go and do’. But we do all that we can do, and some more. In 2012/2013 there will be a new catalyst in our mixture – two of them in fact. Michaela and Ben have decided to give the first two years of their married life to the rural people of Ghana, as volunteers on the field – and we are SOOOOO thrilled at that! This is the biggest practical gift anybody has ever given to the operations of MoM – and you will be hearing from Michaela and Ben a LOT in 2012.

Michaela will be the Country Director for MoM, developing and delivering programmes, and Ben will be providing more logistical and administrative support - our identified biggest weakness at this time! This will relieve others, including me, to do more in the realms of building capacity and expanding the stability base of fund-making – the long term solution to our funding dilemma!

One thing is certain, and that is the 2012 MoM production will have more action, more movement, more partnerships and more results that are tangible – for the foundations we, together with a cast of literally thousands, have laid, up to now, are the solid base of the stable, long term, symbiotically enabling solution that really will go on to change lives in many ways, one flight at a time…

Thank you for your continued support and encouragements into 2012 – may it be a safe and productive one for you and yours!
Do take some time to visit the new website, and perhaps the blogs too!!!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Some body could die on this airfield in 2012

Some body could die on this airfield in 2012.... because they did not consider that what they were going may have dangers. In fact, right now I am preparing for the staff meeting on Monday morning. The 'return to work' for the main crews. (Avtech students will start back a week later).

My annual 'state of the airfield' speech is not a heartwarming one. It begins with 'Some body could die on this airfield this year...' , people do not like it. I will get told 'You must not say that' or 'that is not a good approach'. But, as an aviator I know thatm recognition of a risk is preparation for the risk and, in many cases, the best way of preventing the potential negative outcomes of that risk. The approach at Kpong Airfield, across all three entities - Medicine on the Move, AvTech Academy and WAASPS, is one of  'aviation-centric safety'. As a pilot we start each flight by planning for a disaster! What we will do 'if something goes wrong'? What is the option, do we have enough EXTRA fuel to cope with a weather or other issue? Do we have a suitable safety pack? Do we have first aid, water, food, cash and a mobile phone in case we have to land in the bush somewhere inhospitable? Do we have a rope to climb out of a tree in case we land in a tree? Do we have a life preserver or the life raft if we are going near 'such risk areas'? Is the engine safe and sound? (we remove the top cowl at least once every day that we fly a cowled aircraft - most cowled engines only get a cowl off inspection every 50 hours - why? because we expect the worst... .and check for it!). Bruce Landsberg, president of the AOPA Foundation recently made the statement that "Complacency remains the enemy of safety"

Interestingly, in the 'developed' world, we condition our children for the dangers of the road 'Look left and right before you cross or you could be crushed to death by a car' is the basic rule, and that 'fearful respect' works in reducing the accident rate of children crossing roads. However, when was the last time you went out to your car and said 'Well, today we could all have a fearful accident in this car, let us all check the wheels, engine, and make sure we have no loose objects that could fly around, all loads secured, and all wear our seat belts BEFORE we start the engine - BECAUSE we understand the risks? Perhaps, in the kitchen we should start by stating 'Salmonella kills, and we want to have a safe meal - and those knives could cause a nasty accident, so let us make sure we have a stocked first aid cabinet BEFORE we use them'....

As we prepare to embark on flight #2012, we should, perhaps, ask ourselves 'are we complacent about safety in 2012?' and 'what can we do to make it a safe year?' and whilst we are in the that frame of mind, please if you can, ask 'can I help to make life a little better for the folks that Medicine on the Move are reaching out to?'

Let us not HOPE for a safe 2012, let us not be COMPLACENT about safety in 2012 - let us all WORK towards a greater SAFETY AWARENESS and SAFETY RECORD by being aware of the RISKS that 2012 has in store, and MITIGATE against them...

Have a great day - enjoy the rest of 2011!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Miracle.. Maybe not but it is a major achievment....

Submitted by Capt Yaw,

This is one of the most frustration and satisfying weeks of my life. Despite the thankless task of herding cats, we actually achieved our planned construction targets at Kpong Airfield.... and that, my friends, is a FIRST.

We had planned to complete the slab for B3/4 (multi-purpose building/accom/office/training and mini-clinic) as well as connect the new genset to ensure site wide power and reduce our costs of fuel and hassles related to the same - as well as enable power sufficient for a cold making machine called a FREEZER!!! A luxury item - especially when it makes water solid.... AMAZING!!!

Amazingly, and thanks to the incredible support of many of you, and especially the linguistic skills of Patricia (she managed to translate my profanities and coarse cajoling into words that worked), Matthew's logistics (driving trucks and tractors to feed the production chain), and Mr Solo's constant attention to details and watchful eye - tonight, at 19:00, long after the sun went to find its pyjamas, we have done it.

The morning started with breakfast - as it always does - the men here like to eat together to start the day - it is a 'frustrating for me' cultural thing.... then it was watering of the slab layed yesterday at B4, and pounding the foundations for B3 - the target for the day... - then weaving the wire to go into the slab and laying in the electrics ready for the sockets in a few weeks... then, finally, the sand and cement and stone mixing began somehow overlapping,.... not as fast as we would have liked, but it was happening... slowly and at the steady pace that the heat of the day allowed...

In fact, Spitfire and Catalina, the airfield dogs, watched - even wanting to share water from Patricia's sachet!!

The site wide power system (see earlier post for the laying in and the gen set) was achieved by early afternoon, mainly done by Patricia and myself - I can trust Patricia to put the right colours in the right place and to tighten, not loosen, a screw on a connector - and she is up to speed with aircraft wiring, so some 20mm2, 16mm2, 4mm2 and 2,5mm2 two and three phase gizmos were well within her rapid learning curve! Now we can use power at all points at all times with no practical power usage limitations.... (on the small gensets we had to carry them around, and often only use one tool at a time - or computers OR a grinder....etc) - we can even drill and use a power saw on the new construction site to speed up certain future tasks!

The slab completion slowed up and was getting ' touch and go to complete'. We ran out of stones - so we had to run the truck all around the site to look for the remnants of piles from hangars and loading aprons, etc - 6 truck loads were scratched up from the site - really 'scrouge' style - How appropriate is that !!!!????? As we got to 1pm, it was looking as if we were sunk - so I called our local quarry and begged for a lorry of stones. The reply was 'Wednesday'.... I begged a little and he agreed to 're-route' a truck of stones, and at 4pm it arrived... we only needed a few of them, but the teamwork and collaboration quotients we enjoy here are key to our successes.

Then at 7pm, the slab was not only set AND level, but also the tools were tidied away, the men paid and right now, as I write, we all stink to high heavens with sweat, and yet all of us are happy to have achieved this task. If you have EVER tried a project like this you will understand the challenge of completion in a tight time frame. Now, with the supply chain issues and cultural approaches to working and our location, and if you have tried that in a similar circumstance - you may be surprised... I am. Pleasantly surprised.

So, now the men are paid, a handsome Christmas bonus in their pockets and these men will enjoy Christmas vacation BECAUSE of their hard work and it being recognised.

The next challenge is, how to get B3 to Lintel level before the middle of January - and then how to raise the funds for the roof.... and the finishing - but such challenges have never stopped us before - and we are on a roll - with a cold chain!!!!


I will update soon with our Year End message.... and hope that you all enjoy your seasonal break, celebrations and family time - and if you chink some ice, think of us, we may get to chill for an hour or two between the ongoing workshop and paperwork progress that this time of year allows us.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, Happy New Year to all who recognise ' this ' Calendar, and be Happy and Merry to any not covered by these things!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

You're welcome anytime Dr Jim

Dr Jim Murphy and American ENT surgeon based in Tamale, came to spend three days flying with us... but never left the ground... Harmattan has us all grounded.... so we got him to explain a bit about how the ears work to the students and he showed us a digital hearing aid.... Jim is working on a number of health projects in the North and is a pilot too... We hope to see him again soon!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We might make the deadline

B3/4 foundations.... nearing readiness for the slab.... after a lot of upsets and a good deal of tears and shouting, we have finally gotten the masons to understand that we do not have lots of money and need to do it the way WE PLANNED to do it, not the way that makes them the most money.... I hear that this is an international trend with building projects.... after kicking a few blocks off the line and using Patricia as a linguist who translated 'get your butt into gear' as 'you need to make more effort'.... we seem to be getting back on track!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Water on the field... almost

In the seemingly never ending quest for a solution to water - we are making progress.... As of TODAY, we have a nearly finished water tower (many thanks go to Sintex for the donation of the water tank), and now have a pipe under the road to within a few metres of the main water line. This is progress - but it has taken us the installation of nearly 500m of underground pipes to get this far - for we operate on an airfield, and as such everything is far apart - it is a simple necessity... The water line is now run from the water tower to the accommodation units and under the runway to the toilet blocks and kitchens.... we even have a line to the workshops - which will facilitate many of our activities - including keeping our hands clean!! The girls worked hard in burying the line to the accommodation, and all got nicely dirty in the team spirit that we so enjoy! Currently the Water Authorities are 'delaying' but we are sure that within a few months we will be connected.... and what a pleasure that will be!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Night VFR a success!!

The Night VFR in Accra fundraising evening raised GHS3000 for MoM's operations and led to a pledge of GHS10,000 of work for WAASPS (which equates to support for the MoM H.E.V. progress) by VLTC. The Toros Tapas Bar made the evening very memorable, and gave the rare opportunity to dress up for some young ladies!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Queen mum Manye Esther

As part of MoM's partnership with DFP, we took another 120kgs of Pasta to the Queen Mothers of Manya Krobo to use in support of the 1000+ HIV orphans and vulnerable children that they support. Manye Esther is still in mourning after the loss of her husband, but was still happy to spend some time discussing the forthcoming 'bag drop' system - which she feels will encourage many communities and it certainly put a smile on her face during her difficult time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Paying it Forward

Submitted by Capt Yaw

Lydia continues to make progress. However, we are trying to get the hand surgery done, but the hospital is not responding to our requests even for a meeting to discuss it. We presume that they are so busy that elective surgery is not an option at this point, which we understand, but all the same we need to make progress BEFORE she finishes growing and thus improve her chances of maximising the post-operative success...

All of this sits in my mind and challenges me; the option of using a different hospital and team is high on my thought list. It reached bursting point when, on Saturday, Lydia asked to talk to me. The dialogue went like this...

Lydia: Dad, how many people are helping me?

Me: Plenty, all over the world. Why?

Lydia: I need to know HOW many.

Me: Why?

Lydia: Dad, you told me that when somebody does something for me, then I need to do something for somebody else.

Me: Yes....

Lydia: So, HOW many people will I have to help in my life?

Me: (smiling and with a tear in my eye) Plenty..... Plenty.... Plenty....

Lydia: (with a BIG smile) OK, Dad - PLENTYYYYYY.....


Cement is a basic part of construction - and it is a costly commodity - both in terms of purchase and in transport costs... and with the new building coming up, we need a lot of cement... fortunately, thanks to some good friends and the associated kind donation of transport, and now we have cement... 517 bags to be precise.... by going the bulk route we have saved considerably per bag, and without the cost of local pick up and delivery, have made substantial savings in time, thus reducing delays, and that will allow us to move forwards rapidly on the B3/4 'accommodation and basic clinic/training centre'. It is only by working like this that we are able to achieve the things that we do - so please know that every dollar you send to MoM, MoM makes it work ... and work more than once!!!

I have to say, that this size truck arriving had us all on our toes, and making sure that the crew did not wander into hangars was an added burden... but it all went off OK... and on Monday slab laying will commence, hopefully to be complete before the seasonal break... Special thanks go especially to JVC for the kind donation of their truck and to VLTC for the use of their allocation towards our projects.

Partnership is the key to development; it is partnership that has gotten us this far, and this new building will enable so much partnership with the local people - and a much needed solution for training, primary and secondary care for many.

We are still hunting donations to complete this project.... Roofing is our next big expense... wood and roofing sheets will come in at around $7,000.... then the finishing ($6000) and then the 'fitting out' ($8000).... we are probably around $20,000+ short of what we really need to enter this programme into service.... and we want to achieve that in the next 12 weeks...

If you have a local contact for aluminium roofing sheets (cut to size), wood (legal, not 'illegal wood' please), tiles (floor and wall), a medical couch, medical cabinets, etc.... please please put us together....

Cheerful ambition has never been in short supply around here... join us, it is the only way to move forwards! :-)

The challenges aren't always obvious

As usual a trip to the city involves a 'little chat' with some 'nice' policemen. Yesterday we went in using a taxi. The truck was busy moving blocks and water, and through the kindness of one of the student pilots we were going to pick up our first 4x4 vehicle for MoM. The taxi driver was pulled over and the policeman pulled open the car door shouting 'you are not wearing shoes, get out of the car'. Of course, if you are not used to such things it can make your heart beat faster. Ofori, the driver quickly got down to show that he was wearing shoes (it is a new 'policy' that you cannot drive bare foot or in sandles), and we were 'released'. Whether some small coloured piece of paper changed hands or not, I cannot tell! The policeman did not notice that there were no seatbelts in the back of the vehicle - another legal requirement!

All the same we got to the city and collected the Mitsubishi Pajero that has been made available to MoM through kindnesses of several people and organisations. IT is not new, it needs some work and it does have 156000 on the clock. But it will make a great deal of difference to what Ben and Michaela can achieve in 2012. We went into the Department of Social Welfare to renew our NGO certificate and were received well, including thank you's for what we do. Then it was 'back on the road' to get out of the city.... and guess what... another kindly policeman... This time we were accused of doing U turn (behind ten other vehicles) where we should not have done so. I pointed out that there was not a sign saying 'No U Turn', but was told that the fact that there was not a sign saying 'U turn' made it illegal. Pleading ignorance, and accepting my 'education session', I was then asked to provide some 'porridge' in return for my lesson, it was done nicely, but I did not like it. In all of my years here I have NEVER paid for such 'a release' (it has cost me a lot of time). I then explained that 'it was not a correct thing to do.... and before we could enter into too much 'negotiation' got back in the car to drive away!

I hate going to the city - as much as anything the four or five police stops that will punctuate the day are enough to put anybody off. I don't mind being stopped if there is a reason... but the checking of my driving licence twice in a few kilometers is not fun - but it is a part of life here, and we get used to it.... somehow!

The Pajero will need some work and we are going out for quotes in the new year.... if you would like to help, please click on the paypal link!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coming to an airfield far far from you......Accommodations and a Clinic!!!!!!!

Pillars are now set on their starters and the concrete foundation beam laid in B3/4 also known as the 'Mini-Clinic Building'. This name is rather a big one, the building will be the new HQ for MoM. It will include quarters for Ben and Michaela, an office for MoM (currently MoM uses others facilities), two rooms with 6 beds in (each room is 4m x 4m - or 13' x 13'), bathrooms, and most most most importantly a treatment room/clinic room. That room has been needed so much here - it will have all of the necessary to treat wounds and do dressings as well as a large whiteboard for teaching purposes - for it will also be the place to teach and train on first aid and advanced first aid. The accommodation rooms will be used to bring people in to undertake residential training courses on Community Health, providing a solution that is low cost and high impact. It will also double up as crew accommodation for the rounds of teams that are expected to come to assist in the coming ETCHE and INSCI programmes around the lake. This building will soon be complete - or so we keep on telling ourselves... and the piles of stones and sand already set down are being eaten by the masons in an effort to achieve some very very tight targets - even by European or American standards - let alone African time-line standards...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Off the grid ingenuity, it's a way of life

Power systems are improving at the airfield and we hope that by the end of the year the connections to and from the new genset will be complete.... but what happens when the genset is not working? We INVERT... for pilots that is cool - and we all know that Melissa Pemberton is amazing and Inverted flight, but we are inverting the power... we charge a couple of car batteries during the genset running (basically storing excess power for nearly-free) and get a few hours of inverted low amperage but mains voltage power for the evenings - enough for power saving lights and a laptop or two - but NO big power items! One of the aims is to be able to connect a small air-conditioner to one of the new accommodation units and then, if a visitor would like air-conditioning (I hear you Sid!), they can pay to run the big gen-set overnight to run the Air Con.... so, but mid 2012, for an extra $25/night visitors who are concerned about the heat can enjoy aircon... we hope that will enable more visitors to come and participate without additing to the cost of our operations, but adding to the benefits to the people and the visitors! (if you would like to help with that, the AC unit will cost about $1200 installed.... and if you make the donation, you can have your first stay at a discounted rate!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Flying with .... Friends?

With the Harmattan, the Cattle Egret are back - these white birds love the airfield, in fact this morning the little white dots are are all around the fuel depot - at least they can fly in the harmattan... sadly, they also add to opertional challenges for they are the dumbest of birds when it comes to flying.... chasing them off the runway and being ready to initiate a go-around because they see the plane as a buddy to fly along with on land is part of the procedure until the dry season is past!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You can't fly if you can't see

Harmattan has bitten so hard we are grounded. On Sunday we could not even see the hangars at 200m.... since Sunday morning we have only had ten minutes of legally flyable viability - and we did go up - only to come back to earth as we could see another wall of sand filled air approaching the field like a blanket being laid gently onto a baby's cot. The mountain at the end of our runway is jsut 3km from the threshold - and when we cannot distinguish the rocks on the face of that mountain, we CANNOT fly.., not just because of the lack of visibility by also due to the amount of sandy dust that enters the mouth of the crew and the engine of the plane... this looks like it has set in for the next few weeks at least.