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Saturday, March 31, 2012

The First ETCHE drop

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

If we are learning anything this week from all the calls we’re getting, it is that the communities are as varied in personality as they are enthusiastic about the drops this last week and the start of ETCHE! 

With our response rate about 65%, we’ve heard from communities as large as 1500 and some as small as 350.  Although each community targeted has in common that they are located on the lake’s edge, they have so far each been unique in relation to factors such as distance to the nearest clinic, existence of a school and/or latrines, and community water source.  In talking with community members, it continues to be eye-opening when they share some of their challenges with us via crackly phone lines.  For example, ETCHE bag #A019 which landed in Akotoe, was received by a local school teacher who, in describing his community, told us that his people are forced to get their water from the lake because the water from the two boreholes nearby have become salty and undrinkable.
It has been interesting to hear from the communities how they received their ETCHE bags.  For example, a representative from Dzogba called me yesterday to apologize for not calling sooner but that their school children had only just found the bag in the wooded part of their community that day.  He informed me that the community has called a meeting for tomorrow and will call me again once they have read the letter from MoM and had a chance to discuss it with the people. 
My favorite part by far though has been the initial and continued interaction with community members.  The excitement in their voice is unmistakable.  When you answer an unknown number on your phone and the chipper voice on the other end immediately says happily, “Good Afternoon Madam!  We are pleased to have received the bag from your airplane and we wanted to let you be aware that we want to participate!”
Many of the phone calls from the communities have come with a representative on the direct line and you can hear the entire community in the background as they all wait for this initial contact.  In many cases, the community’s chief  (or Dademantse, as he is called here) or a teacher is usually the one to make initial contact, but that has provided a perfect venue within which to answer questions and explain to them our vision for a community-identified health volunteer.
We will do one more round of pinging drops in the coming week or two in order to gather information about the communities, but we hope to have our kickoff and initial training in the weeks following.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Update on Fulani Camp

Submitted by Audrey Binney

As planned, Michaela and I set off early to the Fulani camp to meet the women who were going to accompany us to the school (Natriku R C School) which was supposedly of closer proximity to their camp than the one we have been focussing on (where Elias attends, Holy Family RC school). It became very clear after 15 minutes of driving that there was no way any child could walk to that school. Nonetheless we carried on and went ahead to meet the Head as planned to explore the structure, facilities and costs involved. We visited their facilities including all the classrooms with a very warm reception from each. We were satisfied with what we saw and concluded it was no different to Holy Family RC school. Of course the issue which brought us here in the first place was they would rather have their children in a school within walking distance.

We came back to the camp and held a follow up meeting with the men and women.
The mothers agreed this school did not fit that criteria and jointly with the men decided they would rather send their children to Holy Family RC.  They have come to the decision they will fund the transportation to send the kids to school and have made an arrangement with a local driver who they trust. This is a good result if they stick to it! They have agreed to send back to school the 8 children who registered and stopped attending last year. They have 5 weeks to sew the uniforms for the children which became a stumbling block last year and contributed to them dropping out.  2 or possibly 3 new children will register next week. Michaela and I then went to the school to let the headmistress know our intentions, that the 8 will be returning and a further 3 registering next week. She assured us the uniform situation will not be an issue if they begin without it. We took the opportunity to check up on Elias. The teachers are very happy with his progress and they tell us he is now Class prefect! We are so proud of him and his achievements….he is certainly a good example for the other children to follow.  We are still working hard to get his brother to start attending next term.

So next week Michaela and I will be meeting the parents of the children who will be registering, at the school where we will assist with their registration.
The key challenge here is whether they will spend/can afford  to sew the uniforms, pay the registration fee (for the new ones) and afford the cost of their books and daily lunch allowance. We’ll keep monitoring their progress.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

At long last !!! WATER !!!!

Submitted by Ben Sholes

So, after 6 years, some hard work digging ditches & laying pipe, a little sweet talking to the water company (thanks, Michaela and Ben), and a whole lot of follow up with said water company, Kpong Airfield now has access to the main water supply. And, it is such a relief!

Prior to this day, all water for drinking, washing, and construction has been transported on-site via Polytank or sachet. You can read more about the dark ages here (Bens Blog). Without a doubt, this advent will save us major time, money, and effort. My favorite part is how it all works:

Instead of being able to use three different water sources that can be split up and sent to different parts of the compound, we now had to figure out how to split up one source of water for drinking, washing, construction, and cooking which take place in very different parts of airfield. The answer was very simple: tank + pipe. At the heart of the system, is a 3,000 liter tank on a water tower that is directly connected to the main water supply. This bad mamma jamma keeps us in water for roughly 3 days depending on "consistency" from the water company and our usage on a day-to-day basis.

From this point, we're basically set up with underground pipe to 3 different places around the airfield: accommodation, visitor washroom, and the office kitchen. These direct connections (once completely finished) will provide water to spigots outside the house for laundry, sinks inside the house for dish and hand washing, and the most important thing...showers! We've also hooked up what we call stand pipes at strategic places around the airfield where we may need water for washing planes & cars, refilling construction water tanks, and extinguishing bush fires.

Mark this day as one step closer to sustainability and standardization for the airfield and for MoM. With this new supply line, we will be able accelerate construction on the mini-clinic, more easily provide adequate water to big groups to host training sessions, and ultimately help MoM staff better utilize their time. Today is a good day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Our first drops... a flying success.

As we look over the images of yesterdays drops and discuss the oncoming phone calls from the pinging bags, I cannot help but smile, we really have started something amazing... There has been a lot of sacrifice just to get this far, but we, together, have made it happen... And this is just the first run... With web visits in the hundreds today, we can see that we are not alone to be excited at what is happening... West Africans building and flying aircraft to help West Africans to move towards healthy and success filled lives... One flight at a time.

Thank you for calling Medicine on the Move, please hold....

The calls began around 12:30pm as I was driving home from the Fulani camp. I saw a strange number pop up on my phone...and then another one..and still more until around 7:30 this evening! Over crackly phone lines and iffy reception, we have made contact with nearly 10 communities already. It's the first day and that's nearly 50% response rate! I'm thrilled to see what tomorrow brings! I admit, it made me smile mid-phone call as I felt like those busy secretaries in movies who move so rapidly from conversation to conversation "Thank you for calling Medicine on the Move, please hold; Thank you for calling Medicine on the Move"

Getting to "meet" each of the community representatives via the phone, answering their various questions about the ETCHE program, and learn a little bit about each of their individual areas has been the absolute highlight of the week so far for me!

An added bonus to an already exciting day was a visit from James, the health volunteer from Battorkope! Our meeting was the first official visit to take place in our new MoM office in B3 as we asked for his feedback on some of the health messages we plan to include in the ETCHE bags! His insight was much appreciated and we look forward to implementing some of his ideas.

Each drop costs approximatley $50. If you would like to sponsor a healthcare drop please make a donation to MoM Via the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's taken 18 years.. Today marks the beginning....

Today marked a moment in history that will probably only be noticed by a few - perhaps you included. Today we ran the first pinging runs in Upper Manya Krobo.

It was amazing... We had been delayed by weather, but our trusty Rotax Powered, Zenith CH701 sat, ready, waiting. With around 140litre fuel capacity and 20 drop bags on board, 9G ZAF was ready to go, and this morning, 'GO we went'!

We dropped a total of 19 bags, but on 2 drops we called a foul (my fault, a snag on the camera) and so we re-dropped.

The images shown here are marvellous - they show the amazingness of it all... and you can see the aircraft shadow in many...

The flying went smoothly and safely, with Patricia Mawuli flying left seat, and I ran 'drop master' position. We shared the roles of GPS tagging, photography and dropping as well as flying the plane. Patricia would set up on the target, descending from 500'AGL to the approved 200'AGL drop height, as she passed 400' she hit the GPS marker, and I got ready to drop and photo... the people were amazing, they heard the plane, moved clear of the approach path, and then ran to collect the drop bag. For these communities it is new, but many have heard about it and many have seen it demonstrated at Battorkope and Kpong during the research phase. Between villages I would share the flying control duties so as to give Patricia a rest from the concentrated low-level flying. We know these areas well, and run through the flight on our stock images we have built of our target areas, we know all the trees, the odd power lines and comms towers, but still make a 'security check' before the descent and declare an 'escape route'. All went well and, as usual in aviation, planning and preparation paid dividends... The research phase is now over... Today was not research - today was outreach.

As I write we have around a 50% response rate in the first 12 hours... tomorrow may bring more - all were happy to be considered as a part of this outreach - and we will keep you up to date with the outcomes....

Michaela will report on the community responses tomorrow!

First Responder training

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Melissa and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the girls and Patricia on our Rural Community Health Education First Responder (RCHEFR) course this past week! Modeled after the WMI/NOLS course, the girls received intensive training in the Patient Assessment System, Wound Management, Splinting, and a number of other Illness/Injury identification issues. Many thanks to Melissa for helping write up the curriculum to include practical and written quizzes, as well as develop detailed handouts. We had a great time running scenarios (and scaring poor Patricia with our well-acted illness/injuries) and having group discussions. The girls seem to be enjoying their newfound skill sets as they have been religiously checking each visitor’s BP, heart and respiratory rate! I am so excited for them to be able to begin using these new skills when they go into rural communities along the lake!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fulani camp update

Submittted by Michaela Sholes

Audrey and I had our second session in the Fulani camp, this time to speak with the women. We had a great turn-out to the meeting with 11 women, many of whom had been attending the educational facility and so had personal experiences upon which to provide feedback! We discussed a variety of topics with them and received some interesting thoughts. When Audrey asked the women what their understanding of Medicine on the Move does as an organization, none of them had much of a clear idea, which enabled us the opportunity to emphasize our vision of support through encouragement and training, rather than through physical resources. They seemed very open to this concept and agreed that it should be that way. In addition, it was encouraging to hear the women express that they have seen visible improvements in their families’ health after applying information they’ve learned from our sessions regarding washing hands, basic wound management, etc… One of the interesting things that we learned from the ladies group is that Mondays (which have typically been our “Fulani Camp Day”) are actually the least convenient for them to attend meetings. Based on the same information coming from the men’s side as well, Audrey and I have decided that our meeting day will have to change to either Tuesdays or Thursdays. We will assess which will work best for MoM and do our best to meet their needs. Finally, our discussion led to the issue of the school-aged children attending school and the logistics involved. The ladies have suggested a school that is closer in distance to the camp and wouldn’t require the children to walk along the busy Akuse road. Audrey and I, as follow up with the ladies, have arranged to meet them at this school on Tuesday to meet with the administrators and assess whether or not it is a viable option.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Circuits are the only flying today....

The weather that spoiled the drops last week continues to dampen our spirits. It is bizzare to have rain and harmattan at the same time. Flying in the circuit today, for that is all that we can do, we found the struts and brake lines covered in the reddish-brown fine silty dust of the harmattan, and then closed the field due to a sudden rain storm. The whole of West Africa is covered with a lot of bizzare weather today... perhaps we will get a break for the bag drops in the week. We hope so, for the communities sakes.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

When You work for Smiles...

Letters like this seem like a bonus check.

From Samyukta and Sanaa Saklani

My father is a student pilot @ WAASPS and he told us a few weeks ago about 'Fly Me Day' during which Mr. Jonathan, Patricia and other pilots from US and Ghana fly 100 children from nearby villages for free. He asked if we wanted to go there to help out. It sounded very exciting, so we said 'yes'.

We woke up very early on Saturday and got into the car half asleep for the 1 hr journey to Kpong airfield. When we got there, we felt like the sun had fallen on earth. It was like the inside of an oven there, but there were lots of excited school children and adults and we saw 4 colorful planes ( yellow, green, white and red) on the field parked behind each other. It got a little cloudy. After a while we didn't mind the heat.

We really enjoyed Fly Me day. We met lots of new people, for example Millicent, Rebecca, and Linda, (some of the village students we met.) We also met Melissa, Rex, and Jenny who had come from the US and Germany to help out. My dad's job was to take pictures of each student using a fun camera called polaroid where you get the picture immediately. We hadn't seen such a camera before! My mom was working with Jenny to fill in the children's flying log books with details of their 1st flight and paste their picture in it.

We very much enjoyed our job of taking the photos from my dad and passing them to my mom or Jenny (OK, maybe it sounds booooring, but try it out, it's kinda fun.). We took over 100 pictures. We also spoke to the children before and after their flight to ask them how they felt. It was fun to watch the kids live in a dream. The kids were scared and excited- mixed emotions. Some kids looked a little scared before their flight but everyone was smiling after they landed. My dad was trying to take pictures of the children with a plane behind them so that they can remember better. Some were smiling a lot more than others.

Unfortunately, it rained before all the children could fly, so then mr. Jonathan made a speech and thanked all those who had helped including our family!

We'd like to thank all the 4 pilots who flew over a 100 kids. Especially Mr. Jonathan, for being such a great 'n' humorous host. And our mom and dad for bringing us to the Fly Me day.  My dad says that once he has become a good pilot and got his license, he too wants to be one of the pilots to fly the children on  the next Fly Me day. We look forward to attending Fly Me day next year!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The need for health education becomes apparent on our Dawakpersebi trip

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

The MoM team shared an encouraging experience having been invited to visit Dawakpersebi, one of the future recipients of the ETCHE bag-drop program! Noah, our local contact, introduced us to the community and their leaders and helped us facilitate group discussions to identify relevant health challenges and needs. During the discussion, we had an impromptu health education lesson after learning that Schistosomiasis and its related symptoms are highly prevalent in the community.

There were a number of health challenges discussed during our group meeting, ranging from typical issues (like asthma, allergies, and helminth infections) to more severe challenges like the situation experienced by this little girl. She was left scarred around her eyes following an infection in her face. Although she has been to the local clinic to address the infection which has somewhat subsided, she is still experiencing pain. We hope to collaborate with health professionals to help provide the best information possible regarding recommendations for clinic follow-up and prevention as much as possible.

Our host Moses and his family opened their home to us and were an absolute delight! Moses is the community youth leader and has been working with them for the last 5 years. He was very active in the group discussions and we appreciated his perspectives. His wife, Ayeki, is an amazing cook and made the most delicious palava sauce and boiled yam for dinner!

Rex, Melissa, Ben and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit (despite the crazy roads to get there!) and I cannot express how much I am looking forward to continued work with this community and others like them. This on-the-ground, community-led collaboration is what MoM is all about and we are thrilled to play an active role!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You can't fight Mother nature

Yesterday it rained, leaving the field rather wet, and the air hanging with mist as well as some harmattan dragged in from the North by the change in pressure. Looking to the North we had a clear 5km vis and so set the drop bags up ready to go (drop references A001 - A020 for the Dawakpesebi to Battorkope area).
The drop plane, our CH701, 9G ZAF, with Patricia as Pilot and Lydia as 'Drop Master', set off with the 20 'pinging' drop bags - the 'first contact' bag that will be used to identify the community, and included a 2GHS phone credit so that the community can call in their receipt - once they can get to a communications point! The chase and observation plane, 9G KT followed with Capt. Yaw in the left seat and Rosie from France 24 ready to observe the first delivery by air.

As we climbed through 1000' the vis was dropping rapidly. We needed 2500' to clear the ridge. At 2000' ft vis was permissible - but only just. As we approached the ridge climbing to 2500' both PIC's declared 'abort mission' and we returned to base. It was not possible to use the alternative passage due to a clear line of Harmattan to the East of Juapong.

Meanwhile, out in the field, our ground Crew (Rex, Melissa, Ben and Michaela) are out of contactable range and will have to guess what is going on. It really does highlight the challenge of communication to these villages.

We will wait for a better day, and then drop again, again and again as we stretch out the hand of health education friendship to places which are in need and have, in many cases, had no such support before...

SOOOOO close....... so very close......

Almost - but not quite.... the Water Company did not have the right parts to complete the installation. If they can find them at their stores, we may get water tomorrow.... if not it may take another week or so.... We hope for tomorrow!

Water... a long awaited commodity at Kpong Airfield!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let the Drops begin!!

We are all very excited about our first full fledged health education drop run. After 18 years of working to get the approvals and change regulations we’ll finally be taking healthcare to rural villages.

The ground Team: Michaela, Ben, Rex and Melissa have gone to a rural community to monitor the in-community reactions to the first set of drops. They will arrive there later this afternoon and spend a night in the village ready to share and document the first drop tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile the volunteer pilot, Patricia Mawuli and her student and co pilot Lydia Wetsi, are preparing the aircraft, bags, and materials for the drop.

Tomorrows run will be to 20 rural villages earlier identified by the queen mothers as target communities. The first contact materials being prepared include an introduction, a small questionnaire and some telephone credit for the community health rep to call us.

We’re often asked why we wish to use small aircraft for these runs. The ground team, traveling by road, will spend around 3 hours getting to first drop site. By comparison total flight time for this initial run to all 20 communities will take just over one hour in our Rotax powered CH701. Attempting this trip would require more than a week difficult travel by road, and would still not reach all 20 communities.

These first drops are more about first contact and relationship building. Future drops will contain more community specific health education materials and training invitations.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fly Me Day memories

Submitted by Boulos Abawi

I recently had the good fortune to observe -and participate in a very small way- in the annual “Fly-Me-Day” event at Kpong Airfield, where some 127 local kids were given the chance to fly in one of the light airplanes at the field.

It was quite a memorable experience to to see the enthusiasm, anticipation and in some cases apprehension in the eyes of those youngsters as they queued to register for the flight, had their photos taken and got their own personalized pilot log books. After the flight in the fleet of airplanes flying around the circuit in a precisely coordinated formation, and as the kids were led back from the runway by the ever-efficient and highly disciplined girls from the Aviation Academy, one could clearly see the excitement, joy and spontaneous smiles on their young faces. For most of them, coming from the neighbouring rural communities, it must have been the high lights of their lives so far, and this adventure of flying will not be forgotten for a long time to come.

The day was a complete success, and in pondering on the huge logistics, resources and efforts that went into planning, organizing and realizing this event, one can’t help but admire the dedication and hard work of all those involved in bringing the dream of flying to the lives of young kids.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and the festive atmosphere that only kids can bring to such an event. I will definitely mark my calendar for next year’s “Fly-Me-Day” – it’s not an event that I want to miss.

Submitted by: Paul Himsworth

I was thinking about this weekends Fly Me day and recalling the school trips I went go on, typically days out in London to see various events and national monuments. All very exciting at the time but nothing in comparison to Saturday’s adventure. It was great to see all the students lining up to take their turns in the cockpit. All well behaved and with slightly serious faces reflecting the trepidation they must have felt. Totally natural bearing in mind that they were about to experience something that the vast majority of the world never will. The face on the students after they had landed was fantastic. I never realised you could get so many teeth in one head. I’m sure their joy was real affirmation to all the Pilots, Avtech girls and volunteers for the hard work and exemplary organisation they had put in. Also well done to the Queen Mothers and teachers. Seeing you share your encouragement and care off the student was terrific. It was and inspiring day for us all and hopefully it has sown a seed with the students to aspire for higher things, apologies for the pun.

Submitted By: Augustine Sam Biney

Aviation is a world on its own, comes with its own rules and regulations, truly being in the aviation family is a second world.

Flying people on a special day like this one takes special people to do so,
Being an air marshal on 'fly me day' gave me a new experience in my life, helping passengers board and alight from the airplane was my job, and I did my best to put thing under control,

In all we head a calm weather, from the morning till late afternoon, when the weather changed against us.
Nevertheless we were able to hit our target, by flying as many people as we can,

We thank the almighty God who made all things possible for us to sail through the day successfully, and to our dear pilots who ensure a safe state of affairs and made things go on successfully, I say bravo.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We do more before 6:00 AM ...........

This morning it was planned that we all rested after the exceptionally busy weekend's activities. HUH! Rest? Sleep? Recovery? No such chance .... not here!

After finishing complicated funding related discussions last night, we hit the various metaphorical haybales at around 10pm... then, Matthew had to leave at 05:20, and Rex left the accommodation block to fly at 05:30 with his PPG. (Rex has a special permission to fly his Powered Paraglider for this week and has found that the wind is very limiting as to when it can fly). Happily, the young lady we had in Quarantine is now able to return to school as a day girl as she regains her strength and some weight (she was VERY sick), and so we have, in conjunction with her and her sponsor, arranged a special support for the re-integration. Therefore, at 05:50 a taxi arrives to take her to school, and she leaves, accompanied by Michaela, who will now be gone for a couple of hours sorting that whole scenario....

The AvTech girls then suddenly appeared from their dorms at 06:30 forgetting that this was Monday, the nominal 'day off' in our week (well they had an exam yesterday on First Responder training and they WANT to be in classes today....). Jenny, meanwhile, is getting ready to fly back to Germany later today after flying in to for the weekend to help out with the various activities... Melissa will spend most of the day working on the practical exams for the girls First Responder programme and, as always, on the 'rest day' there is lots of hand washing, cleaning and preparations for the busy week ahead.

Oh, did I forget, we also have a meeting with Air Traffic later today to work towards streamlining our flight plans and RT operations. (Here we need to file for ALL flights, even for the PPG - which makes perfect sense once you understand the environment!)...

Oh, and the car has a fault on the oil sensor that shorted the starting circuits... and the old grass slasher blew its gearbox last week, and the new one donated by Sid (THANKS SID) and transported by Huub (THANKS Huub) is not directly compatible with the tractor and needs modified... and we hope that Mr Solo will be well enough to be back at work this week too...

In addition, this week has planned bag-drops to a number of communities, and all the usual work that happens.... add to that a film crew from France 24 who are excited about the operations here and the Bag-Drop and.... well, as I write, it is already over one hour into my day.... and the birds are complaining that they are woken by the sound of my keyboard chatter instead of waking me up by the sound of their chirping... (I must learn to type more quietly so as not to deflate the birds egos, then walk out and smile at them as they gather in the trees to wake me up, pretending they managed it...)

This is not the way of life for everybody... it is not easy... it is not without tears... not without upsets.... not without frustrations... not without worries... but it is about changing lives - and that is certainly the nett outcome of it all...

Thank you for reading... sharing... and supporting us all!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fly Me Day 2012

Whilst we wait for the many pictures and other comments to roll in from today, I just want to kick off this new sub-section of our Blogspot.

Fly Me Day has become an important part of our interaction with our communities and part of the dissemination of safety and health messages. This years Fly Me Day was, in my opinion, the best one ever!

We focused on the Queen Mother's in about 20 communities, and added a couple of Schools (one local and one from Techiman) - surprisingly we got a 100% (plus some uninvited) turn out. It was a amazing. All had done their paperwork and flights went smoothly until the heavens opened. Although we were unable to fly all participants before the weather broke, we did do more than ever before.

The faces tell the stories - and it was a very special day....

My favourite question was 'What is the name of this airplane?' (meaning which one was it....) and when I replied 'Alpha Foxtrot', the little mite next to me repeated it about ten times. Other interactions made me smile, such as

ME: 'Who brought you to the airfield today?'
14year old young lady: 'My Queen!'

WOW, what a proud girl.

But I will admit to being remarkably proud of the Queen Mothers, for they decided to NOT take their flights before their children had all gone through.... and then when the weather broke did not even whimper a complaint. Furthermore, they interacted wonderfully with their wards - supporting, encouraging and cheering - not mention waving like a windmill in a gale at their kids in the planes... These are special women and they are fantastic to work alongside.

WE only had two 'code six' moments. A Code six means 'My passenger is not doing well - I NEED TO BREAK FORMATION AND LAND NOW.'

Mine was first. I was the fourth aircraft in the line-up to take off. On this particular run the wake turbulence seemed to hang around and add itself up just as I reached 20ft off the ground. I corrected quickly, but it was rough. I thought it could be overlooked, but the shivering frame next to me, was clearly not happy. At 300' I had the legs moving a lot and tears, tremors and a Vulcan death grip on my right (stick controlling) arm. Melissa had just turned downwind in AE, Patrick was cross-wind in AC and Patricia was only a few hundred feet ahead of me on climb-out.

I called 'Code 6, Code 6, Code 6. AF needs to cut short and land first. Holding the height at 300' I tried to calm the eyes clamped closed form next to me. With full power I managed to get ahead and turn abeam the numbers to touchdown, roll out and clear the area without creating any noticeable disruption to the event....

Patricia will write about hers (which was a bit more exciting!)

Thank you for reading, keep following and PLEASE let us know how you like (or don't) what we write...

Fly ME Day!

Today is Fly Me Day.... we have invited over 150people this year, but with a difference.... we have focused on Queen Mothers and the children from their community. Twenty Queen Mothers have each been invited to come with five of their community children. In addition we have invited twenty from Techiman and ten from another school nearby, and of course Battorkope and a another nearby village who are the first beneficiaries of the airborne outreach activities.

Sadly, some have not understood the value of what we do. Some have asked for money to come to the event, and T Shirts and caps... We simply do not respond to such an approach. If the community cannot make the efforts themselves, they cannot benefit. The cost of getting to us from the communities in question is less than they spend on a new dress - and we believe that they need to demonstrate a 'desire for self-priority adjustment' as a primary change in attitude towards greater health.

What they do not know is that we will be giving out prizes and gifts to the children and a small financial gift for development of their community.

THis years line up of Pilots is Melissa Pemberton (9G ZAE), Patrick Ata (9G ZAC), Patricia Mawuli Nyekdzi (9G ZKT) and Capt. Yaw (9G ZAF)...
Lydia, Juliet and Emmanuella are on 'loadmaster duties' - that is putting passengers in and out of the planes!

Jenny Jocksh has flown in for the weekend to help and is running the passenger control - her title is 'Flight Line Queen' (control of the access to and from the flight line and photo taking with a polaroid (thanks to the Pembertons) of each child who flies...

Michaela Hayes is on 'first Aid Post and Queen Mother interaction, community liason' - probably the most important role for outcomes down the line.

Ben Sholes is 'Ring Master' and gets to try to herd the cats - getting cars in the right place and people control (includes all the headaches - poor Ben!!!)
Two staff have volunteered for security roles (Lele and Bernard)
Many students and friends will be helping too, special thanks to Paul H (safety car and fix it man), Soumya and family (marshalling and passenger pre- post-interaction), Aunty Judy (flight line support and gift support).

Special thanks go to Millward Brown for their financial support this year. We are, once again, running the event at a loss and thank WAASPS for covering over 60% of the event. 
We see the importance of this event and look forward to sharing the outcomes with you tomorrow!

(NOTE: We do not announce the date of this event in advance, except to invited guests, since we can get overwhelmed with 'opportunists'. If we exceed 300 people on the airfield we need to shut down operations under the regulations, and it is simply a way of working, but it makes it hard to gain support for the event. )

Friday, March 16, 2012

My first Drop Experience

Submitted by Soumya Saklani

I turned up as usual for my 7:00am morning lesson recently, excited more than usual as I had recently done my 1st solo. Little did I know that a pleasant ‘surprise’ awaited me.

Jonathan asked me what I wanted to do that day (a) do normal circuits & touch & gos or (b) sponsor & fly to Battorkope village on the other side of the 1,800ft ridges and over the lake for a ‘drop’ mission (the drops contained invitation materials for the forthcoming fly me day) to Battorkope village (the only approved drop site at the time) on the fringes of Lake Volta 30kms from Kpong & 3-4hrs by road (20 mins flying time) each way. I would fly all the way to the village and back whilst Jonathan would take over once we were near the village for the actual drop (which turned out to be some very fancy flying!).

Now circuits & touch & gos are great to do...but it don’t think it took me long to say ‘plan B’ – fly over lakes & mountains & do something actually meaningful? Yup, sign me up! The flying itself was exciting & a whole new experience – instead of doing the usual circuits @ 600ft, we took off & turned north-west & kept climbing to 2,000 ft to clear the ridge line. My 1st flight over the ridges & I learnt a lot about flying over them, mountains, long water bodies – including handling any emergencies, up & down drafts etc. We ended up flying close to 3,000ft – the highest I’ve ever flown till now. The scenery – the lake, ridges, greenery, scenic villages etc. were breathtaking in itself & made the entire 1 hr flight worth its while.

File Photo: Battorkope

As we got close to the village, Jonathan took over the controls to carry out the series of safety & protocol manoeuvres associated with a ‘drop’ flight – including 1st fly within hearing distance of the village chief’s house (adding power at the right moment), waiting for the designated village representative to come to the ‘drop zone’ (the village school yard) donning the hi-vis vest and then flying over the school yard for the actual ‘drop’, some precision flying, and constant awareness of 'glide clear' involved given the small size of the village! Sometimes I felt we were flying a helicopter! By now I had the plastic package in my hand and as instructed, waited for the ‘3...2...1’ count from Jonathan to release the pack straight down on ‘1’ the moment we were directly over the yard. Jonathan circled back to check the ‘recovery’...’they’ve got it – confirm package recovered...mission successful’!

File Photo: Battorkope
And once we were clear of the zone, I was on the controls again & this time took a slightly longer but equally scenic route back to Kpong – with some more new learnings about lakeside farming, heading, winds, crossing water bodies etc. Also flew past the big underwater tree logging operation, the largest fish farm in WA (8 million fishes) site as well as an abandoned airstrip at the edge of the lake! Nice crosswinds at Kpong made for a very interesting landing experience as Jonathan demonstrated the crosswind landing technique (crabbing into wind & then getting her straight just before touchdown & dipping ‘into wind’ aileron to prevent that wing from lifting on taxiing).

As I drove back to Accra, something felt different that day about what I had just done...I realised that this was my 1st ‘mission’ or should I say ‘flight’ to change lives, one flight at a time...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Health Education Drops

Medicine on the Move is pleased to announce that further to many years of development and testing, we are now approved by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to implement the Bag- and Bottle-Drop health and related education systems as part of ETCHE (Encouragement Training for Community Health Empowerment) and its part in the INSCI (Integrated National Schistosomiasis Control Initiative) through our extensive collaboration with WAASPS. Using the Zenith CH701 aircraft with its built in Ghana airframe, equipped with the reliable Austrian made Rotax 912 UL 80Hp engine, we will commence outreach activities using innovative in-country developed techniques in the next ten days, weather permitting.

This has been announced this morning at the First National Schistosomiasis Forum, held at Akosombo, Ghana in front of an international audience comprising of parasitologist and leaders of health and related programmes in Ghana and West Africa, and will permit accelerated access to many, otherwise inaccessible, communities. The WAASPS/MoM developed delivery system, via the specially adapted CH701, will be an essential tool in the forthcoming campaign against the second most socio-economically devastating parasitic disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. With over ten thousand kilometres of potentially infected water frontages, and an estimated fiteen million cases per year in Ghana, MoM sees the attack on Schisto as an integral part of the ETCHE programme.

This approval comes at the end of an eighteen year vision of using light aviation to reach the rural folks of Ghana in some very hard to get to places, many of which have never before had attention focused on them and their challenges - let alone contact made, support and encouragement provided. Through the MoM projects and its partners in WAASPS and the AvTech Academy, young Ghanaian women, from the rural areas, have trained hard and are now ready to make this a reality. The vision of West African reaching West African to bring about change for greater Community Health Empowerment and socio-economic sustainability is about to take to the skies.

Demonstrations of the drop methodology will be made by Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi and Lydia Wetsi to delegates and invited guests tomorrow, Friday 16th March at Kpong Airfield.

Medicine on the Move is a registered Charity in England and Wales, recognised in Ghana by the Department of Social Welfare as an NGO, our 501c3 status in the USA is pending (we are currently accepting US donations through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation).

For more details please contact us at info@medicineonthemove.org

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Bungalow for two

Submitted By Michaela Sholes

Ben and I spent our first night in our new bungalow last night! There is
still some work to be done inside as Mr. Solo and his team finish the ceilings, some cement work on the drains, and some final touches, but all in all, it's coming together! As you can see, we are notorious for dumping our shoes at the door...so anytime any of you would like to visit, you know where to put your shoes!

Our next challenge once our bungalow is complete, is the mini-clinic, as evidenced by the post last week! As a follow-up to that post, she has regained much of her strength in the last week or so and has become a formidable Uno player!