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".

Monday, April 30, 2012

Reaching out

Inspiration is the most magnificent gift.  Today the AvTech Girls, the real engines behind the MoM outreach, are speaking, for the second time in two weeks, to a group of over 300 girls from Rural Ghana.  The aim is not to make them want to become pilots, engineers, health workers, nurses or doctors.  No.  The aim of the programme is to light a fire in their hearts.  That fire should be one of inspiration to achieve more.  To realise that THEY control their destiny.  THEY can achieve whatever they put their hearts and minds to.  

Each of the girls will take a group and chat with them, admittedly about aircraft, health, engineering and flying - for that is what lights their eyes when they speak.  As they talk they will spread something very special - something that cannot be taxed, something that cannot ever be taken away from them.  Each and every girl will be inspired in one way or another, realising that 'if these girls from rural Ghana can be learning to fly, build planes and use their skills to take health education to the people, then the girls from rural Ghana can achieve whatever they set their minds to.'  

Changing attitudes is changing lives.  Giving the fire of inspiration is feeding the engine of ambition that generates the motivation which drives achievement forwards.

All it takes to start the most far reaching bush fire is the work of a small flame, at the right time, in the right place.

Today the MoM/AvTech team will be setting fires of inspiration that will continue to change lives, sustainably, one flight at a time... and we hope that fire will pass the borders and spread throughout all of West Africa.

PLEASE NOTE:  In order to meet the anticipated growth of MoM, AvTech is taking on more girls to train this year.  Each one takes over four years to train.  Without them, MoM will not be able to maintain its outreach - we are planning for a sustainable future...  http://www.medicineonthemove.org/index.php/projects/avtech 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Field maintenance is just part of the job...

Rain is a funny thing here. Usually you get nothing for days, weeks, even months on end and then you get inches of rain in a matter of hours, with run-off and flooding, then within hours the ground is rock hard once again. This week we had a rare rain, in that it rained for nearly FIVE hours non-stop. At times heavily, at times mildly, it never drizzled - not once... Result: Mud Bath. Wet houses (rain comes through the louvre windows with the wind), wet workshops, wet everywhere... wet and muddy. Cars and people got stuck walking on the usually solid three km (nearly 2 miles) of mud tracks that are our transport routes at the site. It rendered the manoeuvring and runway areas totally un-walkable even.

It has been on the 'to do' list for a long time, so, the next few days became 'shovel stones' to key areas. We added stone stands for the cars to enable ingress and egress of the vehicles without slipping over and tried to patch the 'sink-holes' that eat the cars when they get sticky. All hands went on deck, and Lydia demonstrated that she can now handle a shovel as well as any other!

We would need about 30 truck loads of stones at over $400 each, then a grader at a few thousands of dollars to do a proper job on the tracks; so that is not going to happen, as it is a very low priority, very low in the scheme of things! We have coped for 6 years, we can cope for another 20, after all, this is what our communities have dealt with for centuries (granted, they don't have a car to get stuck in the mud)!

Our priority is to change lives, and that is where all of our funds are focused - others, not us. If that means that we have to put up with a muddy road, dig the odd car out and struggle for a few days here and there, so be it. We are only working on the areas needed for immediate safety, prevention of damage to assets and for the improvement in efficiency so that we can be more effective with everything we do.

Well done Lydia, well done all the ladies and an especially well done to Lele (the tall chap in a red T shirt) who is now our mowing and sorting out roads chappy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Volunteer Report

Submitted by Ute Hoelscher

April 2012 … half a year later ... and lots of change …

It has been only six months that I came back as a volunteer to Kpong Field for the second time – being “bitten” in July 2011 in Oshkosh. There was so much more to find since my first visit in Ghana last October: running water for the whole field (not yet to be used in terms of showers – but that won’t be too long), another accommodation with living bodies in there: the MoM voluntary team by Michaela and Ben from the US, an almost finished Mini Clinic for first aid support if needed (still needs basic equipment though), the permission to MoM for dropping by plane, the accomplishments of the first drop runs for health education for the first 20 (!) communities, and the concept of how to do those efficiently – and what really made me happy was seeing the young ladies having developed a lot and having learnt so much more about the planes, engineering, maintenance and flying – a great accomplishment – next to all the unforeseen trouble of everyday Ghana-life ...

I spent all nine days of my stay almost entirely at the airfield – might sound boring for some non-knowing-Ghana-people and non-flying-folks, but there was so much happening – although I arrived in between major activities which I have missed: the first national Shistosomiasis conference, Fly-Me-Day, the first MoM drop mission, the first ETCHE training of the community’s representatives for health education, health training for the girls, major TV channels and newspapers reporting about the girls and the project – but what I did not miss was again the kindness, the energy, the enthusiasm, the motivation and the fascination of everybody in the Kpong Field family. I loved to be there.

I visited during my Easter holidays. It was great to share Easter Sunday with the girls at church – such a fascinating Ghanaian service with so much joy, music, dance, family-feeling with a building not having any seats available any more and having visitors sitting on chairs outside – strange for a (formerly) catholic educated German – but much to learn from … It was great to share everyday life with the girls, going to the market, going to the hairdresser with Emanuella – they really do have special hair and special treatment! - , and visiting a strong headed Queen Mom with Michaela. I loved to be around the girls, having fun, eating chocolate (the German chocolate seemed to evaporate in split seconds), sharing their days and thoughts, feeling part of the family.

Having gotten my Ghanaian validation and PUP-license last time, Jonathan checked me out as an instructor sitting right seat of the plane this time. This way I could teach the girls for a few hours and it was fascinating to see how they learnt from one day to the other. They just love flying and they live flying. It is great to observe how much potential is to be seen and how they envision their future by this opportunity.

Lydia is a special case. She not only has a special smile – which the other young ladies have definitely, too – she also has a special situation going. With her handicapped arm and hand she faces a challenge in learning how to fly and to participate in everyday duties around the airfield. Being a special education teacher I feel drawn towards her situation and towards trying to find solutions. She has learnt to use her arm and hand to the best extent but still faces physical restrictions in movement when, among others, using the controls of the planes. A Ghanaian doctor has said that he does not dare to operate further since the risk of damaging the already developed movement is too high.

On my last day we went to a diagnostic center in Accra to get X-rays of Lydia’s arm and hand. It turned out to be a very professional and well managed center. I was impressed by one of their educational wall pictures: “Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (27 March 1845 – 10 February 1923) who was a German physicist and who, on 8 November 1895, produced and detected electromagnetic radiation today known as X-rays or Röntgen rays, an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901“ (wikipedia). Seemed like we have been at the right place ... The professionals working with Lydia have been fascinated by her story and accomplishment and I am sure that WAASPS will have new students soon … More important though, I have gotten very good X-rays of her hand and I will try to find feedback and recommendations by German doctors hoping that there might be some solution for her. But help and answers can be given from anywhere in the world ...

MoM/WAASPS/AvTechAcademy/ETCHE are different bodies but one organization – Jonathan, Patricia, Juliet, Emanuella, Lydia, Michaela, Ben, Mr. Solo (the carpenter) and the other hard working people at Kpong Airfield are different individuals but one family … highly inspiring and worthwhile to support.

April 2012

Ute Hoelscher
Flight Instructor FAA (USA)
Flight Instructor JAR-FCL (Europe)
Vice Principal of the Statewide Center for Students with Visual Impairments: www.lfs-schleswig.de

Friday, April 27, 2012

Maybe next time.........

Due to technical challenges with drop material preparation coupled with crew fatigue, todays drops have been delayed. We hope to drop on May 2nd with some beautiful posters that we will soon be posting.
Michaela is working hard to ensure that each and every drop is as effective as possible.

Well done Michaela!

Back home again

Submitted by Rachelle Milam

When I stepped off of the plane in Accra, several things hit me at once. First, it was hot! Second, the smells of the city of the city were so familiar that for a brief moment, I couldn't take a breath. Third, and possibly the most surreal thought, I was finally in Ghana again! I grew up here in the Brong Ahafo region, about 10 hours by car (or 2 hours by plane) north of Kpong, and though I have 13 years of experience in this country, there's something very unreal about being back again. This time I'm not here because my mother and father have work to do...this time I'm here to work.

Today was my first full day on the field, and it certainly wasn't boring! The day started earlier than my jet-lagged body would have liked, but once I was out of bed, it didn't feel like the day really ended until after dark. I sat in on my first "team meeting", and Ben gave me a tour of the workings of the field. I got to see the planes and where I'll be working with the AvTech girls (who, for the moment, remain somewhat cautious of me). Then, I got a real welcome to the field by helping to push a truck out of the mud. I've never been so pleased to have dirty shoes! The rest of the day was spent helping Ben and Michaela prepare for tomorrow's drop by typing up lists, editing, and printing other materials. I had never really grasped how much work goes into preparing for one of the ETCHE drops, but I'm so glad I got to be a part of it!

Next week is when the real fun begins. On Tuesday, I go to my first meeting with the Fulani, and I have to admit a certain amount of nervousness. As any person, I'm apprehensive of what I do not know, and right now, I simply do not know what will happen. I'm excited, I'm thrilled for this opportunity, and I cannot wait to see how this experience helps me grow, but I really can't wait for that initial meeting to already be over and done with!

Besides my work with the AvTech girls and the people in the Fulani camp, I'm going to be wearing a lot of different hats (everybody at this field is)! I look forward to more African food, my first time in a small plane, and all the things I'm sure I'm going to learn in the next four months!

Until next time!

Hand washing, such a simple solution

The AvTech girls and I had a fun photo shoot in order to develop educational material for the ETCHE drops! With our next few drops being targeted towards water and sanitation issues, the girls modeled a hand-washing demo as well as several applicable scenarios. Lydia did a lovely job showing us how to properly wash the top and bottom of our hands, while Juliet's demonstration is intended to remind observers to wash in-between their fingers and Emmanuella displayed money as a reminder to wash hands after handling currency. None of them wanted to get close to the potty for the after-toilet reminder and held their noses in protest! =) All in all, we had a lot of fun thinking up different scenarios and I can't wait to see how the posters turn out!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's a Sister act for MoM

Each and every volunteer who comes to MoM brings with them unique talents or perspectives that help us grow in different ways and we appreciate them all. We picked up a new volunteer last night who is special to me for much more personal reasons. I am proud to let you know that my sister Rachelle arrived safely and will be spending the next four months working with MoM to support our efforts in a number of areas. Born in Accra, Rachelle spent much of her childhood here in Ghana, first in the Upper West Region and then in the Brong Ahafo Region until 2005 when my family relocated permanently back to the US. Although her primary focus during her stay will be one-on-one support to the AvTech girls in their grammar and math development, Rachelle is also looking forward to using her background in education to help reorganize sessions in the Fulani camp! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fueling the machine.... quite literally.

Preparing for a drop run is quite interesting.  The flight team are getting the plane ready, the Health Education team getting the drops ready... then you need to get more bags (and different sizes, we are hoping to try some A3 drops soon too)... then there is the fuel for the aircraft - which is not available locally - fuel sourcing is always a half day affair - empty the steel drums, load them in the truck, hope that when you get to the station the fuel is there, then bring it back - fuel cleanliness as important as community hygiene!  We dust off the top of the drums prior to filling, check the drum seals and re-check and re-dust-off before unloading.  Fuel is then filtered into  20l drums, then filtered into the plane, then the plane has finger filters, in-line filters, gascolators (water separators with a filter screen) and pump filters before that fuel reaches the cylinders.  Contamination is easy to get, and so the team is working non-stop to beat the environmental challenges of reaching the communities with other environmental challenges in a timely, reliable, repeatable and sustainable manner. 

Like in a ballet, there are many involved, the sound, lighting, orchestra, scenery movers, prompters, conductor and more, all made perfect by the presence of the audience - all made possible by the so called 'Angels' who fund the development of the production until it can stand on its own 'two-shows-daily'; likewise we have our little Tower radio operators, aircraft engineers, pilots, catering, grounds staff (runway mowing and safety areas), marker board making (yes we make our own marker boards for the runway, and replace them regularly), health ed team, telephone team, accounts, communities in need, all funded by 'Angels' such as you, until we can fly on our own two wings, multiple missions per week.

We are not there yet, but with your help we are closer to a self-sustaining aviation based health outreach solution - one that has 'contamination control' and the associated health benefits at its very heart!

IF you would like to sponsor a village drop please visit:  http://www.medicineonthemove.org/index.php/projects/etche

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mini Clinic Update (aka B3/4)

Although B3 is in use, it is still needing finishing touches.  B4 however, is missing a bit more... like toilets, sinks, electrics, ceilings and all the doors and windows - not to mention the costly business of equipping the mini-clinic.  Here you can see that we are working forwards, for we believe that the difference between success and failure is that the successful never stop moving forward, no matter how slowly, they plod onward, they do not accept that it is too hard, or that funny word without a meaning 'impossible', for with vision and friends like YOU, it is possible... together we are proving it!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Working together to make it all happen

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

A few days ago, the girls gave a motivational talk about AvTech and aviation to a Girls' Camp in Accra. The group was so inspired by what they heard, that they then asked if they could make a visit from Accra to the airfield to see the girls in action. As you can see, they were in high spirits when they arrived onsite and Juliet did a fantastic job leading them to a Safety in Aviation demonstration. Each of the girls worked together to instruct the group about checks when flying, F.O.D, and the different types of aircraft. Patricia led the group in a F.O.D. walk so the kids could practice identifying items that do not belong on the runway. The girls also helped Ben give a health talk on Schistosomiasis and taught the hand-washing song to encourage healthy practices.

Experiences like these remind us of how important each piece of this organization is...WAASPS provided the planes that the kids enjoy learning about, AvTech provided motivation to others through the encouragement of their own training, and the AvTech girls are given a health-based perspective through training from MoM that is then able to be passed on to others. We all work together to achieve mutual goals and each day, we have the opportunity to make an impact.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Health education ... it'll take a village.

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Ben and I had the opportunity to observe a local community pull in their fishing nets from the sea. About mid-morning, we noticed individuals start pulling on the lines that led into the sea, but didn't think much of it as they were rather far off. Over the course of the morning, we found that there were in fact two groups (one on either side of us) and as they continued pulling the lines in, were getting closer and closer to where we were sitting. By the time they had pulled in the lines to within a quarter of a mile from the shore, it was almost noon. They would take short breaks, but continued to work together at what obviously hard work.

It wasn't until this point that we began to fully understand and appreciate what we were witnessing. People seemed to come from everywhere to help. The young, the old, everyone in between...those who couldn't physically pull helped by directing where to put the ropes and nets after they were out of the water. As more people appeared to help, we noticed that they were singing a song to help them keep rhythm, thus keeping from stepping on each others toes (no easy feat when there are more than 50 people on each rope!) . We were fascinated by the way the entire community comes together to achieve this task, everyone pitching in for a common goal that they will all benefit from.

How much then, will they be able to achieve when they are pitching in for the benefit of everyone's health? If only it were that simple...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Come Fly with me.....

One of the keys to the rolling programme of ETCHE drops is the monitoring and selection we have done over the past years. Ever since flights in 1994, long before MoM was officially born, our members have been inspired and motivated by the rural dwellers of Ghana. The past few years has seen a great deal of documentation - creating records where maps do not provide detail or are inaccurate to say the least.

During the training on Monday, a competition in relation to 'Diarrhoea Diaries' (records of diarrhoea as a method of measure of improvements in water and santiation in the community). The prize is an aerial photo of their community (more than one community may win a prize).

Onni and Angelika, visitors from Germany, supported a 'photo-surveillance flight' to obtain up to date aerial images of these communities. Normally, on a drop run, we are too low to obtain a full image, barely reaching 600' above ground level. For the photo flights we need around 1500' - 2000' to obtain the community image required. Onni flew 9G ZAF with me on the camera, whilst Angelika was flown by Patricia in 9G ZKT - a chance to see the places that the people came from from a higher plane, so to speak!

Would you like to sponsor an ETCHE series for one of these communities? Please visit our 'ETCHE page' at http://www.medicineonthemove.org/index.php/projects/etche and change lives with us, one flight at a time...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The First ETCHE training report

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Yesterday was a turning point for Medicine on the Move. Quite simply, experiences like yesterday’s training with the community members are why I returned to Ghana. Until this point, so much has been in preparation…preparation for our move to Ghana, preparation for the authorizations to line up, for the drops to start, to organize this training…at times, it feels overwhelming. But then, just when I think I have not an energized brain cell left to give…I find myself being given, through events like yesterdays, the most beautiful and humbling gift. The honor of being able to have had a part in helping that training happen, of getting to be a part of a movement for self-empowerment within the communities and getting to see first-hand their excitement and hope at that thought…is why I came back, and why I am proud to be a part of the efforts here at MoM.

One of my favorite parts about the training occurred after the AvTech girls and I had finished doing a demonstration and song about proper hand-washing. Everyone in the group was standing up, as they had all been participating in our song and motions. Having noticed that some members weren’t jazzed about singing a “kids song”, I had encouraged the group to include the children in their communities through songs in order to tap into the children’s natural learning mechanisms. Just as I finished emphasizing the way children will hear a song and never stop repeating it, a neighborhood child (who had obviously been listening outside) skipped by the building singing parts of the song we had just practiced!

Another favorite part of the day came during the Diarrhea section, as we discussed the far-reaching effects of community sanitation. Each member of the group was asked to think back on their day since they awoke and see if they could remember all the things they had touched. They were then asked how many of those things were items or places that other people also touched, like door handles, transportation van doors, etc… We then asked if they could guarantee that every person coming before them had washed their hands properly. Combined with a few stick-figure drawings to emphasize the point, the concept achieved its goal of helping them realize that small actions can have long-term good or bad effects. It was rather amusing to see many of their expressions when they thought about the role of flies and other Diarrhea carriers!

The AvTech girls did SUCH a lovely job during their demonstration for the SODIS method of water disinfection! Each of the girls discussed a particular section of the demonstration as they all pitched in to model the method. The group was so interested in what they were doing that they asked the girls to stand on the highest point of the podium area so that no one would miss anything! Juliet was wonderful at introducing the topic and guiding the overall demonstration, while Emmanuella did a fantastic job describing where and how to place the bottles and Lydia explained very well the concept of cleaning the bottles and looking for the PET symbol.

Yesterday was not without its glitches and unexpected, but the positives by far outweighed the negatives. We had 100% attendance from the communities, including all three new communities from last week! It was such a privilege and moving experience for me to have the opportunity to meet in-person the individuals who I’d been working with over the phone during the last few weeks. We have learned so much already about how to improve future sessions from feedback with the communities, and I look forward to continuing to seek ways to meet their health education needs in the best means possible.

We are so incredibly thankful for everyone who helped make our first training such a success! Manye Esther did an amazing job mobilizing individuals from her networks to provide refreshments and a delicious lunch for the community members! Thank you as well to Audrey whose energy and support is indispensable to MoM, both in the Fulani camp and everywhere! To all the MOMMERS who were sending us good thoughts and vibes, we felt your encouragement and did our best to pass it on to others! There are a great many additional people whose efforts made yesterday possible through all kinds of support and the MoM team would just like to say a big “Thank you” (in English), “Medaase” (in Twi), “Akpe” (in Ewe), and “Muchum kaa!” (in Krobo).

Monday, April 16, 2012

The First ETCHE Metting!!!!

Today was the first community meeting, held in Asesewa, the nearest market town to the drop zones. All the communities who said they would come, came. The DCE, the District Commander of Police and the Queen Mothers came and supported the event. All were full of excitement. All were full of expectations. All were wonderful, eyes filled with anticipation.

 My own eyes filled as I stood with Patricia amongst the people we had only met by air before and they raised their 'ETCHE Drop' Bags proudly, and we shared stories about the buildings, their roads, their crops, their fishermen, and we bonded.

They all want more drops: 'The children are SO excited - we want more.' More they shall have, funds permitting.

Tomorrow Michaela will share the outcomes of the health education - and the reactions in other ways...
For me, today ranks alongside being at the birth of a child, the emotion and moment of realisation, all these pregnant pauses to get to this point have finally gone through the labour pains and brought forth the FIRST full community meeting of ETCHE.
More to come, as together we change more lives, in more ways than we can imagine, one flight at a time!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nearing completion of the mini clinic

Today the masons completed 80% of the inside plastering and screeding of the- we hope mini-clinic/training room/short term accomodation block (B3).

We desperately need support for toilets, wash-hand basins and doors ($2000), ceilings ($1500) and fittings... (this runs to around $20 000 to also equip the mini clinic...

We are making progress with every donation towards this project, every little helps... This facility needs to be completed for the forthcoming training programme under ETCHE programme

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Community involvment is critical

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Things are never as simple as you might think... One of our goals within our efforts is to continually support the existing health infrastructure, and one of the ways we are doing this is by collaborating with as many local resources as possible. Since helping the young lady we mentioned some time ago, Ben and I have developed a good relationship with nurses at a local hospital. When the nurses became aware of our efforts on the lake, they helped us arrange a meeting with the head doctor to discuss potential collaboration. We had hoped to meet with him last week, but it was right around the Easter holiday and ended up needing to be moved to this week, but we managed to liase with the nurses about a good time to catch him in between rounds! Upon finally sitting down with him amidst all the people around clamoring for his attention, we shared with him our work on the airfield and in the communities and introduced the idea of including in our health packets posters from the hospital. Ideally, we would like to support the work of GHS by including their posters so that the messages and graphics are familiar to those in the communities. Although the doctor was very kind, we learned that before he can authorize the provision of any materials, we have another meeting to attend at the district level. So from here, Ben and I will try to schedule the necessary additional meetings and continue working for local support of the communities. Until then, I for one, really like the posters the AvTech girls made!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Learning to fly with a broken wing

Medicine on the Move does some things in a very different way.  One of those ways is 'dropping-in' health education to communities - by air.  One young person who would probably not be disabled today if only suitable health education and awareness had been around when she was three years old, is Lydia Wetsi (read her story here).

Lydia, however, has literally risen above her disability and is now training as a pilot.engineer - even with the challenges of her disabled arm.  Here, you can see her practising circuits, that is take-off, climb, cruise, descent, land and repeat, and repeat, and repeat until tired!

As her instructor, under the AvTech programme, I am proud to be a part of the sustainable change that Medicine on the Move has instigated.  Changing lives, one flight at a time, in more ways than we can possibly imagine...
Help fund the training of a Pilot/Engineer with MoM here.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Drop 2 UPDATE!! Set the table, we have guests arriving soon....

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Within 24 hours of the drops we did yesterday, we've heard from three new communities! In addition, We've also received confirmation of attendance by nine communities that both their Community Health Representative and the community's Queen Mother! That means, within 24 hours, we've had over a 50% response rate from previously contacted communities and a 30% response rate from new communities!

There is excitement in the air as we gear up for the meeting on Monday and the opportunity to put faces to the individuals we've only seen from the air and heard over a crackly phone!

Getting to know you ......

The first drop we carry out is a 'sounding out contact' a sort of 'Hello! We are here! Who are you? Are you interested in what we do?'. We call that a 'pinging drop', as in the way a computer can be 'ping-ed' on the internet to see if it is there and wants to communicate.

So, I guess the 'pinging' drop (The 'A' drop) is the equivalent of an 'introduction' letter. Therefore, the second drop ('B' Drop, which is actually the start of the 10 drop programme), is the 'getting to know you' drop. For the communities who responded to the ping, this drop contains an invitation to a training programme, within their district, generally at their nearest market town. It was clear that each of the 'respondent' communities, those who had completed their questionnaires, were openly excited and it appeared as if the WHOLE community was inspired and excited by the passage of their expected 'air-mail' - I am sure that even the sheep and the goats were aware of 'something special' happening! Those who did not respond to the first drop were 're-pinged' ('X' Drop) - just in case they had not understood. In at least two of the re-pings, the community folk were excited and appeared ready to receive the bag - perhaps they have heard about the idea from their neighbours! Only time will tell!

We are clearly getting better at these flights, but they are incredibly intense. Despite having been in training for this, with research drops, for nearly 2 years, both crew find the run tiring. Your senses are heightened as you approach the GPS marker, and since you are low-level, you need to look more carefully to spot the drop zone to plan your 'run-in'. As you approach, you lower to drop height (200' above the surface) and are planing your 'drop' and your 'exit-route' as well as your 'emergency route'. We have found that accelerating at the moment of the drop, climbing at the same time, works well. Perhaps the extra noise also alerts anybody who is not aware that the 'AEROPLANE IS COMING'! As you climb out, the Drop Master reaches back to the 50 - 100 bag capacity hold, that the 701 easily handles, and selects the next labelled bag, the pilot sets the course to the next community.... Time between drops is as little as a couple of minutes. We litterally leap from community to community in a small percentage point of the time needed to travel by road between each point passes. Perhaps this is time travel at its best!

After the climb out back to 500' above ground level, we turn to look back at the drop zone. In most cases the bag is already in the hand of a runner, and being waved frantically at us! It is a moment of amazing satisfaction. Not only are these aircraft built in Ghana by Ghanaians, they are operated by them. As the skills levels increase they will do more and more flights with 100% local crews. Today, for the first time, I took the left seat on the run. I want to find the best way to train this. Patricia took the Drop Master seat, as she was learning to be able to explain better to the next crews how to carry out each task.

Today's run took 1hr 46minutes. We covered over 200km, and you can see here how the communities are located. The 'Z' number is our unique community identifier; where we have a name (ie they are in communication with us), we add the community name - however, the drop team use the 'Zulu' reference for planning purposes - since some communities have the same name, or similar sounding.

I must say, the feeling of 'achievement' is high. But we are not even scratching the surface. Sadly, we have had to cut back our drops to only 20 respondent communities at this time (we had hoped to reach 100 this year), and only in Upper Manya Krobo District, simply due to funding limitations.

As funds permit, we will expand the programme, focusing on the lake-side communities around the lake, many of which are in much greater need than these early ones. The choice of Upper Manya Krobo as a starting point was, for us, logical. We have excellent relations with these communities from the research drops to one of them, it is close to base and we are based in Krobo-Land (Lower Manya Krobo District). As my Mother used to say 'Charity Begins at Home', and these are the people around our home, and to them we owe much, and so to them the first slice of the ETCHE-Drop cake will go.

We urgently need additional support financially to expand this outreach. $50 is all that it takes to reach an entire isolated community. That includes the cost of the materials, the flights, the associated training, catering and related support costs for one drop. Each series takes 10 drops. That means that for $500 you can support one community's initial ETCHE programme. Together, we can change lives, one flight at a time. We know it, for we see it. We live it. Will you help us to do more?

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Working to resume classes in the Fulani school

Submitted my Michaela Sholes

Audrey and I had a lovely time at the Fulani camp this morning, where we met with the community for a much more informal session than we've had as of late. Many sessions recently have targeted a specific group in order to gather their feedback as we determined the best way to move forward with the education classes, but today was open to anyone and we had a great group show up!

We began the session with our announcement to them that we would be resuming classes in the community the first week of May, so it will coincide nicely with the start of the new term with public school as well. By that point, my sister Rachelle will also have arrived and will be focused on getting the sessions started again as she spends the next four months with us! The community got a big kick out of the fact that she and I have both lived here as long as we have and our Twi is still "kakra kakra" (small small). It gave me an added incentive for me to improve my language skills!

Following our announcement about the classes starting again, Audrey and I did a short health education session on washing hands. I gave them a brief talk about the role proper hand washing can play in preventing disease in the camp and pulled from my days as a Preschool teacher with a song many of my former students are familiar. Sung to the tune of "Frere Jaques", we modeled washing the top and bottom of the hands as well as in between the fingers. Francis Norman, who had joined us for our session, played his violin with our song as we called on various people, both young and old, to model the song for the group. It was great fun for all and we shared lots of laughter!

The group also enjoyed a short talk and hands-on demonstration from Francis regarding his violin and the different sounds it makes. He took many volunteers to touch the violin and to try to play the instrument and it was cheering to see their faces light up as they realized they were helping to make that lovely noi...I mean, sound! Francis and his friend from Germany also brought with them some balloons which made for lots of cheer, despite one or two unfortunate little balloons that got too close to the spiky grass!

We will continue to be in touch with the community as we determine what days of the week work best for the different sessions, as we will now be holding the women's group separate from the children's group, in addition to starting the men's group with Ben.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sunrise with Channel 3

When Eric Don Arthur from the TV3 Sunrise show suggested we do a slot on his morning show, he wanted us to do a Saturday morning... Much as the coverage would be great, Saturday and Sunday are the main days for operations at the Airfield, and we had to decline. Then, Good Friday happened! With Francis Norman ( http://francisnorman.de/ ), the amazing violin master, we set off. The plan for the show was 'Good things on Good Friday'... We were honoured to be considered 'Good things!' (thanks Eric!)

Eric focused on the 'route via challenges' that we all had. Francis did the first segment, with some amazing violin playing, then it was the MoM representatives turn. Francis has recovered from Cancer. Myself several physical challenges. Patricia the struggle from clearing bush lands and being the ground-breaker in many things. Then, the 'star of the show', Lydia with her special story ( http://medicineonthemove.blogspot.com/p/lydias-story.html ).

Lydia had not done TV studio work before, and she shone at it! Her smile, her ability to keep to her story despite the many interruptions of Eric (well meaning ones), and her clear 'ease' of handling her disability. No longer do we see the girl who tried to hide her arm. No, Lydia is now making strides forwards, clearing the way for others, making her voice heard. All of this is only possible thanks to the support of people like YOU!

We are proud of all of the people who support our work. We are proud of all the people we work with, and we are proud to represent them all on a show like TV3 Sunrise!

We look forward to the show bringing many more people to meet us at Kpong, and hopefully, getting engaged in the activities of MoM! Thanks to TV3 and Eric!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gearing up for the first training session

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

As MoM gears up for our first training session for the community health representatives (coming up April 16th), we have been preparing materials for the event. The goal of the session is to introduce the coming bag drop topics to the health reps and to also go into a bit more detail regarding the potential long and short term effects of specific illnesses and disease. Our first 3-drop cycle will target Malaria, Diarrhea, and Schistosomiasis, so the training session will focus on water and sanitation issues.

MoM received some wonderful work from the AvTech girls as they helped design graphics and health messages during their placement this week! Juliet drew stories involving characters who were participating in either healthy or unhealthy behaviors and she came up with some really creative perspectives! Thank you girls for all your hard work!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kpong field

When we say we live and work at the airfield, come rain or shine, it is not always easy to grasp unless you see it for yourself. Here we can see a small storm system playing around the site, we can see (from left to right) the briefing room, the fuel depot, tractor and car port, green hangar, machine shop (incomplete), spraying booth and workshop and hangars... and the main runway is just in front of you...

If you turn around you can see the aircraft accommodation, MoM offices and mini-clinic site. Here we see, on the left, Staff accommodation and Girls Hostel, and on the right, staff accommodation, visitor accommodation, training rooms and mini-clinic - and the end is the dog run for Spitfire and Catalina - the airfield dogs...

A working, functional and safe base is essential to successful operations. Having the girls hostel is key to behavioural change - bringing the girls into the 'immersion environment' has proven to increase learning success massively. The AvTech girls are housed and fed at the site, ensuring safety and nutrition! Imagine the challenges of transport, feeding and the 'cultural distractions' that being in the local town would bring. We started that way, and since moving the girls to the site we can see developmental leaps in their achievements.
The same will come with the implementation of the Mini-Clinic, once completed. It will provide for a child and parent to be 'immersed' in an environment where behavioural change is positive and then take that home with them. Imagine the potential comment 'When I learned to change the dressings on my child's wounds, all the young people living at the airfield used antiseptic cream, none of them used herbs or animal dung on their wounds - and they all looked healthy and were doing well in their schooling'.... I must admit that our AvTech youngsters are visibly healthy and active, and confident beyond their years...

THAT is what we are building - a living, sustainable, testimony to the power of behavioural change - not only in health, but also in education, achievement and socio-economic-sustainability.

Would you like to help complete the mini-clinic? Every little helps...
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Friday, April 6, 2012

There's no such thing as a simple wound

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Last week, while we were having a follow-up meeting at the Fulani camp, we met Osmanu, the young son of one of the ladies who has been attending the education classes. We could hear the poor little fellow crying from a ways off, as he made his way over to where we were gathered. His little foot was caked in fresh blood and we learned from his mother that he had had a boil on the side of his pinkie toe. Apparently, the boil had just been pricked by something sharp on the ground, causing it to burst...and resulting in the mess and his tears. Before leaving that day, we cleaned his foot and advised them to take him to the clinic in order to get it dressed properly. I confess, I was more than a little worried about having another Asamau-type of experience with this little boy.

Today, after our meeting at the school, we stopped by the camp in order to follow up with the little boy and see how his foot was faring. Although his wound is definitely still healing and looks painful, Alai has confirmed that Osmanu was taken to the clinic and that they have been cleaning his foot and putting GV on the wound (GV, although technically ill-advised as long term use can cause blood poisoning, is commonly used here in Ghana to dry up wounds and is still a far better solution than cow dung!). He is walking though, albeit tenderly, and we were glad to see that he was wearing shoes as opposed to the bare feet from the week before. We will continue to monitor his wound and check in on the little fellow as he is one of the 4 new students to be starting school in May!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Submitted by Michaela Sholes

During our visit to the school, Audrey and I took the opportunity to see how Eliasu is doing! His teachers speak highly of him and the administration often use him as a role model to encourage other children. We learned last week that he has been made Class Prefect, which is an admirable achievement (comparable to Class President)! He has been working hard during exams and we look forward to celebrating his anticipated good grades when the term is completed!

Our next challenge is working with Eliasu and his family to get his younger brother registered as well. Although his brother has been given a bicycle to attend school, his father states financial difficulties as the barrier to his registration. We are still working with them to see what can be done, but in the meantime, Eliasu remains an encouragement to his brother and the other children in the camp.