|By Carmelo Turdo|
"We are absolutely thrilled to be working with Mark and Samaritan Aviation to reach people in Papua New Guinea," Heinrich told The Aero Experience. "There is a great opportunity to reach so many people who are without health care. Papua New Guinea represents one of forty-seven countries we've worked with throughout our history, and we are particularly thrilled to embark on this new adventure with Mark and his team." Wings of Hope will support the mission and aviation service needs of Samaritan Aviation by assisting in the acquisition and maintenance of aircraft, possibly converting aircraft to operate with floats for water operations and by providing other logistical and fund-raising assistance through the foreseeable future. Heinrich also mentioned that Wings of Hope staff will visit the Samaritan Aviation operation in Papua New Guinea next year and make additional assessments of how the two organizations can work together in the region.
Mark Palm visited Wings of Hope last week during the St. Louis stop on his "Hope In Action" national tour. He is using his leave time from the mission field to raise awareness of Samaritan Aviation, recruit more pilots and support personnel, and raise funds for additional aircraft needed to reach the many people still in need of basic medical services in Papua New Guinea. The tour, which began in Portland, OR, continued into Texas. The aircraft he is using for the tour, a Cessna U206F, is back in the U.S. to receive engine upgrades and other maintenance before returning to service.
"We [Samaritan Aviation] are a non-profit, Christian charity and we work in Papua New Guinea, saving lives and delivering medical supplies in very remote villages," Palm told The Aero Experience. The area served has one hospital for 500,000 people, and it is located several days travel time from most of the villages along the Sepik River. "We use seaplanes as a lifeline to offer access and hope to the villagers along the river," he added. According to Samaritan Aviation, about 80% of the medical flights involve patients with pregnancy or disease-related conditions, with malaria being a common ailment. The need for medical services is great, and Samaritan Aviation is answering the call to provide an aerial lifeline to the hospital and to bring medical supplies and health care workers to the villages when possible.
During his U.S. "Hope In Action" tour, Mark Palm seeks to educate his audiences about Papua New Guinea. Although some Americans may have heard of the area from the history of the World War II Pacific Campaign, few are aware of the scope of the population currently being served there. An independent Commonwealth since 1975, Papua New Guinea is located on the second largest island in the world and has a population of over eight million people speaking 850 different languages. "There are people there living days and days away from any medical help at all," Palm continued, "and so it is for us to play our part as the hands and feet of Jesus to offer hope and access to areas that don't have it." Samaritan Aviation provides these services at no direct cost to the patients through partnerships and the generosity of donors from around the world.
More information about Samaritan Aviation's service in Papua New Guinea was obtained from their recent press release:
"The Samaritan Aviation team answers emergency calls for help from villagers 24/7 and flies them from their homes to the only hospital around, which would normally take up to five days to reach in a dugout canoe. Over 1,100 lives have been saved by Samaritan Aviation emergency flights and thousands of others through the vaccinations, medical and other supplies the organization provides.
"Life in villages along the Sepik River, where Samaritan Aviation currently operates, is a daily challenge. 220,000 people live along the 700-mile river surrounded by a dense jungle with virtually no roads, electricity and little to no access to emergency medical care. Infant mortality rates in the area are often as high as 40 percent. 80 percent of people living along the river suffer from malaria. Other diseases are also critical health concerns including AIDS, cholera, tuberculosis – and polio has also recently made a comeback in the country. The Western Province, located on the other side of the mountains, faces similar and even worse challenges due to geographic isolation. This is the area Samaritan Aviation plans on serving next."
The aircraft was moved from the hangar to the apron directly outside of the Wings of Hope facility so Mark Palm could top off the fuel tanks and prepare to taxi out for takeoff:
Prior to takeoff, the staff and volunteers from Wings of hope gathered for a group photo with the Samaritan Aviation aircraft and offered a prayer for safe travels for Mark Palm. Then he took off into the afternoon skies!
About Wings of Hope:
Wings of Hope is a global humanitarian charity that serves as an aviation non-profit organization. The mission statement contains the objectives of delivering humanitarian programs to the poor and assisting communities in gaining self-sufficiency. Using aircraft to reach remote places is the logical method.
Starting in 1959, various Catholic ministries started providing humanitarian air services in Kenya. Not unlike Charles Lindbergh's preparations for the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Bishop Houlihan approached St. Louis businessmen Bill Edwards, Joe Fabick, Paul Rodgers and George Haddaway to listen to his needs and provide the seed money for the first Cessna U206 used by the newly-minted United Missionary Air Training and Transport. As news of this first successful aircraft service spread, more aircraft were needed. Wings of Hope incorporated in 1967, and has since provided humanitarian and development services around the world and in the U.S. through an inter-faith approach to serving the needs of all mankind.
The original mission of providing humanitarian aid to people in developing countries using aircraft continues, and includes significant investment in programs that address health, education, economic opportunity and food security. Basic preventative health care services are accomplished through traveling clinics on a regular basis. Examples include flying medical clinics in Tanzania, the use of a Cessna 172 aircraft for emergency transport and preventive dental services in Nicaragua and the use of donated buses for medical clinics in Myanmar.
Education programs include a significant effort in Cambodia that provides after school education in English and computer classes to improve the job prospects for the students. Also, university scholarships and training programs help to equip students to mentor others and lift up whole communities.
Economic development programs include a microfinance program for women to develop businesses in Kenya and work centers in India to assist in the creation of new businesses. Both methods provide opportunities for women to participate in gaining self-sufficiency for their families. Food security programs, like the chicken farming initiative in Ecuador, strive to equip the women of their communities with a means to sustain food production beyond the initial donations of eight chicks.
In the U.S., Wings of Hope continues to provide the Medical Relief and Air Transport (MAT) Program from its base in St. Louis. The program was established in 2003 to provide access to life-saving health care within the Midwest to those who are unable to obtain or sustain transportation to specialty care facilities. This is accomplished using corporately-owned aircraft and volunteer pilots and medical staff.
The Aero Experience thanks Wings of Hope and Mark Palm of Samaritan Aviation for their hospitality during our visit. We encourage everyone to visit the Samaritan Aviation and Wings of Hope web pages and support their efforts to serve others using aviation - Making a Difference for Good!