All in one day, the Western Equatoria Shuttle carried twenty-nine passengers to four locations representing twelve humanitarian and mission organisations covering work that includes medical training, physical therapy training and work, agricultural improvement, disadvantaged youth education, local church ministry, and more.
“This is what I live for!”
MAF pilot Sam Johnston prays before take-off at Juba International Airport for a safe journey, but he has already been preceded by one of the passengers. Hannah Lona Bona of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) started praying as soon as she settled in her seat; not out of fear for the impending flight on the Caravan, but because it is as natural for her to talk with Jesus as if he were sitting right next to her.
When Hannah gets off at the airstrip in Mundri she presents herself as a Member of Parliament, but says that to her that is just a job. “What I really love is to be sent out by the church to preach and to evangelise!” she says enthusiastically – “this is what I live for. There are so many people who need to hear about Jesus.”
ECS is well represented on this flight. The destination Hannah and three of her colleagues, one of which is a bishop, get- off three others get on destined for Juba on the shuttle’s first rotation.
Providing health services in an insecure area
On this flight, passengers from Action Africa Help International (AAHI) act in a similar way. AAHI Monitory Evaluation Officer, Asio Machiek, flies from Juba to Mundri. A colleague gets on the plane in Mundri and flies back to Juba. On the shuttle’s second rotation a third AAHI employee boards the plane in Juba and gets off in Maridi, even further to the east, where number four boards the plane to Juba.
Asio Machiek monitors and evaluates the AAHI health services that are provided free of charge to the people of Mundri West, one of three counties in the Amadi State. Facilities at the AAHI health centres and units include; out patient departments for consultations and Antenatal Care (ANC) services for pregnant mothers. Nowadays only one of three health centres and four of originally sixteen units are functioning, and only one center covers all ANC activities for all of Mundri West.
A high level of insecurity makes it unsafe for the staff to work in the field – rebels control many of the areas where the health units are located, and other people with guns are ready to threaten, rob and kill.
“AAHI’s staff only travel with MAF. If we travel by road we can be almost certain that we will lose all our belongings,
and maybe even our lives,” Asio says.
GESS – focusing on the education of girls
Several factors are working against girls getting an education in South Sudan. Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) is a programme that encourages girls to enroll and stay in school. A key component is providing cash transfers to girls in education, as well as capitation grants to schools.
Chandia Gloria (in middle of picture) is a researcher from one of the implementing partners of GESS, Charlie Goldsmith Associates. She boards the plane in Mundri, where she has been on a field survey to ask girls and schools how they spend the money that they have received from GESS.
“Although it is too dangerous to use the roads in some parts of South Sudan, we need to go into the field to see how the capitation grants and the cash transfers benefit the recipients,” Gloria says. “Fortunately, you can fly to many of the counties we operate in, but flying doesn’t necessarily make you feel safe. I prefer flying with MAF, because they take the safety of their passengers seriously.”
Over the last three years, GESS has reached over 3,500 schools with more than 9,000 school grants, funding classrooms, latrines, books and much more; paid over 300,000 cash transfers to more than 180,000 girls, and reached two million listeners with radio programmes aimed at changing the negative socio-cultural attitudes towards educating girls. GESS is an initiative of the ‘Ministry of General Education and Instruction’, supported with funding (GBP sixty million) from UK Aid. The programme is being implemented by a consortium led by Cambridge Education, and including BBC Media Action, Charlie Goldsmith Associates and Winrock.
Changing the attitude towards disabled people
In Mundri two men, a woman and a baby board the plane to fly to Maridi. They all represent Sudan Evangelical Mission (SEM) whose aim is to raise the quality of life for disabled people in their own communities.
Supervisor Simon Sala Clement tells us that it is often considered shameful to have a disabled child. The disabled are given food of poor quality, while the other family members share the best food. Sometimes the family hides their child forever inside their tukol (small house). “I really want to change people’s attitude, so that they begin to realise that disabled people are equal to them,” Simon says.
Apart from challenging the communities to review their attitude towards the disabled amongst them, SEM provides practical solutions for children who can’t get to a school because of immobility or other issues – one of the solutions is to give disabled children tricycles. Should a need to improve a child’s path to their school arise, so that it becomes fit for this type of transportation – SEM come as a team to widen the path and remove obstacles.
Medevac on the shuttle
Aphrodisius – a 29 year old priest from Tanzania, working with Don Bosco in Maridi, South Sudan, was not on the flight manifest when he approached the MAF plane in Maridi. His foot was infected, and the infection was developing rapidly. There were no other flights out of Maridi in several days. An exception to the manifest regulation was made, and MAF took Aphrodisius on board in order for him to catch a commercial flight to Kenya for urgent medical treatment. It was a tight schedule, and MAF’s dispatch team was ready to drive him as soon as the shuttle landed in Juba to get him through check-in on time for his next flight.
We feel privileged to enable the work of so many organisations in one day, including the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Action Africa Help International, Afro-Canadian Evangelical Mission, Charlie Goldsmith Associates, Sudan Evangelical Mission, Catholic Diocese of Tombura Yambio, ADRA South Sudan, MYCA, Stromme Foundation, Rural Action Against Hunger, and Young Women’s Christian Association.