Delivering Aid and Repatriating Patients into the Earthquake-stricken Area
Story Mandy Glass. Photos Glenys Watson (GW), Jonny Watson (JW), Jason Marsh (JM), Markus Bischoff (MB), Sally Lloyd (SL), Mandy Glass (MG)
“This week I’ve been busy flying over 8500Kgs of relief goods to those communities affected by the earthquake, including rice, tinned fish, water, nails, hammers, spades, tarps and hygiene kits,” commented Glenys Watson, one of our Twin Otter pilots involved in the deliveries. “It’s a privilege to be here in Papua New Guinea working as part of a great team, showing the love of Christ, and bringing services to isolated people.”
Some of the relief goods were designated for Huya. This community was only accessible by helicopter, as their airstrip suffered damage from the many severe aftershocks, and therefore was closed for fixed-wing operations. Even so, Huya had already become a major care centre with 1,400 people from the area seeking refuge there, as they knew that the airstrip would be their access point for aid.
On Friday, the 23rd of March, SIL* was able to complete three helicopter charters to lift supplies from Dodomona to Huya. This demonstrates the amazing teamwork between the mission aviation ministries like SIL Aviation, SDA** Aviation and MAF for the sake and blessing of the communities affected by the earthquakes.
(* SIL … Summer Institute of Linguistics, ** SDA … Seventh Day Adventist)
Fresh vegetables for Huya
One of our team members was on the ground at Huya when the SIL helicopter arrived, delivering the fresh vegetables, which were donated the day before by churches and individual residents in Mt Hagen. Jonny reports:
“The people at Huya were so thankful! I reckon that I saw a very similar giant kaukau (sweet potato) in Huya to the one the base staff at Mt Hagen found amongst donations MAF received later. The kaukau that they grow in Huya are very small, nothing like they are in the Highlands, so they were very impressed by the size. Many of them had also never seen carrots or cabbages either, as their climate is too wet for them to grow. In fact, Sally Lloyd was telling them how they could eat them, and to make sure they ate the cabbages on Friday as otherwise they would not last. For me, this was quite ironic as the night before I was teased about never having eaten pitpit* before.“
(*Pitpit is the edible flower of wild cane that grows rampantly in PNG. It looks like lemongrass on steroids and has a spongy texture, which is perfect for absorbing the coconut milk that it is most commonly cooked in.)
“Something that impressed me,” continued Jonny “was the calm and patience when waiting to receive their share of food. The people hadn’t eaten anything all day and the food delivered still had to be prepared. But there was no fighting over the distribution of the food. First they split it in two, for the two wards that are represented currently in Huya village. Then each was split into four, for the four villages in each ward. I was told it would be split further, not into families but into cooking groups as their tradition is to cook in groups and then portion the cooked food to each family.“
“With the airstrip at Huya being closed and uncertainty of when helicopters will cease to come, the community has decided to only have a single meal each day to conserve the food they have been given. I feel sorry for the children in particular and for the nursing and expectant mums. But at the same time understand the need for prudence without having their usual gardens for food.”
10 Twin Otter Charters and more to come
This past week (19th – 23rd March), MAF completed a total of 10 Twin Otter charters delivering earthquake relief supplies to Mougulu, Dodomona, Walagu and Bosavi.
Out of these 10 flights, one Twin Otter load was compiled of “House Kits” (building materials) donated by OTDF (Ok Tedi Development Foundation). The North Fly member of the Western Province paid for the cost of this charter from Kiunga to Dodomona. CARE International paid for another Twin Otter charter, which took three of their staff, clothes, and other relief items into Dodomona. Another flight to Bosavi was funded by Christian Books Melanesia.
MAF paid for the remaining seven flights out of its MAF International Disaster Response funds; money raised across the globe by many people. Currently, MAF is flying goods that have been donated by PNG citizens or local businesses to the affected region at no charge to these people.
Douglas is back home in his village.
On Friday, the 23rd of March, when a Twin Otter departed Mt. Hagen for the last earthquake-relief flight of the week, besides fresh vegetables there were also 11 passengers on board. They were heading back home to Huya. Two to three weeks ago, when these people landed at Mt Hagen, no one smiled. They all suffered from trauma and great pain after experiencing the force of the earthquake, not only shaking up their mountains but their entire lives and futures.
During their stay in Mt Hagen, they experienced the love and care of many people who reached out to them with food, clothes and prayers.
What a joy to see the full circle of these people being cared for right from the beginning!
Sally Lloyd shared Douglas’ story on social media:
“Douglas came home yesterday! I was there in the village on the night of March 6th when a violent 6.7 earthquake followed the 7.5 magnitude one on February 26th and the constant aftershocks. It was a frightening experience, and for those in so much stress, more than some could bear. Like many others with broken bones, cuts and bumps, Douglas fell as he was trying to get out of his house. It was frightening for me too, so caring for the injured kept me busy and blocked out a little of the awful noise of rocks and ground falling while we waited for the morning.“
So thankful for MAF,“ continued Sally, “who the next day, evacuated Douglas and others who had been injured. Thankful for the wonderful people in Mt. Hagen including hospital, business houses and churches.
Thankful for MAF in returning him closer to us, and for SIL aviation and pilot T.J. Eiswald for getting Douglas back to Huya via helicopter.
Thanks to you all – the aftershocks continue but we are working with the community to bring help and support.“
Huya airstrip re-opened!
On the 26th of March, MAF completed an aerial assessment of Huya airstrip following reports provided by RAA* that the damaged areas of the airstrip had been adequately repaired. Huya airstrip was re-opened for MAF operations on the 27th of March; a MAF Twin Otter landed at Huya airstrip and delivered more relief goods.
(* RAA Rural Airstrip Agency)
Please keep praying
Please continue to pray for the communities and the individuals affected by the many earthquakes following the 7.5 magnitude one on February 26th. They now have to start re-building their communities’ infrastructure and future. They have a long road ahead. Some of them have to decide whether or not to permanently abandon their damaged homes and villages, and if so, how to build new lives that are full of meaning and possibility.