previous arrow
next arrow

Our Stories

Leaders share isolation struggle with MAF

by | Apr 23, 2024 | New!, What MAF Technologies (formerly CRMF) Does

The Autonomous region of Bougainville has natural beauty and a troubled history, but the focus was on its future during a fact-finding visit.

MAF Pilots Glenys Watson and Brad Venter posing with the church leaders and Pastors at the Buin airstrip in AROB.

 Mission Aviation Fellowship is exploring options to bring help, hope, and healing to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville – an isolated collection of islands and atolls between the Papua New Guinea mainland and the Solomon Islands.

The region, known by the acronym AROB, is emerging from a brutal civil war and secessionist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997. A peace agreement was brokered in 2000 and, after an overwhelming vote for independence in 2019, Bougainville is working towards independence sometime between 2025 and 2027.

But church and government leaders have reached out to MAF for help in overcoming some of the challenges posed by isolation and urging MAF to consider returning to a region where it last flew aircraft in 1975.

MAF Technologies Church and Community Partnership Officer, Caine Ruruk, was part of a feasibility trip to AROB and said, “The data collection confirmed that there is a need for MAF Technologies presence in AROB for the church, health and education purposes for support in communication and technical solutions.”

Projects such as HF radio and solar power could be implemented by MAF Technologies, which is based in Goroka in the Highlands of PNG. There are also strong calls for MAF to bring aviation back to Bougainville, but it could take a longer process to complete the planning and regulatory steps necessary to operate.

With poor road links from outlying areas to the capital Buka, often made worse by flooding, it can take seven to eight hours to reach the nearest hospital.

A community leader from Buin, in the south of the main island, said: “Patients hardly make it in time and die along the way.”

She said many families and friends within the community have lost their lives while trying to make the difficult journey to receive medical attention where the main hospital is located.

She added, “MAF must come and provide us with the services that we need!”

The high cost and lack of transport options are a big barrier to patients obtaining treatment and for students getting access to education.

Another of the community leaders, said: “Even though a vehicle is available, it cannot travel fast enough to save a life!”

AROB President Ishmael Toroama with the Leadership team during a feasibility study at AROB.

MAF International’s Director of Strategic Development Stephen Charlesworth said the organisation was carefully considering the feasibility study and examining how the organisation could serve AROB.

“MAF is regularly monitoring and evaluating its aviation and technology operations, seeking to ensure that resources are allocated to maximise impact. The feasibility study in AROB is part of that process. MAF uses aircraft and other technology to enable access to remote locations, facilitating community development and enabling critical needs to be met,” said Stephen.

AROB’s Education Secretary, Dorothy Kenneth told MAF it would take days and weeks until transportation is made available for small atolls surrounding AROB due to the unreliable mobile network, making it hard to pass on weather information.

“Our students are greatly affected by the inconsistency of transport as they cannot travel to school and their studies are interrupted as there are days where transportation is unavailable,” she said.

                              An Aerial view of the Bougainville Island and its atolls.

MAF Technologies General Manager Bryan Mathews said MAF has seen the needs in AROB and had been providing support through technology training and Bible distributions.

“The concerns of the communities have been voiced by both the community leader and the Government and I believe MAF has a lot to contribute to the development of the island itself and the people,” said Bryan Mathews.