An eye-opening experience
Earlier in the month of June, PNG MAF Pilots Corné Noordhoek and Markus Bischoff with MAF engineer, Timon Kuendig were accompanied by CRMF Senior Technician, Sander Van Middendorp to carry out an airstrip survey in the Western Province. Two staff from RAA, Erik and Peter, were also involved in carrying out important tasks for surface testing and engaging in conversations with the villagers about the airstrip as well as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
This trip was Sander’s very first mission out on the field. Whilst the MAF team and RAA team went about carrying out the airstrip survey, Sander did a thorough check, diagnostics and repairs for the High Frequency (HF) radios at all the airstrips.
During his first HF Radio survey, he was told by the local radio operator that the day before the team had arrived, there was a huge tribal fight and sadly, a young boy lost his life during that fight. According to the radio operator, the violent fight was the result of the opposing tribe’s attempts to steal the very radio Sander was troubleshooting. This was definitely something new for Sander who by then had questions flooding his mind and especially questions of whether or not the tribal fight would happen again because there was still tension between the two tribes.
The tribal fight was just one of many challenges encountered during this first field mission trip for Sander. He also learned and saw first-hand the struggles faced by communities in rural PNG when it came to transporting their ill and injured patients in need of proper medical treatment and assistance. The following day (during their stay for the airstrip and radio checks) the team were approached by several people in the communities asking when MAF would fly again because they had injured and ill patients who needed medical treatment and assistant. The easiest and quickest option for people living in the remote communities of Western Province to get medical help and treatment is to travel via plane.
Sander used spare parts to set up a temporary HF Radio so that the communities could talk to our CRMF radio operator to get more information about the State of Emergency (SOE) and covid-19.
Sander, moved by the requests coming from the communities, realized just how isolated the remote communities are and the lack of access to basic health services available for these villagers. Witnessing these needs, Sander along with the MAF team took some time to share the word of God and reassure the community that help would be provided soon. Sander even used spare parts to set up a temporary HF Radio at the airstrip for the communities so they could talk to our CRMF radio operator to get more information about the State of Emergency (SOE) and covid-19.
This trip was definitely an eye opener for Sander, “It’s so opposite from Netherlands! I did not think it was that bad. I did not expect to witness all of that. In Netherlands almost everything is available and accessible through a phone call or transport. But in the remote communities of Western Province you have to look for means and ways to travel out of a remote area to get access to the necessary services.”
The trip also taught Sander how valuable a HF Radio is in a remote community because communication via HF Radio is the only way these isolated communities can get help and services. Especially during these times where flights and transportation are restricted. He looks forward to many more projects and assignments both on the field and in the CRMF workshop where he can use his skills to help people who live in the most remote communities within Papua New Guinea.
We are grateful to God for the joint partnerships between MAF, RAA and CRMF to work together effectively and efficiently, lending their unique skills and knowledge together to ensure that the airstrips are in good condition and communication via HF radio is functioning well and most importantly the remote communities they reach are aware of COVID-19 and reassured that the combined services of MAF and CRMF will commence as soon as all the air-strip surveys are done and the flight restrictions are fully lifted.