Monday, February 22, 2010…There are now two KODIAKs serving in Haiti.
The first is owned by Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), which has been working in country for decades. Their team of 30 pilots, mechanics, and logistical personnel provide invaluable expertise while coordinating a massive relief effort. The second is owned by Samaritan's Purse and will be operated during this crisis by JAARS. It was flown into Haiti by Steve Ottaviano (JAARS Assistant Director for Flight Standards). Steve describes the amazing cooperative effort underway.
“The staff from MAF, Samaritan’s Purse, JAARS, Missionary Flights International and others all work as one team. Hundreds of personnel and tons of food and medical supplies have been pouring in via Missionary Flights International (“MFI”) of Ft. Pierce, FL. The material has to be sorted and stashed, then made into loads (about 1,800 lb.) that can be put into the KODIAKs for their quick flights to the outlying towns for delivery to relief workers, missionaries, orphanages, hospitals and “IDP” (internally displaces persons) camps that are growing as people flee Port Au Prince.”
MAF has already moved over 550,000 pounds of cargo and more than 2,000 people with its fleet alone. But those numbers belie the true effort that is the work in Haiti: saving lives. Samaritan's Purse and its KODIAK are an essential part of that work. These two aircraft now stand shoulder to shoulder as the mission continues.
And thanks to Steve we have an on the ground report.
“Life on the streets continues. Food is available, if you have money to buy it. But that's the problem. Normal sources of income, as meager as they were before, have been disrupted. Port Au Prince is in a "slow burn" as the secondary crisis mounts. Rainy season will begin in weeks. Disease will become public enemy number one, but security will also decline as people get more desperate. I was impressed with how well-mannered the Haitian people were, considering what they've been through, but how far will their tolerance stretch?”
The people of Haiti are responding in miraculous ways amid a crisis where structure and reliability has literally been turned to dust. And that dust still hangs high in the air. Steve reports that, “The work is grueling and the hours long. Dust coats everything, including computers, airplanes (inside and out) and clothes. It creates a brown pall that hangs thousands of feet over the valley.” It's an unpleasant but telling truth that quite literally represents the lives of everyone that have gone from concrete reality to a hazy uncertainty. And the mission will not be finished until it's all gone -- both literally and figuratively.
Toward that end, aircraft fly daily, cutting through the dust with decisive consistent resolve. They are flown by determined people who need capable and reliable equipment. They deliver not just supplies but the base to do it consistently -- to provide some order, some structure, and some reason to believe tomorrow will be better. Steve shares that you can’t help but wonder, “Where is the end of all this? How will the city ever be rebuilt? Answers to those questions seem like a luxury right now as we work on the immediate goals of relieving the suffering and averting a secondary disaster, while in the process try to demonstrate God's love and His story of redemption.”
It's important that the KODIAKs perform, their pace delivers hope. This is still a region with limited electricity, few diesel generators, and where much of the useable water is collected from rain. To hear a KODIAK turbine in that environment means that you are not cut off. It means you are not forgotten. It means that help is coming.
It is for these very circumstances that we build the KODIAK. Here in Sandpoint, that's not always easy to see from the blueprints, or in the faces of our people as they do their work...but it translates through their hands into an aircraft that's built to keep going when circumstances are at their worst. Most people will never call on the KODIAK the way that MAF or Samaritan's Purse -- or the people of Haiti -- already have. But they can. And it is our deepest privilege to serve with the people who do.