Flying missionaries make life-changing deliveries to village children

Village children play on a roundabout.
Village children play on a roundabout — one of several ‘special deliveries’ by a Mission Aviation Fellowship ‘Flying for Life’ team from Johannesburg.

[notice]SHARON WAUGH chats with Chimwemwe Calawe, a volunteer at Mission Aviation Fellowship who recently flew with a ‘Flying for Life’ team to make a special delivery at a remote village crèche in Venda, Limpopo.[/notice]
When a Flying for Life team arrived at Gondeni Crèche at the end of May they found children playing on a jungle gym and roundabout that they erected two months previously.

This may seem insignificant from a first world perspective. But for the team that flew their Cessna 208 Caravan in from Lanseria Airport, Gauteng, to a dirt airstrip near a remote village in Venda Limpopo,  it was evidence of the beginning of a life-changing transformation for the children at the crèche.

According to the World Health Organisation, early childhood experiences determine children’s future health, education, social and economic potential.

Mission Aviation Fellowship volunteer Chimwemwe Calawe shows children how to use educational toys.
Mission Aviation Fellowship volunteer Chimwemwe Calawe shows children how to use educational toys.

The playround equipment, e’Pap, and educational toys that the Flying For Life team of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) have provided to date will contribute towards the good nutrition, and the physical and intellectual stimulation that the children need to become healthy, psychologically and emotionally, well-rounded adults.

MAF volunteer Chimwemwe Calawe explained that the South African branch of MAF has been using aviation to spread the gospel for the past 40 years. A year and a half ago they created the Flying for Life initiative to extend these efforts to remote villages within South Africa.

Gondeni is the second crèche that Flying for Life has adopted. Last year they revamped the previously derelict Shandukani Crèche that caters for 23 children in a neighbouring village. They also provided the teacher with educational toys.

Jungle gym fun.
Jungle gym fun.

Chimemwe explained that the village in which Gondeni Creche is based, exists to serve a local mine which is running at a loss and may close down. While the organisation is working to find sustainable solutions to these economic troubles they feel that in order to uplift the community in the long run, they need to start with the next generation.

For children living in poor rural areas, the odds against them are great. Their development often becomes secondary to more primary needs, like food and shelter. Not only do they need to learn to cope with a much harsher environment than children in more affluent areas but, they are not given the same opportunities for advancement. To make matters worse, these desperately needy children are out of sight and forgotten by those with the power to help.

The new playground equipment at Gondeni, which was provided through a corporate donation, is benefiting the children as they play, by developing gross and fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, balance, improving muscle tone and stimulating blood flow which improves concentration. This all works to encourage cognitive development, said Chimwemwe.

Photographic record of the revamp of Shandukani Crèche.
Photographic record of the revamp of Shandukani Crèche.

On the Flying for Life team’s recent visit they made another special delivery: educational toys worth more than R3 000. When they unpacked their gifts some of the approximately 25 kids were quite skeptical, having never seen toys before.  The caregivers at the  crèche had previously received training on how to use toys to educate children but until now didn’t have access to any. As the team passed on their skills to the local caregivers, some of the children learnt about colours for the very first time. When you consider that during the first six years of life children’s brains absorb three times more information than they do throughout the rest of their lives, it seems tragic that the Gondeni Crèche children don’t have access to basic information like colours, observed Chimwemwe. By the time that the Flying for Life group was back in the air the caregivers had gone from child-minders to educators.

Before they left, the team members also provided the caregivers with e’Pap. Studies show that malnutrition and ill-health can have a long-term effect, not only on children’s physical well-being, but also on their ability to learn, communicate and socialise. Full tummies are vital for effective learning but not all of the children at the village crèche get the nutrition they need at home. E’Pap is a fortified maize product that has the nutritional of a 10 course meal. Flying for Life will continue using this as a temporary measure to combat malnutrition among these children while it works to find solutions for sustainable farming and uplifts the economy.

Currently Flying for Life is raising funds to paint Gondeni Crèche and provide much-needed toilets and running water.

This ongoing work is just one of the ways MAF is uplifting communities in a sustainable, holistic way. While it continues to strengthen and improve existing community development programmes and develop new ones, it believes that the best possible preparation these children can receive for their future is a relationship with Christ. This is the motivation behind the work they do and as they build relationships of trust with communities they seek opportunities to share the gospel with them.

More information about Flying for Life can be obtained by contacting them at info@flyingforlife.co.za or  by visiting their websites www.mafsa.co.za and www.flyingforlife.co.za.

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