South African aviation missionary Mark Liprini will be heading for Nepal on May 31 to join Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) International’s disaster relief mission in the country that has been ravaged by earthquakes that have killed over 8 000 people and destroyed more than half a million houses.
Liprini, 55, who has flown aircraft for MAF in many parts of Africa since 2001 including stints based in Uganda, Kenya, Chad, Tanzania South Sudan and Lesotho, says his call-up to coordinate MAF’s strategic helicoper response facility in Nepal is “undoubtedly God’s timing”.
Currently recuperating after an operation to both feet and having recently moved from flying to MAF public relations for technical reasons, he welcomed the invitation to “fly a desk” in Nepal for a month while assisting with the helicopter flight co-ordination, ramp management and planning, cargo handling and helping smaller NGOs with warehousing logistics and co-ordination.
Fast-tracking relief efforts
He says his experience flying in mountainous Lesotho will be helpful in understanding challenges of operation in Nepal where MAF’s helicopter service is helping NGOs to fast-track their relief efforts. The helicopters can get to a place of need in two hours which would take a 10 day return trip on ground to assess needs, says Liprini.
Reflecting on the scale of the disaster in Nepal which is expected to hamper the country for years, he says: “In South Africa if we say you have lost everything it can mean you have lost your house. In Nepal people who have lost everything have literally seen their whole villages disappear in rubble.
Liprini says he is booked to serve in Nepal until June 30 but he is ready to extend his stay if the need arises. His family in South Africa include his wife, Lorraine; his son, David, 29, who is married to Marehette 30 and is involved in the World Needs a Father Ministry in Cape Town; and his daughter, Ruth, 26, a research psychologist in Pretoria.
Reporting on MAF’s work in Nepal, Lesley Miller, Communications Manager at MAF International says, “The MAF Disaster Response Team on the ground in Nepal is extremely busy with the coordination work of a helicopter response facility, especially since the second quake that hit last week. Many organisations have to re-evaluate where they need to deploy staff and aid resources, both to areas hit hardest by the initial quake and the subsequent quakes last week. It is clear that there is a huge demand and need for MAF’s service which does not appear to diminish and the subsidised flights we are able to coordinate are providing a unique lifeline especially for many smaller faith-based non-profit organisations.”
One such small faith-based organisation is Himalayan Life. Before MAF began co-ordinating the helicopter flights Daniel Burgi and his colleague Dandul hiked for five days into a region northwest of Kathmandu where Dandul’s village is located deep in the mountains, it’s the highest up and farthest away in an area called Sindhupalchok.
Stunned by devastation
“It was an area hard hit but a little overlooked. For three days we didn’t see one single house that was standing,” says Burgi. “We were absolutely stunned by the devastation. There was nothing left, simply nothing. No rations whatever.”
That’s where MAF comes in. “Managing the logistics, bookings and facilitation of two, highly capable helicopters with some of the most experienced crew in Nepal, we are able to take relief workers directly into the places where the help is most desperately needed, where no-one else is going. We’re doing what we do best; using aircraft to transform the lives of the world’s most isolated people in need,” says Miller.
“I am proud to work for an organisation that is actively involved in making a difference in Nepal,” says Liprini, who over the past few years has helped to establish MAF SA’s Flying For Life programme which uses aircraft to facilitate community upliftment in the remote Vhembe region of Limpopo. Over the same period he was also a part of the MAF- International training base, at that time in RSA, instructing on the C206. His recent exploits also included an 1 100 road trip in his 1982 mini to raise funds for rural kids — a story which is documented in his book.