Over the past few years, tens of thousands have fled the civil war and tribal fighting of South Sudan, and settled in one of many refugee camps surrounding remote Adjumani, in far Northern Uganda.
Above, refugee children use their imagination, creativity, and whatever scraps of rubbish can be found to make treasured toys, like this cardboard and wire truck, sporting moving wheels made from the scraps of old flip flop. Below, this dear elderly lady lost many immediate family members in the fighting, including her own children. She fled with her now orphaned grandchildren to Uganda, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Stories like this are common among the throngs of war refugees that now call Uganda home.
Almost a year ago MAF was approached by several missions and NGOs working with the refugees in the Adjumani area. They inquired as to what it would take to re-open the long overgrown airstrip in Adjumani, so MAF could provide regular service there. In March of last year I went up to survey the old site--there was no sign of a runway having previously existed there. But here we are, not quite one year later, and thanks to the hard work and funding of the LWF, the UN, local officials, and others, Adjumani now has one of the nicest murram (the famous East African red dirt) strips in all of Uganda!
And MAF is flying here regularly now--serving many missions, international NGOs, and humanitarian workers who are working directly with the staggering needs of the refugees.
I took the above two shots when we flew (myself and my good friend and fellow MAF pilot, Matt) two plane loads of LWF reps up to Adjumani a few weeks ago. This used to be an arduous, not to mention dangerous, all-day journey by land from Kampala... or a combination of a flight to Gulu, and land travel from there. But now, it's a quick, safe, and comfortable one hour and 25 minutes on the wings of MAF!
As you can see, the children show up in droves to greet the planes. Of course, that happens just about everywhere, but certainly seeing a plane here in Adjumani is a very unique thing, and not something to be missed!
MAF pilot, Matt, greets one of the local LWF members in Adjumani. LWF is one of the key agencies that helped push for the completion of the new airstrip, and secure funding and provide oversight. They are partnered with the UNHCR and others to oversee many of the needs of the refugees in the Adjumani area.
After seeing off his passengers, Matt completes a walk-a-round prior to departing Adjumani. MAF operates in many remote locations around the world, with an astounding safety record. It doesn't happen that way by accident. In addition to the grace of God, we clearly rely on highly trained pilots who use thorough and long-proven procedures, and are regularly evaluated, as well as top notch maintenance and an entire team of support staff.
And here he is departing Adjumani.
Next time I'll take you into one of the refugee camps with one of our other partner agencies, Tutapona, to see what they are doing to help serve the refugees of Adjumani.