’tis the season to be jolly… but not always for everyone. There are those where the daily routine is no different at this time of year than at any other because life is simple, of the simplist kind, where placing food on the table every day is the number one, if not the only priority on the list.
MAF – Missions Aviation Fellowship in coordination with Flying For Life serve the Venda community around the Tshikondeni region in a multitude of ways, not least of which is by providing valuable assistance in developing Crèche facilities and uplifting the general education standard with training and resources. MCC Aviation has the privilege of being directly involved with Flying For Life, donating our time as pilots and providing aircraft for their core functions within the Venda region.
It is at this time of year where we are reminded that the joy of the season truly is in the giving and not in the receiving as I discovered when we flew several representatives of Flying For Life to Tshikondeni. Today, I felt like Father Christmas piloting a sled (King Air 90) full of elves (Flying For Life staff and volunteers), inbound for far off Tshikondeni. I was tempted to name my two trusty PT6-20 engines, Rudolph and Prancer, our mission for the day, to hand out Christmas gifts to +/- 200 very deserving children, not because they’d been good, or done their chores, or written polite requests to Father Christmas addressed to the North Pole but because every child deserves a Christmas gift. I flew the obligatory low level downwind for the airfield just as Father Christmas would’ve done, roaring PT6’s instead of sled bells and in hindsight, I kind of regret not broadcasting HO HO HO across the general frequency 124.8
First stop, one of three Crèches that we’d be visiting for the day. Colourful painted walls, a couple of swings and a tree for much needed shade in the sweltering heat is all it takes to provide an environment for these kid’s education. One little man met us in his Sunday best, a suit complete with pocket handkerchief, like he knew today was going to be special. Before digging deep in Santa’s large shoulder sling bag, a plate of food, cup of orange juice & a small packet of sweets as a treat was handed to little hands so gratefulat even the smallest gesture. After much anticipation, more so ours than the miniature recipients standing coy observing the strange “Mulungus” in their presence, gifts were handed out. Boys & girls, four to six years, seven to eight, nine to ten, everyone received something tailored towards their age & gender. Expressions ranged from cynicism & curiosity to confusion and then pure elation as they received their Christmas gifts. Some boxes ripped open to reveal their contents while others were guarded with protective arms like they were the most prized possession under the sun.
As a new dad myself, seeing little faces light up at discovering a teddy bear or hand knitted doll and holding on like their life depended on this new possession, It was a day of total humility, joy and fulfillment. As we lined up on runway 19, I lined up with new purpose and perspective. We had achieved in this one flight more that satisfies the human soul than in any other flight I’d flown in the year.
I consider it an absolute privilege “Flying for Life” and look forward to many more in partnership with two truly amazing organisations, MCC Aviation and Flying For Life.
Paul Henning | Pilot and Safety Manager