This critical patient is being delivered to Waspam from our runway in Tronquera. We went 1 hour away to bring her from Francis Sirpi.
The villages in much of Northeast Nicaragua are far up the river, requiring many days travel by river to get to them. This presents very hard conditions for people with severe illness, accidents or women in labor. They must travel many days down the river to get to the regional hospital. An airplane is able to reach many of these villages on the river giving people access to emergency medical transport. In any time of emergency, humanitarian aid is far more efficient with an airplane.
The second benefit of an aviation program is to transport Pastors and Conference workers to visit villages up the river and in more remote spots of Northeast Nicaragua. Right now there are many villages that have a Seventh-day Adventist presence but have not had another Adventist member, Pastor or Conference worker visit them in years because of their remoteness.The airplane will give access for Pastor’s and others to visit these villages and encourage our members already there as well as helping the church to grow with new members. We also fly pastors of other denominations into these remote places.
From looking at the curves in the river you can see why it takes so long by boat!
Just past San Carlos is a place called Raiti (pronounced RIGH-tee), which is Miskito for graveyard. It is a smaller place than San Carlos, but it also use to have a runway before the war (1970's). It is 8 to 10 hours travel past San Carlos. The river is not passable by boat because of rapids for part of the year. Raiti is only 15 minutes past San Carlos by air, 45 minutes from Waspam, the nearest hospital. I hope to get runways up and down the river as people realized the help that aviation has brought to San Carlos.
This is the new runway in the village of Raiti, taken April 29, 2009. You can see they have about 200 feet of the runway filled and properly graded. It is a lot of work, but they are doing a good job!
How did we get an airplane?
The airplane was donated by an organization called Wings of Hope in St. Louis, MO. Wings of Hope also helps with maintenance and the continued operation of the airplane in Nicaragua. They operate in 42 countries, and we are proud to be able to help them here in Nicaragua. You can view their web site at www.wings-of-hope.org
They checked the airplane out very thoroughly in February, 2008, and then I flew it down to Nicaragua in March. You can read about the trip at this page. I have have greatly enjoyed working with Wings of Hope and appreciate their desire to help the Miskito Indians on this side of Nicaragua.
San Carlos (GPS: N 14°39’40.7, W084°42’34.4) is the first runway we are using on the river. It is accessible only by air or river, there are no roads. It is a town of around 1800 people, and it is a the center of 5 smaller villages around. I traveled there in the normal dugout canoe, and it took 10 hours each way. In the blazing sun reflecting off the water the boat creeps up the river. During the dry season, you have to get out and push the boat up the river for 1/2 hour at a time, several times. The river becomes too shallow for even a 25 horse engine. They pack 30 people or so in these small little canoes and they ride often within an inch of the water. Around any corner the water often spills inside the canoe, and people constantly are bailing water. If you are sick, this journey is most miserable, and if you are critical, you will not make it through the journey. There are many mothers who have trouble in labor, and often either the baby or the mother dies. Often the journey can take more than 15 hours. I am 40 minutes flight from San Carlos, and I can take critical patients to Waspam, 8 minutes flight from our mission here in Tronquera. They have a hospital there that can do C-sections, and handle most emergencies.
This is the airstrip in San Carlos. This is the first time in 30 years an airplane has landed here, it was the first time many of them have ever seen an airplane. This picture was taken later, but always a crowd comes.
After 6 months and 3 inspections, we finally received permission in November 2008 that officially opened the San Carlos airport for medical work. It was a tremendous hassle of paperwork and took a long time, but the Lord blessed and it is finally available to be used. Within 30 days of the permission granted, we done 3 medical evacuations and delivered 250 lbs of clothes. Click here for their personal stories.
This is the runway in Lapan, approved December 16, 2008. It is SW of Puerto Cabezas, in the Tasba Pri area. I have taken multiple dentist and doctors to this village, as well as flown out emergencies.