Non-profit here maintains a 7,200-mile lifeline - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Non-profit here maintains a 7,200-mile lifeline

July 10th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Non-profit here maintains a 7,200-mile lifeline

By Eric Newman

Tribune Staff Writer

From Falcon Field in Mesa, a group of Good Samaritans helps provide the only healthcare available to some 220,000 people Papua New Guinea. more than 7,200 miles away.

Indeed, the group belongs to a nonprofit called Samaritan Aviation, a Christian-based organization that distributes medicine and provides life flights to a hospital in 20 to 45 minutes instead of the days it would take villagers to reach it by canoe. The hospital is the only medical facility in a 37,000-square-mile area.

“In the past, these services did not exist, or took days, weeks, and even months for the supplies to reach remote clinics by road and canoe,” Samaritan Aviation notes on its website. “With our float planes, we can accomplish this life-saving task in a matter of hours, literally changing the lives of the people of the Sepik River Region.”

“Flying the only float plane in the entire country,” it adds, “we are impacting thousands of villagers in the remote areas, who would otherwise have little or no access to any form of healthcare.”

Recently, Samaritan Aviation showed off its Cessna 206 floating plane at Falcon Field so that people here could look at the aircraft that revolutionized medical service to people on the other side of the world.

“The plane has amphibious floats, which means there are wheels underneath. So, we can land on runways sometimes, but when it goes up in the air, the wheels come up and we can land in the river, which is over 700 miles long, so that we can get the patient safely for medical evaluation flights, bringing supplies or whatever we’re doing,” Samaritan Chief Operations Officer Bryan Yeager said.

Samaritan Aviation partnered with the Boram Hospital in Wewak and provides the medical supplies in large shipping containers through U.S. partners. It also helps send international experts and doctors to the Boram Hospital to conduct medical training and critical surgeries.

In addition, Samaritan Aviation works with the PNG National Department of Health to stock health outposts with medical supplies through the Area Medicine Storehouse in Wewak. Since its began in 2010, Samaritan Aviation has delivered over 142,000 pounds of medical supplies to 40 remote aid posts in the East Sepik Province.

Samaritan Aviation stresses that it “exists to demonstrate God’s love by addressing the health and medical needs of the people who live in the Sepik River Valley of Papua New Guinea.”

It frequently answers emergency life-flight calls for breached births, cerebral malaria, broken backs and deadly crocodile and snake bites as well as spear, arrow, and machete wounds.

Co-founder and president Mark Palm, who lives full time in Papua New Guinea, makes many of the emergency flights. He said he appreciates the opportunity to make a difference for people. He recently returned to New Guinea from a month-long visit in Mesa.

A third-generation aviator whose grandfather flew in World War II, Palm knew even at age 16 that he wanted to help underprivileged people in the Third World. Back then, he was building houses with a church group in Mexico.

“I got a chance to see what other people live like, and experience the cultures of others, and I knew then after reading a devotional that God was telling me I needed to use my aviation skills in a remote part of the world,” he said.

For Palm and his staff, every day is a new challenge.

“One time I got a call and was told of a ‘wire’ sticking out of a guy’s stomach,” he recalled. “I show up, doing my whole scan, looking for crocodiles and all that stuff. And the guy is sitting in his canoe with a stone ax, and he’s got four feet or rebar sticking out of him. It went all the way through his body.”

He got the man to the hospital and two weeks later, the patient was released.

As important as the services Samaritan Aviation offers in Papua New Guinea are, the local government provides only about 20 percent of the funding for flights, repairs, supplies and more.

Thus, Samaritan Aviation relies on other’s generosity, though it stresses: “We are a mission-driven ministry, not a money-driven ministry. We have to be careful to raise the money we need while remembering our primary focus is building the kingdom of God.”

Palm added, “We rely on people that care to make a difference, and that’s why we’re out here. A lot of people don’t even know where Papua New Guinea is on a map, even though New Guinea is the second-largest island in the world, so we’re hoping to convince the people here to help people on the other side of the world.”

Palm said he, his wife and his three kids have fully integrated into the community. He even said there are several local New Guineans called “Mark,” named after him, as well as newborns named after his wife and children.

“It’s one of those things we’ve dedicated our entire life to, but we really are part of the community there,” he said, “and I think we’re ready to get back there and start helping people again.”


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