Pacific Aviation Mission has transported thousands of pounds of medical, educational and basic supplies to the remote outer islands of Micronesia for nearly 50 years, and its president Norbert Kalau credited the success of these missions not only to the hardworking staff, but also donors and volunteers such as those on Guam.
"Guam is a very generous island," Kalau told the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay's members during their virtual meeting on Tuesday.
The Guam-based nonprofit evangelical Christian mission organization also transports patients from outer islands to get medical help around the region, has done sea searches, and participated in disaster relief.
Much of what's been sent to the remote outer islands were loaded on or transshipped through Guam.
Moreover, Guam-based dentists and other medical professionals have served with PMA in various capacities.
One of the challenges for PMA is that medical professionals under the U.S. system get only three weeks of vacation, which most of the time is not enough considering the amount of travel time through PMA's medical ship The Sea Haven to get to Micronesia's remote islands.
"Whereas in Europe or Germany, as an example, they get up to six weeks," Kalau said.
PMA has been working with outer islands to build runways that can accommodate its planes, which can land on grass or dirt runways, Kalau said.
"You have to remember Micronesia's larger than the continent of the United States. If we took all of those islands and put them together, they fit in the state of Rhode Island yet there's over 2,000 islands from the Marshal Islands to Palau. Obviously, not all are habited but there’s a lot of ocean out there," Kalau said.
Planes kept busy
With COVID-19 still lingering, PMA's medical ship has not sailed in nearly a year, but PMA's planes have been quite busy, Kalau said.
PMA planes transported COVID-19 vaccines within the Federated States of Micronesia.
Should there be any COVID-19 patient needing hospitalization or special care, which Kalau hopes won't happen on the remote islands, PMA stands ready to assist transporting patients for care in state hospitals or in Guam, Taiwan or the Philippines.
PMA is also looking forward to the arrival of the two Beechcraft King Air 200 aircraft that Samaritan's Purse donated last year, a big help for PMA to continue its missions of helping the region, Kalau said.
"Those two planes are being prepared. God willing, if this COVID does not persist too long, we will be bringing those in April this year. With those King Air, we will have the capacity to fly throughout the seven insular states here, from the Marshals to the Republic of Palau," he said.
PMA was founded in Yap by Kalau's missionary parents from Germany in 1974.
"(They) started by converting old World War II runways on the island of Ulithi and then on the island of Woleai in the Yap State, and that’s where we began our aviation services," Kalau said.
Finding new parents for orphans
Besides Micronesia, PMA also does mission work in the Philippines, including running an orphanage, which was not spared from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Right now we have three children up for adoption. One was picked up by the new mom and dad locally. One is to go to Denmark and the other one to Sweden, but because of COVID-19, they have been matched but they cannot go to the Philippines yet to pick them up," Kalau said.
A boy adopted from the orphanage two years ago now speaks fluent French and recently connected with PMA.
"Now these are the good stories, but there's often very tragic stories," Kalau said. "One of the latest orphans that we got was found in a shopping bag hanging on a fence. We often will criticize or be judgmental about how can a mother do this? But I would have to say we do not walk or have not walked in her shoes. We named the little girl, Angel, because that's how we see her. She's growing and she's vibrant."
Kalau was asked how the public can donate to or help PMA. He said for more information and to help PMA with its causes, visit their website, at www.pmapacific.org.