Serving in Uganda Amidst a Growing Refugee Crisis
Fredericton pilot family working with MAF in East Africa helps to ensure that aid is delivered in the midst of a growing refugee crisis
KAMPALA, Uganda , Dec. 06, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Fredericton natives, Matt & Chaundra Eagar, along with their three children, have been living and working in Uganda with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) for the last four years. In his role as a pilot, Matt flies daily to provide essential transportation to enable relief and aid organizations to reach isolated villages and refugee camps, and bring the sick and injured to desperately needed medical care in situations where every moment counts.
Uganda is currently the largest host of refugees in Africa, and third worldwide, with around 1.5 million asylum seekers in settlements there as of 2018. This expanding crisis only continues to grow. With conflict still ongoing in neighbouring South Sudan and DR Congo, road travel to support the refugee settlements isn’t always an option due to poor road conditions, conflict, and banditry.
MAF flights flown by pilots like Matt ensure that aid organizations responding to this crisis are able to safely deliver staff, drop off much-needed supplies, vaccines, food supplements, and so much more. Subsidized flights allow other organizations to get into key remote areas quickly and safely. A two-hour flight from the country’s capital of Kampala to the refugee settlements in Adjumani replaces over 11 hours of dangerous travel by road.
“Sometimes, seeing the situation on the ground can be a bit overwhelming,” Matt shares, “but knowing the impact that our flights make – getting medical response teams and supplies into refugee settlements, and being the lifeline for the workers and people in the camps…that just makes you want to keep going. There is no other way to get into some of these places.”
Chaundra reaches out to the children in their neighbourhood and beyond, impacting their lives in a meaningful way, by providing a safe place for them to be a part of a family and receive a hot meal. Chaundra also uses her time to help Tutapona, one of the organizations flown by MAF in Uganda, as they work with refugees.
Tutapona, a Swahili word which means “we will be healed,” offers trauma rehabilitation in the refugee settlements for those who have experienced the overwhelming and devastating effects of war. The benefits of the group care programs Tutapona offers are a key component in supporting refugees as they begin to rebuild their lives and families in a new country.
“To say that it’s an honour to work with Tutapona is an understatement. After almost a year here I still find myself overwhelmed at the strength, the hope, and the resilience of the refugee men and women I get to work with. It really puts things into perspective,” Chaundra states.
Agnes is a refugee with a story that shows the amazing impact of Tutapona’s work:
“I came here with my 5 children from South Sudan, and I had to leave my husband behind. Not long after I left I heard that he had died; he had been slaughtered…Then, in November, my son was killed at school.
“[Tutapona] helped me to learn to cope with my loss, and they gave me the knowledge of the power of forgiveness, because before, I could never forget what happened. But now I can let go, I can forgive that person.
“My life has changed a lot. Now I’m a councilwoman and I’ve started a group called the Peace Makers. If people are quarrelling or fighting, we will sit together, talk about it and tell stories. We pray together; no more violence. We can be in peace only when we come together.”
Mission Aviation Fellowship (www.mafc.org) operates a fleet of some 130 airplanes worldwide. Since 1945, MAF has enabled the work of churches, relief organizations, missionaries, medical teams, development agencies, and others working to make life better for those who live in the most isolated parts of the world. In recent years, MAF has responded to disasters in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, in Nepal following two deadly earthquakes in 2015, and Indonesia following the earthquake in 2018. MAF’s Canadian headquarters is in Guelph, Ontario.
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