Friday the 2 September will long be remembered by all that had the honour of being involved as a day that influenced young lives forever. Over one hundred and fifty orphaned children, through the selfless acts of many, were given their first taste of flight.
The man at the head of the initiative was Felix Gosher who remarkably coordinated the whole event from South Sudan where he was flying on contract. The idea was born when Felix was involved in the making of a music video for the song by Michael Ferguson “Paper Plane” which is essentially about a child with a Dream to fly, but on a deeper level it's about anyone with a dream.
Felix Gosher. Photo Geralidine Calitz
What originally started off as a few buddies getting together to take ten or so kids for a quick flight ended up in the wonderful event that was the textbook description of “Ubuntu”. Felix put out the word on social media and the response was overwhelming people from as far afield as Switzerland and Seychelles pledged support. The event quickly took on a life of its own and Gracia Child and Youth Centre and Refilwe Community Project were identified as the beneficiaries of the drive.
Gracia Child and Youth Centre was started in 2012 by Henri du Toit and the motorcycle ministry he was involved in “The Meerkats outreach for the under privileged”. When approached Henri shared the following “These kids were abused, impedance not taken care of, mainly because of parents hooked on drugs, or just did not want them. I am quite sure very few of them have seen a plane, accept for maybe in the air or on TV, let alone fly in one!! I am also convinced that we will inspire quite a few upcoming pilots! These kids deserve all the blessings that can come their way”
Deborah McCrystal head of Refilwe Community Project “My passion has always been for children and the calling to work with the amazing kids I work with at Refilwe was simply one of the best things I have done with my life. I have been at Refilwe for almost 6 years and before that worked with children with special needs. My belief is that the foundations need to be strong to build the person hence my desire to achieve the most out of children in the early developmental years. My aim is to show the children from these areas that they too can achieve and if I can help them reach their optimal Emotional, mental, physical and social stages of development whilst with me then I believe they are in as good a standing, if not better to children of better backgrounds.”
The day got off to a very early start for the little ones with the busses arriving to collect them at the respective homes at 9:00 am, by this time most of the pilots and crew had already made their way to Grand Central Airport and been briefed on the safety procedures for the days flying. The first busses to arrive were from Refilwe and just witnessing the face of these little people light up when they got their first glimpse of an aircraft close up was already immensely heart-warming. The busses from Gracia followed shortly after and once all the children were issued with a T-shirt and Cap they were taken to the Harvard Café for the day's entertainment. While the firsts group of sixty three children were divided into all the aircraft the others were given aviation themed colouring books, they were also kept entertained by face painters and a lively sing along. After the first flights had landed the kids were treated to lunch and more singing and dancing. Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish put on a spectacular aerobatics display for the young ones, the Oohs and Ahhs from these young fans was a testament to their appreciation of the spectacle.
Soon after lunch the second group were taken for their flights and the faces of the little ones on returning were more than enough thanks for anyone that was involved in the event. After issuing every child with a first flight certificate Michael Ferguson played Paper Plane live all pilots and crew singing along around the kids brought a tear to many an eye. The buses departed taking all the very happy but exhausted children home and as soon as word reached the crew that they had arrived home safely the crew celebrated with a sheep braai and lots of banter about the day.
It is an almost impossible task to name all the sponsors and people that gave freely of their time to make this evet the success it was, and at the risk of forgetting someone I have opted for a blanket thanks to all concerned and a Special thank you to Sarah and her team at Grand Central Airport.
A comprehensive list of all the Pilots, Crew and Sponsors is available on the event website at www.thechildrensflight.co.za