WATCH | Pilots help disadvantaged with food drops during Covid-19 lockdown
In a true demonstration of a nation united against a pandemic, a group of pilots has taken the initiative to transport food, medical supplies and medical personnel to remote villages and townships in rural areas across the country. The group named 'The Covid Flight', are pilots who work tirelessly with passion, dedication and commitment to collect food from farms and other collection points and deliver it to citizens in serious need.
Excitement levels were high when a group of residents in Winterveld, northwest of Pretoria, saw a bright yellow chopper land in front of an orphanage and daycare centre to deliver food.
They immediately took out their cellphones to take photographs of the helicopter pilot and his passengers.
Some said "hello" as they approached the helicopter to help offload bread, maize meal and other foodstuffs on Monday afternoon.
The Bana Ba Kgosi centre for orphans and vulnerable children, where the food was delivered, usually looks after the children of Winteveld on school days. The centre has been providing meals for the children on a daily basis for more than 10 years.
With the outbreak of Covid-19 and a national lockdown, Doris Molefe, the head of the centre, and her team felt they needed to extend the feeding scheme to the childrens' families and the community of Winterveld, who are in dire need of supplies.
With limited resources, Molefe found it hard to stretch the little she had and share with the entire community.
Molefe and her son, Lebo, who works with her, reached out to businessman Menno Parsons, chief executive of Master Power Technologies and a pilot for The Covid Flight mission.
Parsons has been assisting the centre with food and other necessities for 10 years.
“We've been involved with Bana Ba Kgosi in different phases. They've been very good at nurturing children in the community. We run a few programmes with our business that are special to us, and it's been a journey we've kept at for a quite a long time.
“We know every rand we put in there goes to something very special,” Parsons said.
Parsons said he received a message from Lebo last Monday informing him that the centre had no food and the children had not eaten for four days.
“He said they had to turn people away. I got a few friends together and one guy bought the first ton of mealie meal himself. A whole lot of my friends started putting funding together and purchasing food. We did a few flights to get food there [Winterveld].”
The group that calls itself The Covid Flight team also got sponsorship from farmers near Winterveld who contribute fresh produce.
“The farmers gave their best stock to us. It was very special to see this community looking after that community,” Parsons said.
He contributions also being made by members of the public.
“It's nice to see our community standing together and doing distribution for this. It's a time when people are going to struggle.
"The next three weeks will be taxing on us, but a community standing together against this virus is something special. President Cyril Ramaphosa was brave to go through this [declaring a lockdown], so we must support him,” Parsons said.
Felix Gosher, another member of The Covid Flight team, said they provided immediate relief to disadvantaged communities, and not only in Winterveld.
“We've got two arms for mission delivery. We have a mission that is tasked by the government, where they ask us to deliver masks to remote areas. Owners come together with their own airplanes and fly for the opportunity to help the communities,” Gosher said.
“We reached out to key role players, including the departments of transport and health, and they issued us with permits to operate. We rely on sponsorships and help from communities to carry out the missions,” he said.
The team is currently supporting four communities and is looking at helping more, Gosher said. The missions are arranged through social media.
The food supplies they have delivered included mealie meal, bread, vegetables and tinned stuff. The crew has also delivered medical supplies to rural areas.
Molefe said families in Winterveld were grateful for the food they were receiving from the team.
“This means a lot to us because we don't have money to buy food. We earn as little as R1,000 and that does not cover a lot of things in a household,” said Mapule Mashigo, a community member in Winterveld.
“Mam' Doris shares the little she has with us, even if it is meant for children at the centre,” she said.
Donations for The Covid Flight mission can be made to: Acorn Foundation NPC, Absa Bank, account number 4078619720, reference The Covid Flight.