ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Day is a day to celebrate and teach people about aviation. In December every year, for as long as some of the staff here can remember, MAF organizes a fun day at the Moshoeshoe 1 International Airport, where we use the planes we have available to give rides to kids. In the past, there have been over 250 children.
2018 has been a hard year for the team at MAF Lesotho. They started out the year short-staffed, which meant that fewer flights could be done due to fewer pilots and slower maintenance. The arrival of three new families mid-year (us included), while great news in the long run, added a lot of extra work for the team: we take man-hours out of the day to train, and so the pilots and mechanics can't just ‘do’, they have to teach as well. When we are all online and working at capacity, the three new families will provide some solutions to the short staffing problems, but until then, we actually add more work.
The last and possibly heaviest of blows to the team this year has been multiple personal losses by a number of local and international families. From children to husbands and wives, the team has been weighed-down with sorrow and challenge, seemingly every month. So, when ICAO day came around, not many people jumped up and down with excitement. In fact, most of the staff looked down at the table we sit around for our morning meetings, not ready to catch anyone else's eye who might be thinking about what they were thinking. Some folks were voicing their hopes that the weather might turn bad and give us a year off from the busy flying day that loomed.
However, as Saturday came around, the weather was perfect, 3 of our 4 planes were available, and lots of excited children awaited. The day went smoothly. The three planes flew an average of 73 children, making it a total for the day of 219 kids, many of whom got to experience flying for the first time.
What stood out for me, however, was not the terrified screams of some children who seemed convinced it was the end of the road for them or the joyful laughing as we landed safely back. Nor was it the fact that this was the first time I got to fly a MAF airplane solo (without an instructor). For me, what stood out, was how all of our staff, tired after a hard year, rose to the challenge. They didn’t just do the bare minimum, but they each completed their respective roles with joy, energy, and professionalism. What the day reminds me is that no matter how negative we might be feeling, or how hard the times have been, we have a choice how we face each day. It could be with dread and negativity, or it could be with hope and joy that will rub off on all those around us. I’m so proud to be part of the MAF Lesotho team, not because of anything I have done, but because of the light they shine to the community around us.