Missionaries working in remote areas of South Sudan don’t have easy access to basic food items such as vegetables, fruit and eggs. So once a month, MAF flies the veggie run, bringing a healthier diet to AIM missionaries living along the route of the eastern shuttle.

‘In April 2017 our Laarim team was being evacuated to Torit,’ Ard de Leeuw begins – the Dutch family live in Kimatong and serve with AIM among the Laarim people.

‘Our family was flying to Kampala a week later and because of that we went to Juba instead. There we met Marlies (wife of MAF pilot Wim Hobo) and we talked about the few supplies of poor quality that we could get in Kimatong.

‘We asked Marlies if she could do some veggie shopping for us in Juba. She said that it was not a problem, she could just order it from Kintu, a local grocery supplier, get it packed and ready for a shuttle flight. After we tried it a few times our unit leader, Jordan, got wind of it and decided it would be a good idea for the whole South Sudan team.’

‘We are very grateful for the support MAF is giving us in this way! We get much more fresh food to eat, we are healthier and less sick.’
– Ard de Leeuw

AIMing for 5-a-day

‘It was clear that these missionaries needed these supplies,’ Marlies says. ‘They live very remotely and in most villages you can’t buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Once a month, we are sending groceries to 5 different villages: Torit, Kimatong, Nagishot, Lohutok, Ohilang.’

‘There is even a fridge and freezer in MAF’s storage room, just for AIM, if we want to order cool stuff like yoghurt or meat,’ Ard adds. ‘This Friday we got fresh fruit, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes – it makes a great salad!’

‘AIM opened a specific account where Karyn (wife of MAF pilot Chris Ball) and I can get money to pay for the supplies,’ Marlies explains. ‘Crystal Echols, AIM’s administrator in Torit, sends the orders to me, one week before the flight, and arranges everything with bookings.

‘I divide the orders between Karyn and me. Mostly, Karyn buys meat and chicken from a supermarket and I order fruits and vegetables from Kintu and arrange things with Felix, our freight room manager.’

Staying healthy

Crystal Echols says: ‘The veggie delivery helps us stay healthy on the field longer. Most of the AIM teams in South Sudan do not have a market, so they rely on produce getting flown to them so they can eat something fresh. Although those of us in Torit have a market, these flights help us get variety – something other than potatoes, onions, and tomatoes.’

‘Last Friday,’ Crystal continues, ‘as we were receiving groceries from Juba, we loaded dry goods – wheat flour, sugar, pasta, etc. from Torit – on MAF’s caravan to our other locations, and we sent some other supplies to Nagishot.

‘The ladies’ house in Nagishot keeps flooding, so gutters were sent to mitigate this problem. The house was built a few months ago and has a depression in front, so when it rains, the water fills the depression and comes into the house through the front door. The gutters will redirect the water and help fill the rain tanks so the house has water.

‘The cushions and barbwire also went to Nagishot, one for the chairs that Chris and Fiona Tyrrell have had built, and the other for a fence they are making around their house and garden to keep cows, goats, and sheep out.’

‘We are very grateful for the support MAF is giving us in this way,’ Ard says. ‘We get much more fresh food (instead of tinned food) to eat, we are healthier and less sick. Thanks for this and keep doing the good work.’

‘We asked Marlies if she could do some veggie shopping for us from a local grocery supplier, get it packed and ready for a shuttle flight.

After we tried it a few times our unit leader, Jordan, got wind of it and decided it would be a good idea for the whole South Sudan team!’
– Ard de Leeuw

Story and photos by Thorkild Jørgensen