MAF plays an instrumental role in connecting communities.

Story and photos by Mandy Glass

The shadows are long at this time of the day as the sun is about to set behind the rain clouds and the mountains in the Telefomin valley. The light is fading away. Darkness will take over quickly. But Deo is pushing hard and is totally focused to get this new antenna mast straight and secured by the end of the day.

He has been up and running since the early morning hours. 7am was check-in at the Mt Hagen MAF base for his flight out West to Telefomin. Because of early morning fog at Mt Hagen and bad weather reports, one landing on the way and one diverted because of strong winds, he eventually got to Telefomin by lunch time. He was met by some staff from the Telefomin District Health Department and not long after that he was seen up on the roof of the Telefomin hospital, inspecting their old antenna and wiring. The decision was made quickly. This antenna had seen its best days and will need to be replaced with a new one. With some willing volunteers, two Community Health Worker students, one of their teachers, a nurse and the hospital’s cleaner, the task for the day was set – remove the old antenna mast off the roof and install the new one.

Everyone lent a hand and followed Deo’s instructions: measuring and cutting all the wires to the appropriate length, twisting them around some connecting insulators, carrying the equipment and tools up the roof, dismounting and releasing the old mast down to the ground, uninstall the old solar panel and all the wiring. It was all great team work and for the volunteers lots to learn.
It became clear that the new mast could not be mounted where the old one was. The fittings just wouldn’t fit and with the strong winds that blow through the valley, the risk would be too high that the mast would be ripped off. Deo found a safe place between the old and new hospital buildings to mount the 12 meter mast into the ground.
God was good and kept the rain away all day apart from a few rain drops here and there. It only started pouring after dark.

For about one and a half years Deo Mondo has been working for MAF’s Learning Technology Services (in PNG known as CRMF). While he was studying Applied Physics, Instrumentation and Electronics at the University of Technology in Lae, a team from CRMF spoke to the students and he was inspired to file an application to work as a trainee with CRMF. “I was with them for five weeks and then continued with my studies. Later on I thought it would be good to spend a couple of years in this mission field and to work with them. So I sent in my letter of interest and I was accepted.“

The next morning Deo finished up the previous day’s work, installing the new solar panel on the roof, the HF antenna mast, and its transceiver at the hospital’s outpatient clinic. Then he started his next project, installing another HF antenna for the District’s Health Office.

Kepeni Hohom introduced himself as the man in charge of the District Health Services and explained that Telefomin has four LLGs (Local Level Govern-
 ments), Telefo-
 min, Oksapmin, Yapsie and Namea, in the Edwaki area. All together he manages 7 major health facilities and about 58 health posts in the district. He recently ordered five HF installations for his district, “one HF radio will be located at the hospital so it is easy for them to communicate with the health centres and aid posts for patient care. The other radio is located at the District Health Office and helps to manage all the facilities within the district. A radio will also be installed Tumolbil, Oksapmin and Edwaki. This will enable the quick reporting of diseases outbreaks such as measles and this will be a big change for the people in Sandaun Province.“

The health district’s radio network is also linked to MAF enabling any disaster to be communicated directly. Kepeni explained that “any clinical case they (the health posts) are not able to manage can be reported to my office. MAF is one of the service providers that is available to our district that we can’t do without, especially when it comes to medevac flights. Radio communication is free and accessible every day. Some areas are not linked to the mobile network, so we really need these radios for every day communication in order to accomplish our work.”
It took Deo two days to accomplish the two HF installations at Telefomin, working from sunrise to sunset. Friday afternoon came the thrilling moment, to transmit the radio data to CRMF’s HQ in Goroka to verify if the new radios were installed properly. Lukas Schadegg, the Radio Technician and Workshop Manager at Goroka, concluded his test report with a “great job and well done!“ to the relief and joy of Deo.

Deo loves his job. “I really do enjoy everything I am doing. Especially seeing people from the remote areas get those services that they need in instrumentation and communications and also helping the churches out. I can say that impacting those areas I find it to be a calling.“

“The most challenging tasks are installations,“ he says with a big smile while looking up the antenna mast he just put up the night before, “especially when you are out in the bush only by yourself. The exciting thing is when you have everything in order and you do the test and see it is actually working. Nobody else could have done this, it is you who is going to do it and it makes you happy when you see the job is completed and it’s all in order. It gives you great satisfaction after all the hard work.“

And there goes Deo, boarding another flight with MAF. Leaving Telefomin to fly to Tumolbil, to install another HF antenna for the local health post. This community which is squeezed into a narrow valley close to the Indonesian boarder will now have a life saving connection to the outside world, linking it with the district’s main health facility as well as to our MAF radio network.