Volunteer pilots for Bahamas Habitat will be flying to Eleuthera in March to support the building of a children’s home for abused and abandoned children. The semi-annual Fly In & Help Out Event, to be held on Thursday, March 3, through Sunday, March 6, serves as an introduction to international mission flying and provides hands-on experience with ongoing projects in the Bahamas. All pilots are invited to join the group for this special event so they can hone their international mission flying skills and be considered for more advanced missions the organization conducts to Haiti.
The vision to build a children’s home came from two sisters and their village on Current Island. They dreamed big and then reached out to the church, the government and to Bahamas Habitat for help. The organization kicked off the building of the Zion Children’s Home in the fall of 2010 when they received a $50,000 matching grant from the Father’s Table Foundation. The group went on to raise more than $150,000 during a year-end “Christmas Campaign” and construction is underway on the first two of seven cottages being built on the tiny island of Current Island, according to Bahamas Habitat officials, who note the walls are up on the first two cottages and pilots that participate in this Fly-In & Help Out Event will have the opportunity to attend a special children’s home dedication ceremony.
The weekend mission begins at the St Lucie County International Airport (FPR) at the Tiki Restaurant at noon. Mission pilots will receive flight briefings and assistance with paperwork and pre-flight planning. Takeoffs for the Governor’s Harbor Bahamas will commence after lunch and the group will be met by the staff of Camp Symonette, the organization’s 60-bed camp on Eleuthera. All lodging, food, transportation and activities are included for participants. Pilots will launch for their return flights to the U.S. on Sunday morning. For pre-flight planning, the organization offers an online international pilot briefing, as well as more information at BahamasHabitat.org.
What started as a lark back in 2006 for founders Steve Merritt and John Armstrong to fly to the Bahamas to be of help has turned into a full-fledged international mission flying organization.
“It has been amazing to be a part of this unique mission, helping pilots expand their ability to give back with their aircraft,” says Armstrong, president of Bahamas Habitat. “Virtually every pilot I talk with wants to fly to the Bahamas. We create a great reason for them to make the trip and train them in the process to be able to respond to needs like hurricanes, earthquakes and more. Most of our pilots find it very rewarding and stay involved flying multiple missions.”
Fly-In & Help Out participants often find themselves furthering their involvement with Bahamas Habitat by flying missions to Haiti, Armstrong noted. Bahamas Habitat was a first responder to the Haitian earthquake disaster. The organization and its volunteers flew more than 400 flight missions with more than 120 pilots who carried hundreds of thousands of pounds of supplies to the disaster-stricken Caribbean nation. Most recently, Bahamas Habitat partnered with Lineville, Ala.-based Servants in Faith and Technology (SIFAT) to deliver water purification systems to combat the devastating cholera outbreak. In only the last three months of 2010 Bahamas Habitat and SIFAT provided long-term clean water solutions to more than 58,000 Haitians. In 2011 they plan to conduct at least one mission per month to deliver these systems.