Hamilton Mother-of-Four on a Mission
Flying in one of the Remotest Places in the World
It took the death of Glenys Watson’s father to remind her just how short life was and prompted her and her husband to do something extreme to help others. Five years on the Hamilton mother-of-four is moving her family to Papua New Guinea to fly into some of the remotest areas in the world under the toughest of circumstances to deliver goods and services to their small communities.
Glenys, 36, her husband Jonny and their four daughters will move to Goroka in September where she will take up a role with Christian organisation Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) to fly light aircraft in support of local communities. She will be flying in extreme weather conditions and often be landing on handbuilt airstrips, sometimes perched on the sides of mountains or near rivers.
“It is challenging in that you are taking off on short airstrips and having to deal with different weather phenomenons and mountains,” Watson said.
Watson qualified as a commercial pilot in Hawke’s Bay in 2001 and spent five years working for Air Hawke’s Bay as a commercial pilot, flight instructor and air ambulance pilot before moving to Hamilton and taking up a role with CTC Aviation.
For the past nine years she has been a stay-at-home mum raising her four daughters and has maintained her pilot’s licence by doing recreational flying.
But when her father Jim died five years ago, it made the Watsons rethink where they were headed. “It wasn’t until about five years ago when my dad passed away that we kind of re-evaluated our lives and what we could be doing because life is pretty short.
“I first heard about MAF when I was first training and I was captivated by the type of work that they did – reaching some of the remotest places on earth and people on earth and making a difference in their lives. So we got back in contact with MAF and I guess there is a God aspect in there – we felt this is where God wanted us to go and to invest some of our skills and talents and gifts into other people.”
They started the application process in May last year when their youngest daughter Lucy was 1 year old. After passing an intense selection process involving flying, aptitude, medical and psychological tests and assessments, a post was confirmed just before early this year. “They (MAF) are fairly thorough in making sure that you are suitable for this type of work for living in remote places, which I think is a really good thing.”
Watson heads to Queensland in August for a month-long flying and standardisation training to prepare her for some of the toughest flying conditions in the world before being reunited with her family in Cairns for a week-long family orientation. When they land in Papua New Guinea in mid-September she will have more in-field training in Mount Hagen, where MAF’s Papa New Guinea headquarters are, and the entire family will spend between two and three months learning about the culture and how to speak the local language Tok Pisin.
The Watsons will eventually settle in Goroka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea which is 1600m above sea level and has a population of about 20,000.
Glenys Watson with her daughters (clockwise from bottom left) Lucy Watson, 2, Alana Watson, 8, Katie Watson, 9, and Danielle Watson, 8, at home in Hamilton. Photo / Alan Gibson
They will move into a western-style house in a compound with five other expat families and their three oldest girls Katie, 9, Alana, 8 and Danielle, 6, will attend an international school run by New Tribes Mission about 15km away. They currently attend Hamilton Christian School. Lucy, 2, will be looked after by her father who eventually hopes to help in the community once the family is settled.
But despite a thorough induction programme, Watson admits she is most nervous about her family adjusting to such a different way of life. “They’ve (her daughters) only ever lived in Hamilton. It will be so different and they are a little bit excited about the adventure. And unsure what it’s going to be like because we’ve never done anything like this.
“I guess we are not so removed – the world is pretty small – we will have internet and it might not be completely reliable – but they will still be able to contact friends and family.”
Papua New Guinea has a population of about 7 million and between 60 and 70 per cent of those people live in remote communities. MAF NZ chief executive Mark Fox said MAF had a fleet of 135 aircraft operating in 30 countries and flying in some of the most challenging places in the world to transport the sick and injured, deliver emergency food and medical teams and fly resources, seeds and livestock to people in remote communities so they can build better lives for themselves and their families.
“Families like Jonny, Glenys and their children are willing to give up their comfortable lives in New Zealand in order to meet the needs of isolated communities in some of the poorest countries in the world who are cut off from the help they need.”
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