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Pilot to return to Guyana for medical mission

Residents of a remote village in Guyana watch as a person is loaded into an airplane for transport to a medical center. Bob Delese of Freeland flew the plane this past winter for the nonprofit Remote Area Medical.

Reproduced from www.standardspeaker.com 
by Jill Whalen

When local pilot Bob Delese learned that it can take up to 14 days to reach the nearest medical facility in Guyana, he knew he had to help.

Delese, of Freeland, traveled to the South American country earlier this year to fly a medical transport plane for the nonprofit Remote Area Medical (RAM). By air, getting to a hospital takes an hour or two at most.

“Every place I would land, the whole village would come out to the airplane,” Delese said of the three-month experience. “It was a very rewarding feeling, helping these people.”

Delese will return in January to the volunteer post, where he will likely average two medical transport flights a day. In addition to helping the sick, Delese will drop off medical supplies to remote villages.

“It was some of the most exciting and challenging flying I ever did, going into airstrips that were carved out of the jungle,” recalled Delese, who began his flying career at the Hazleton Regional Airport and flew for the state of Florida.

He recently looked at photographs from his last trip. One shows a typical airstrip — essentially a swath of grass flattened by an airplane’s tires, and another shows a little boy, Adidas, whom Delese flew to a medical facility for treatment of pneumonia.

Other photos show residents, including many from the indigenous Wapishana, Macushi and Waiwai groups, flocking around his plane.

“The people there are very nice, very appreciative,” he said. “And the good thing is that the language spoken in Guyana is English, so there are no problems as far as communication.”

RAM’s Guyana base is in Letham, which is a two-hour flight from the nation’s capital of Georgetown. While the group assists in remote areas like Guyana, it also responds to disasters and provides much-needed medical assistance to America’s poor.

Delese initially offered to help RAM following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. At the time, a runway wasn’t available and Delese was asked to relieve a pilot in Guyana.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he admitted. But when he arrived, another pilot showed him the ropes, and soon, Delese realized that it was the right decision.

“Working with RAM has been the most fulfilling and rewarding experience of my life,” he said.

RAM was founded in 1985 by Stan Brock, who appeared on the television series “Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom” with Marlin Perkins. Prior to that, Brock worked on a ranch in Guyana.

RAM received nationwide exposure when stories about the organization’s efforts in Haiti appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” ABC’s “Nightline” and CNN.

The organization does 80 percent of its work in the United States, offering free mobile medical, dental and eyeglass clinics to rural communities.

And while Delese was recently offered a position in Haiti, he said he’s looking forward to serving in Guyana again.