Coinciding with National Rural Health month, 10-year-old Mildura resident, Bel-Ami took his 30th flight from Mildura to Melbourne with national charity, Angel Flight who provide free non-emergency flights to rural Australians in need.
National Rural Health month highlights the inequities that rural, regional, and remote Australians face when trying to access health care with the burden of disease and death 1.4 times of those living in major cities.
Bel-Ami migrated to Mildura from Congo DRC when he was four years old and suffers from sickle cell anaemia which requires monthly medical treatment at Melbourne hospital, however the 6-hour trip by road is not a comfortable option and the cost of flying not financially viable.
Bel-Ami was referred to national charity, Angel Flight by his doctors and over the past year has travelled from Mildura to Melbourne with a team of volunteer pilots and drivers, which to date equates to 8040 nautical miles and 900kms by road at no cost to his family.
Angel Flight is a national charity established in 2003 to help bring the city closer to the country by offering free flights and drives for those requiring medical care or on compassionate grounds.
Angel Flight CEO, Marjorie Pagani says, “Whilst those living close to major hospitals and specialist medical help might find a short journey by road extremely uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable, patients like Bel-Ami living long distances from such help often must endure hours of road travel where every bump and turn in the road adds to their discomfort.”
Angel Flight has over 3,500 pilots registered throughout Australia who are all volunteers donating their skills and the bulk of the expenses relating to their flights.
“The success of Angel Flight is due to the fact that our pilots gain enormous satisfaction from giving their skills and resources to help fellow Australians in need. It is their way of making a very personal contribution to the community in which they live,” comments Ms Pagani.
Angel Flight pilot, Ray Jarvis says its an honour to fly such a special little boy in need.
“Bel-Ami who dreams of becoming a pilot one day, is unlike any other 10-year-old I have met.”
“He has an air of maturity and shakes my hand after each flight, thanking me for the service.”
“He is a born leader and I’m honoured to have helped him.”
Over the past 20 years of operation, Angel Flight has received no government funding and relies on private donations from individuals, clubs and service clubs, companies large and small and deceased estates to continue its vital service.