Giving and Leading: Samaritan Aviation

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We’ll show you how one local organization is bringing health care to a remote area of the globe. Samaritan Aviation serves those with limited access to medical care in Papua New Guinea.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona Giving And Leading takes a look at a local group that provides medical care to a very remote area. Samaritan Aviation saves lives by offering emergency medical flights to those in need. Producer Allyson Cummings and photographer Langston Fields have more.

ALLYSON CUMMINGS: Imagine needing medical attention and living three to five days away from the nearest hospital. That is a challenge that many people living in Papua New Guinea face. Samaritan Aviation provides medical flights to those in need.

MARK PALM: You talk about life and death in Papua New Guinea, it's in your face all the time. There isn't a person in town that is not dealing with a death almost on a weekly basis.

ALLYSON CUMMINGS: According to Palm, the life expectancy in Papua New Guinea is 20 years lower than in the United States.

MARK PALM: 98% of the people on the river have malaria, trauma patients from tribal wars, other things that happened as well, so we operate the only plane in Papua New Guinea, we're on call seven days a week. We do emergency medical evacuations and medicine deliveries to 37 different aid posts and also help with disaster relief.

ALLYSON CUMMINGS: The funding to treat these patients is split in half between the government of Papua New Guinea and America.

MARK PALM: The hardest part I think for me is, you know, funding is always a challenge. The easy part for me is to do the work over there. The hardest part is to tell the story well I think and to get other people excited. People that hear the story always get excited about it.

ALLYSON CUMMINGS: In fact, one of the most memorable stories comes from a cholera outbreak.

BRYAN YEAGER: One epidemic took place before we got there, a cholera outbreak, 3,000 people died. Once we got there, the same kind of epidemic began but we were able to fly medicine in and there was only three or four people that died and we were able to save a lot of lives just because we were there.

ALLYSON CUMMINGS: For Palm, it's rewarding to see the families he's helped.

MARK PALM: The very first emergency flight we ever did was good Friday 2010 and, you know, I got a call and we rushed out, the weather was bad and we picked up this unconscious mother, bring her in, she goes straight into surgery, she lives, her baby lives and they named the baby after me, baby Mark, and, you know, March of this last year, baby Mark turned five years old.

ALLYSON CUMMINGS: Mark and his family spend most of their time in Papua New Guinea. They return to Arizona for a few months every couple of years.

MARK PALM: Yeah, I was looking at pictures last week from when we move over in 2010, my youngest was four years old, he's nine now and he reminded me the other day that he's lived in Papua New Guinea longer America.

ALLYSON CUMMINGS: Mark always says what is a life worth? And that very question is what guides him on his journey.

TED SIMONS: To follow Samaritan Aviation's journeys, you can check out their website at

VIDEO: Submit your questions, comments and concerns via e-mail at [email protected].

TED SIMONS: And that is it for now, I'm Ted Simons, thanks so much for joining us, you have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

VIDEO: Committed to changing lives and strengthening community through investments in nonprofits and strategic initiatives. More information at

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