Home League builds airport shelter

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Jaluit women provide shade, seating for tropical travelers.

by Jonnette Mulch, Major – 

This is the Jaluit airport, with the new shelters in the background. A group of Salvationists greets visiting Salvation Army leaders.

Imagine standing at the edge of a dirt road, the hot sun beating down on you, perspiration running down your face…hoping your suitcase will support you while you await the arrival of a small plane. If you were fortunate and arrived early enough, you may have been able to find some comfort in the shade of the one small tree that is by the “airport.”

This was the experience that travelers to Jaluit Atoll had before the Home League ladies gathered the building materials and built a waiting area. Now, thanks to these women, not only is there a shaded area but also small rocks that act as chairs. Those who have used these rocks say they are surprisingly comfortable! These shelter structures are over 40 feet long with palm fronds used for the roofing materials.

The shade areas were built in response to community need. The airstrip is a section of the main road that connects the communities of Jabor and Jaluit, where two Salvation Army corps on Jaluit Atoll are located.

Those who are meeting a flight need to arrive at a small check-in office about an hour before the plane is scheduled to arrive. This is necessary because the local police close the road to allow for the safe landing and departure of the airplane. After the plane lands, it taxis down a dirt road to a wide grassy area that has been cleared for the purpose of parking the plane. Upon exiting the aircraft, you will be met by a red concrete walkway that imparts the feeling that the community has rolled out the red carpet.

These structures were not simply put up in a day, but required many hands and much effort. So whether sunshine or rain, you will be protected from the elements thanks to the Home League and the many other corps members that aided in the construction.

Jaluit’s remote location—and fragmented geographical setting—results in unique challenges. It is located in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which is composed of 29 atolls and five low-lying islands in the north central Pacific Ocean, and sits just north of the equator.

Twenty-two of the atolls (a coral island and reef that nearly, or entirely, closes off a lagoon beach area) and four of the islands are inhabited. The total land area of Jaluit, which is one of the larger atolls, is 6.6 square miles.

Jaluit’s population is about 2,500, primarily inhabiting six of the atoll’s 91 islets. Contact with the outside world is limited to voice communication using VHF radios. The atoll receives postal service on the twice-weekly flights of the local airline.

Jaluit’s economy is based primarily on subsistence activities with the main source of income for most families derived from the selling of copra (coconut products), pearl shell oysters, handcrafted items, and trochus shells.

The need for these shade structures is very important throughout the year. The average climate for the atoll is a hot and humid 81 degrees, with the coolest temperatures during the rainy season, September through November. During the rainy season mild trade winds and tropical storms are typical. Jaluit has a total rainfall of 160 inches with a minimum of 8 inches during February, and 16 inches a month from May to July.

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