Date: August 8, 1965
Location: Dayton, OH
By: Harold Davis
Newspaper: The Journal Herald
Balding pilot George Raymond relaxed in the University of Dayton’s Stuart hall lounge this week and discussed his upcoming “flying peace corps” mission to Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa.
Emblazoned in blue lettering on his white windbreaker were the letters UMATT – the mission George and his wife, Helen, a secretary, will represent.
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“This is only the beginning of this great project … the ground floor,” George said. “The air missionary work program in Nairobi is the first target. Others are already scheduled for India, East New Guinea, Central and South America.”
The UMATT (United Missionary Air Training and Transport) programis directed by Brother Thomas Dwyer, SM, with headquarters at the University of Dayton.
After just completing an eight-week orientation course at the University of Dayton in mission work of the Marianists, the Raymonds leave for their home in Los Angeles today.
Once, they sell their home, distribute their furniture between grandchildren and storage, they will enplane about Sept. 1 for the grassy plateaus and thorn trees of the East African nation.
There, they Raymonds will do their part in providing what George calls “a much needed communications service” linking remote missions and stations in Kenya with all East Africa and the outside world.
“It doesn’t pay to build highways or bridges over there,” George said. “Flying is the only way to get around … the only way to open up the country.”
Raymond, who has more than 1,500 flying hours to his credit, explained it is the hope of missionaries to provide an airline so small planes can be used to carry food and medicine, doctors, nurses and agricultural advisors on their appointed rounds in the roadless terrain.
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“When it rains over there, everything turns into a quagmire,” Raymond said. “A plane can get from one location to anotherin an hour or so, whileit takes four or five weeks by car.”
The Raymonds said they probably will be in nairobi for some time, though they don’t know how long.
Getting involved in the interdenominational UMATT program for George, an Episcopalian, and Helen, a Baptist, probably had its start last Christmas eve.
Heading for bakersfield, Calif., in their helicopter, the Raymonds were forced low by a fog bank.
A rotor blade failed. They had no chance, George explains, and the plane crashed.
“It ended up in a mess,” he said. “We had no business walking away from it, but we did.”
Escaping with only minor injuries and spared their lives, the raymonds believed they owed a lot to someone. They wanted to pay that someone back.
Later on, George saw a news item about the work of UMATT. With a background in supply and support, he thought he could help out. So he wrote to find out more. After being accepted, he and helen enrolled in the summer institute at the University of Dayton.
“After taking the course, I’m not nearly as apprehensive as I was when we first signed up,” Helen said. “Of course, George was all for it from the beginning. But not me. I thought we’d be living in a mud huy in some African jungle.”
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But actually the Raymonds learned Nairobi is a modern city with supermarkets, taxicabs and numerous other modern conveniences.
Leaders in the UMATT movement, including brother Michael Stimac, SM, who has been in Keyna since 1962 and formerly taught high school in Cleveland, feel the effectiveness of the Kenya project will convince the United States utility and agricultural aviation should be utilized in our foreign assistance program.
“All of us are not going to homestead Africa,” George said. “we’re just going to do our job … to get them started. The Africans can build on what we leave them.”