First of all I would like to tell a little bit about the history of SAS Christmas Flight, how it started and what is the purpose of it. It was Karsten Midtun who came up with the idea an 1985 when he was the station manager for Norving in Bergen. He wanted to help people in Europe in need, and as Poland was a very poor counrty at that time he chose to go there. He managed to get the contacts he needed and in December 1985 the first chrismas flight went to Gdansk.
The flight, a Metro3, had all sorts of different goods onboard like clothes, food, medication and then some more. Back in 85 the communist were "running" the counrty, so to get through customes took about 4 hours. Finally getting to the orphanage they soon saw that their help was strongly needed and highly appresiated. To get food every day was a struggle and children often died from not getting the medication they needed. It became very important to Karsten to make sure that they could deliver a good supply of food and medication so maybe he could help prevet this from happening.
In 1988 Karsten started working for Scandinavian Airlines, SAS, and the first SAS christmas flight landed in Poland. It was a big success and the president in Poland at that time, Lech Walesa, offered SAS to take over and run the airports og Gdansk and Warsaw.
In the years that came, the destination was changed as there were many needing countries in Europe, and the next Christmas flight went to Latvia and continued to go back for 11 years. The destination was chosen by a air purser in SAS, Tamara Egeland, who was originally from a small town called Bene in Latvia. For all the work she did with the SAS Christimas flight, and all the good changes they achieved, she got an honourary medal from the government.
In 2003 Karsten found the man who was going to follow him as his right hand man and also be a very important person for the christmas flight for the next 9 years (and counting), Anders Haga. The two of them had a new destination that had been know to them through different people, Tallin in Estonia, and they needed our help! The main group of people who were in most need, were the Russians who had stayed in Estonia after the fall of the Sovijetunion. Their country and their citizenship no longer exsisted, the "new" Russia would not allow them to move back and Estonia would not give them citizenship either. This ended up with all those people moving into the slum area of Kopli. They no longer exisied on any paper in any country!
The two pictures above shows just two of the many buildings that are in Kopli. As you can see they are not suited for anyone to live in, especially not children.
In Tallin our contact person is Mati Sinisaar, he is the founder of Bethels Centre of Pastoral Care or Peeteli as we call it for short. This is the orphanage, where all the children and their families (for those who have one) can come to get food, clothes, shower or a place to sleep if they need it. Some of the children lives there on a daily basis but many families who need Matis help just stops by to get a meal, shower or clean clothes. Everybody is welcome into Peeteli!
I have been a part of SAS Christmas flight since 2008, and I am just so proud of the work that everybody have been, and are doing. That one man has managed to build up such a great network of suppliers, worker, sponsors etc, etc is just amazing. It is so wonderful to step onto that flight every year to see all the "old" loyal faces of all the sponsors and workers and all the new faces of people who wants to give their help to others.
In the picture above you can se the founder of SAS Christmas Flight Karsten Midtun (right) and Rune Alstedt (left) from NRK (Norwegian tv and radio station).
Taken in the cockpit from the last flight in December 2011. Martin Boxhill is the captain, Anders Haga copilot and Guro Skjeldrup as jump seat passenger. Guro is one of our photographers.
In the those two pictures you saw some of the children at PEETELI doing a performance for us, singing and dancing. They always have this warm and special welcome for us the day we arrive. Even though they don't have that much, they share everything with us. It is always so nice to come back to se how the children are doing and how much they have grown since last time we saw them.
Here you have Miriam, she works at PEETELI and are a big part of the whole christmas flight event. She is our link to get all the trucks with, food, clothes, toys etc etc through customes. (She is also ofcourse a huge part of the childrens life). Trust me, that is a very big and difficult job. However, she is amazing and fixes everything with the Estonian customes. In this picture we all are trying our best to express our gratefullness towards her.
Mati Sinisaar wishes us welcome for the 9th time in a row.
We were presented cakes and coffe on our arrival.
So the day we arrive in Tallin we go to the Orphanage, and after a good night sleep we head out to Kopli (the slum area of Tallin). Every year we are wondering if things have changed, is it for the better or the worse, will we meet the same people, will there be new ones. But the biggest question we all have, I think, is how many people will come this year to recieve food, clothes and other gifts? Luckly we have seen the number of people decreasing over the years, and hopefully that means that some off our help is actually helping. Our main conserne is to get the children out of Kopli and we have succeede with that. We have been so fortunate that we have managed to rais money for some of the youths so they can get their own appartements and a job, and it has been a success on several occations. When looking at the pictures below you will understand why our main priority is to get people out of Kopli, it is not the right place for children to grow up in at all.
Every year we have two lorries with christmas presents and clothes where we can hand out the stuff to the people who are there for the "event". We also them a hot meal, mainly burgers and some hot coffe. It can be very cold in Kopli as it is situaded by the sea.
Beside the lorries we all also bring some stuff we have collected/bought to give out to those who might need it. We always make sure that the clothes are in good shape and quality, if it's not new, and that the toys and other present are not old, torn or just some rubbish someone what's to get rid of. We want to give away good stuff that they can use for many years and stuff that they can enjoy.
After we have been in Kopli we go to Salme, a Consert hall, where we have our christmas event. Here we have entertainment for the kids, and we have entertainers from both Norway and Tallin. We have had Hildegun Flatabø, Melvin Tix, Johannes Lindrupsen and many more.
Mostly we have loads of children singing and dancing and they are just brilliant, so cute and talented. It is very easy to see that this is a big success amongst the families that are there for the event. It is so nice to see that we can bring a little bit of christmas spirit into their lives, even though it is just for a day. However, this day is for having fun, getting presents, food and some candy. So of course we have many Santa Clauses who give out candy to the kids. I had the honor of being one:)
We did have one problem though, we had so much candy that we never thought we would get rid of it, great problem, the kids loved it. As I mentioned earlier we had food as well, first all the families got a hot meal right after the show and they also got some food to take with them when they left for the evening. We call this "familiepakker" and that is food we buy from money we manage to collect from selling Familiepakker back home in Norway.
We finish the saturday evening with a dinner, where we invite all the people that make this happen every year. So this is the time where we can thank each other, and promise that we will not forget the people who needs us. We have so many people who make this happen every year so it is good for all of us to take a moment and be proud of what we have accomplished and spend some time together.
And they day after, we head back home and plan next years Julefly!
Karsten saying thank you and goodbye:)