A call to serve: Family moves to Africa

State College native Steve Straw says he and his family moved to the west-central African nation of Gabon last year to try to put into practice their prayer to be a blessing in everything they do.

Joseph Straw, 14, presents a soccer ball to a village leader during a mobile health clinic outside Libreville, Gabon. Below top: State College native Steve Straw flying an aircraft over Africa. Below middle: The Straw family, from left, Megan, 13, Alace, Joseph, Steve, and Samuel, 11, moved to Libreville last year to assess the African nation’s runways and launch an air ambulance service. They take frequent trips to the beach and find the Gabonese people friendly and welcoming.

Straw, 39, has been working to locate, purchase and refurbish a small plane that will serve as Gabon’s first air ambulance. When the plane arrives in Gabon later this month, he’ll be its pilot.

The plane will make possible trips and supply deliveries between the capital city of Libreville and the country’s main bush hospital, Bongolo Hospital, in southern Gabon, near the Republic of Congo border. It’s a journey that today takes 10 to 12 hours over terrain only a four-wheel drive vehicle can maneuver.

With nurse strikes at clinics and hospitals closer to Libreville, Bongolo is the best chance for medical treatment from western-trained professionals, Straw said. Without any reliable way to reach the hospital, many Gabonese today die from malaria and other treatable illnesses. In addition, Bongolo two years ago opened an HIV/AIDS clinic. Regular delivery of antiretroviral medication is key to treatment.

Straw and his wife, Alace, 37, with their children Joey, 14, Megan, 13, and Samuel, 11, moved to Libreville last year to assess Gabon’s runways and work with the New York-based charity, Air Calvary, to launch the service.

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