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The Unsung Heroes of WFP (8 guys, 20 minutes, 10 tons)

Mats Persson, Project Coordinator in Bor, sent us a story and photos from South Sudan:

WFP is proud of its drivers and, in recognition of their efforts, gave them a Merit award earlier this year. Another, often overlooked group of individuals, which literally carries the load of WFP on their backs are the porters we hire as day labour in locations around the world.

While loading the Mi-26 today we had eight of these guys making sure the 10 tons was loaded into the helicopter in less than 20 minutes.  This was done to ensure that there would be no delay in getting the Mi-26, that we have chartered from UNMIS, loaded as quickly as possible since it is an extremely expensive aircraft to charter.

We have teams at the warehouse, one at the airport and another one in Akobo to make sure the system runs smoothly. It is interesting to see these guys carrying 50 kg (110 lb) bags on their backs as they normally run with the bags rather than walk. Something to think about when we routinely struggle with the 32+ kilos of luggage that many of us try to check in at the airport.

Running with a 50 kg bag on your back is extremely difficult  but trying to run up the uneven ramp of a helicopter at a decent pace is a physically demanding task to say the least. Doing so when the temperature in the area is 30-40C (85-105F) does not make it any easier. Yet these guys continue unabated until the load is on the helicopter.

More often than not the guys either have some sort of quick command that they use to coordinate themselves or they simply sing while loading to maintain a rhythm that will help them get a continuous flow of bags to the stacks without stepping on each other.

This time we had eight of these guys at the airport but I still remember the times in the Kampala warehouse where I saw one hundred of these men singing, running and carrying bags in what seemed to be an endless flow of bags moving into the warehouse area.