The day starts somehow chilly though with a promise of an eventful ending as a group of students arrive at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare to embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

BY VANESSA GONYE

They are going to board a plane for the first, and some probably the last time in their lives.

Eighteen-year-old Onai Mupedzanhuna is among the 18 disadvantaged students selected to embark on an initiative by Puma Energy and other partners under the Sky is the Limit initiative.

The students were given an opportunity to fly and see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and Zimbabwe’s premier tourist destination, Victoria Falls.

Mupedzanhuna is visually impaired, deaf and cannot speak; an unusual combination making her case a rare one, where communication is difficult and limited.

She relies on touch and feel to communicate.

However, the initiative managed to bring a smile to her face, as she communicated pleasure in her day’s experience starting with the travel by plane to Victoria Falls as well as the tour of the resort area, marvelling at the once in a lifetime chance she had.

Mupedzanhuna, according to her personal teacher, Sithembile Marare, is very intelligent and easily grasps daily living skills, which she is taught at Copota School for the blind, despite her handicap.

“The trip gave her a lifetime experience, she could express it through body touch, her mode of communication, and it was very visible that she was happy with the experience, she was even smiling throughout the journey by plane as she felt something was quite different,” Marare said.

Other students were also excited about the whole experience, with some disclosing that they would like to join the aviation sector when they are grown up.

One student was even optimistic that he would certainly join Victoria Falls International Airport as a staffer in the not so distant future.

“One of these days in the distant future, you will come begging the security here to see me when I become the boss,” he told his friends.

The Sky is the Limit is a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by Puma Energy together with other players in the energy and aviation industry including Redan, Sakunda, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), Fastjet Zimbabwe, Love for Africa and the Primary and Secondary Education ministry.

The initiative, which was recently rolled-out to cover several countries in Africa, aims to expose children, who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience the world of aviation, thereby, fuelling their ambition to one day venture into careers in aviation.

Students in Grades 6 and 7, who qualify from beneficiary schools are given the opportunity to experience the aviation industry first hand through a tour of the facilities that make it possible for an airport to function as well as take a return flight from Harare to Victoria Falls for the day.

Puma general manager, Cydwell Chitewe said the initiative is part of their programme to engage communities and expose disadvantaged children to the aviation industry.

“Puma is proud to team up with our partners to make this CSR initiative possible. We would like to plant the seeds of interest in our industry in the minds of young people so that they can aspire to becoming a part of it,” Chitehwe said.

Zimbabwe becomes the first country to roll-out the initiative, which also targets several African countries.