Dreams do come true. If you hold on long enough and keep the faith. That is Godfrey Masauli’s testimony.
A few years ago, Masauli was a cabin cleaner at Chileka Airport in Blantyre, snooping into the cockpit and dreaming of one day flying the big bird beyond the skies.
Today, Masauli is a month away from attaining his commercial licence from the prestigious Central Flying Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“I did dream that I could reach this far, but never this soon considering the cost of aviation. I’m now a private pilot with a month away to getting my commercial pilot licence. I’m being sponsored by people that I shared my dream with and who believed in me,” he shares his story.
But let us start from the beginning.
After completing his secondary school, Masauli found himself jobless. He started selling charcoal for a living.
“I eventually got a job as a cleaner of aeroplanes at Chileka Airport, where I worked my way up to becoming a driver. But I never lost sight of my dream,” says Masauli.
The 26-year-old grew in Malora Village in Chileka and he says he hated school from the first day.
“In fact, I dropped out of school the second day after the teacher whipped me for failing to give the correct arithmetic answer. I went back home only to be whipped again by mother for running away from school. I was five years old then and for the first time in my life, life lost all meaning. At five, I thought life was all about whipping each other and so I would pretend to be going to school only to stop by a maize field to catch and roast mice,” he says.
Masauli says the turning point of his life was when his uncle, renowned aviator Stanley Masauli, heard about his truancy and came to speak to him about the importance of education.
“He was one of Malawi’s first pilots back then. He took me to an airport and had me touch an aircraft and asked if I wanted to become a pilot when I grow up. He told me that if I really want to fly when I grow up, I would have to stay in school and learn to speak English.
“That was it; I was no longer forced to go to school. Instead, I enjoyed school simply to learn to speak English. However, reality hit me when I had finished school. Regardless, my uncle’s motivation prepared me to face the world. I still recall his words to me—ndizotheka [it is possible].”
Returning to school with renewed zeal, Masauli graduated from Zingwangwa Secondary School in 2006.
But he got discouraged the following seven years. With his meagre earnings, he calculated he would be 105 years old before he could save enough to afford flying.
But then in 2011, he was blessed with serendipity.
International filmmaker and paraglider pilot Benjamin Jordan was travelling through Malawi and crossed paths with Masauli, who confessed his lifelong desire to fly. They struck a bargain: Masauli would be the tour guide if Jordan would give him flying lessons.
Because Masauli lives in a flat area, his early paragliding training was spent simulating flights from the ground. One day he could not wait any longer and climbed 6 000 feet up Mount Mulanje and took off.
“I jumped off with the paraglider that I had never seen fly before, and I had to teach myself in the air, and hope that this paraglider would fly over the trees and carry me safely,” says Masauli, adding: “I was scared and excited at the same time, but being my only opportunity, I just did it.”
And so, he became Malawi’s first paraglider pilot.
Jordan produced a film in 2013 about Masauli’s journey and dream, titled The Boy Who Flies. The film subsequently was a finalist at the La Rochelle International Film Festival. It was shown to packed venues around the world, including 40 states across the United States of America. It also provided Masauli the exposure that led him to give a TED Talk and speak in front of the United Nations.
Although he had achieved quite a feat, Masauli never gave up on his dream of becoming a pilot.
So three years ago, with the financial assistance from Todd Greiner, Masauli was enrolled at Central Flying Academy.
“Todd believed in my dream after I simply shared it with him three years ago,” he says.
Masauli says his dream only came to fruition because he shared his dream with everyone within earshot.
“Most people are ashamed to share with others their real dreams. Life has taught me that you never know what you can get if you do not ask. Simple as it sounds, it works. We fear rejection, but could we fear it more if we thought that the answer could be yes? In my opinion, a few things made my dream come true, but of all, I give God all the credit. In saying that, I believe that God never gives us dreams without provision, it can be a matter of faith and faith is action, it involves work, positive attitude and belief in your dream.
“If I hid my dream in my heart, I probably could have never been a pilot by now. What motivates me is a simple word I believe in, ndizotheka. That’s my motto. With a strong will, I believe comes a way,” he says.
So, what is next for this high-flying believer, who won the Pilot of the Year accolade at Central Flying School last year?
“I dream of serving our airline, Malawian Airlines and flying the planes which I have seen from my village since childhood. You see, since I became a paraglider pilot, I have reached out with inspiration to thousands of kids across Malawi.
“I build kites with them from garbage which I call dream kites. I ask them their dreams and motivate them to stay in school and follow their dreams. I would love to continue inspiring youths on a bigger scale, especially in Malawi where circumstances force us to lose hope. All this stems out of following my dream of flying,” he shares his dream.
He adds: “My message to Malawians is simple. Ndizotheka! If you dream it you can achieve it. If you didn’t have the capacity to achieve, the dream could have never come to you. If I did it, you can do it, too!”