On the Tarmac


The children from Rukuba Children’s Home in Jos, Nigeria were overjoyed for a chance to see an airplane in person for the first time.

“This trip is just one of many regularly scheduled field trips, designed to foster educational and social growth,” explains Back2Back Nigeria Director, Daniel Asama.

The children had received special permission to wait outside on the tarmac for the plane’s arrival. After traveling across the city to Jos, Nigeria’s only airport, the children were eager to see the only plane that would be arriving that day – a lone flight from nearby Lagos, Nigeria. It was scheduled to land any moment. Despite the unseasonably cold weather, the children waited quietly, too excited to talk amongst themselves. The anticipation grew. Minutes ticked by and still no sight of the airplane.

“The plane will be delayed several hours,” the tour guide announced.

Still, the children’s enthusiasm didn’t wane even in the face of the setback. Despite the long day, they waited patiently, listening closely as the tour guide shared about aircraft mechanics.


Their only experience with aircraft was seeing tiny airplanes against the bright blue sky overhead the orphanage. Imagine the children’s surprise when the jet finally began its descent, engine roaring, propellers spinning, rumbling toward them larger than life. At the sight of the plane, the children shrieked with joy, jumping up and down, screaming and clinging to whoever happened to be standing closest to them.

The engine quieted as the plane rolled to a stop. The children were shocked to watch as a pilot climbed out from the plane. They had no idea an actual person was responsible for maneuvering the planes they had seen overhead their children’s home.


The children were exuberant and chatted excitedly amongst themselves the rest of the day. Weeks later, the children are still recounting the details of the trip.

Before the trip, when asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, most would mention carpentry or masonry, unaware of other options. Now, some of the children dream of being pilots.

Field trips such as this are critical to social development for the children we serve. When a child is raised in an institutional setting, such as an orphanage, they miss out on the critical day-to-day social interactions that occur in a family setting. It’s through simple yet vital experiences like running errands with a parent, shopping at the grocery store, visiting a museum or attending a sporting event that a child gains a foundational understanding of how the world functions and their place in it. These daily experiences (coupled with coaching from a parent) help shape a child’s foundational understanding of self, how they interact with others and possibilities for their future.

Before the field trip the children had no context for an airport or jet. After the trip, not only had they seen a plane up-close and walked the runway, but many of them were imagining new possibilities for their futures. Now, they are dreaming bigger dreams for themselves. To this end, we strive to broaden the children’s horizons through field trips and social activities, ultimately helping to deepen their social development, a critical piece of holistic orphan care.