Wyoming man turns deceased sons dream into reality for a Republic of Maldives woman

Wyoming man turns deceased sons dream into reality for a Republic of Maldives woman

PRESCOTT - When Hiyam Afeef climbed aboard her uncle's charter boat in the Republic of Maldives in June 2003, she had no idea a middle-aged American surfer would lead her to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott.

This chance encounter led to a four-year journey that ends today when Afeef graduates from ERAU with a degree in aeronautical science and a minor in aviation safety and becomes the only woman in Maldives to earn such a degree.

Maldives is a group of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean southwest of India.

Afeef wants to fly for a seaplane company - one of the ways people and goods get around in her island country.

"There are not a lot of airports. The main transportation is boats and planes. I want to start by flying seaplanes, but eventually I want to fly internationally," Afeef said.

Afeef has a job waiting for her with a seaplane company in Maldives. However, her real interest is in aviation safety.

"Maldives is a developing country. There are not many rules at home. I would like to focus on aviation safety and the development of rules and regulations," she said.

Wyoming resident James Mathieu was Afeef's benefactor the past four years.

Mathieu was part of a 10-day surfing safari to the atolls and outer reefs of Maldives. The boat captain mentioned that his niece was one of only a handful of women who had ever surfed in the Sunni Muslim country. The paying passengers were happy to include Afeef on their excursion.

One evening, Mathieu asked Afeef about her "ultimate dream." Read More

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