Story by: Jacqueline Mwende,
Photos by: Jacqueline Mwende & Varghese Philip
Martha Katau is a devoted individual with a commitment to driving change and progress within her community. Originally hailing from Kilimanjaro, Same District, Martha's work responsibilities have led her to reside between Tanga and Arusha. She is currently working with Community Research and Development Services (CORDS) in Arusha, where the primary goal is to advocate for and safeguard the well-being of pastoralists from the Maasai community who largely occupy the area served by MAF’s South Maasai safari flights.
Her first experience with MAF was in the late 2000s. “I witnessed critically ill patients being urgently flown to Arusha for treatment and subsequently recovering. Others were rushed to Wasso Hospital and recovered, thanks to the swift response of the MAF aircraft.” This experience highlighted the potential positive impact of MAF's services on isolated communities in Same District, where many villages cannot be reached by road.
Recognising the health risks posed by the lack of access to essential vaccinations for children in her area, Martha approached MAF in 2013 with a vision to extend their medical safari flights to Same. She emphasizes, “A significant number of our children have grown into adulthood without having the opportunity to receive essential vaccinations, leaving them vulnerable to severe health risks during viral diseases outbreaks.”
Her inspiration to approach MAF was sparked during a conversation with Elisha Moita, a dedicated MAF partner from Malambo. It was through this dialogue that Martha discovered the potential for MAF to expand their work by building village airstrips. This prompted her to reach out to MAF and seek support for her community in Same. MAF accepted Martha's request, leading to the construction of several airstrips including the two that are currently still in use, one in Katahe and another in Lesirwai.
Katahe was initially the primary landing site, with the local community actively contributing to the construction of fuel storage and pilot accommodation. Eventually, the airstrip in Lesirwai was also developed.
Martha emphasizes, "MAF's operations in Lesirwai have had a great positive impact on the community, particularly benefiting pregnant mothers and children by providing healthcare services. The presence of MAF has enabled access to vaccines and healthcare services. MAF has truly become a lifeline for the community. For many in Lesirwai, their hope is deeply linked to the presence of MAF. Without MAF, they would encounter significant difficulties in accessing healthcare due to the considerable distances to hospitals."