The village that was the most difficult to reach during the unusually long rainy season was Gorimba, 100 km south of Haydom. Scheduled at the end of the week’s clinics, any delay affected the medical team’s ability to reach Gorimba. The population of the village is predominantly from the pastoralist Barabaig tribe, who mostly rely on cattle for subsistence much like the more well-known Maasai, but are starting to learn skills of cultivation and farming from neighbouring tribes. It is estimated that just under a third of the Barabaig are Christian whilst the rest hold on to their traditional beliefs. Out of the four people groups in the area, the Bible has only been translated into the language of the Irawq tribe, and few people speak Swahili which is the lingua franca of Tanzania.
Located in the Rift Valley, the Gorimba area suffers from food shortages during the dry seasons, forcing the Barabaig to venture further south to find more fertile land. Although the village now has a well, it can involve days of waiting before they can get water. The Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) responded to the people of Gorimba asking for medical services in their village in 2007 along with MAF pilot Eivind Lindtjorn (who now serves with MAF in South Sudan). “I made my first landing in Gorimba in September 2009,” remembers Eivind. “It started with the people in Gorimba asking Marit and Leif of the NLM if MAF could deliver health services. They started clearing the airstrip on their own initiative in late 2007/ early 2008. MAF followed up and our Airstrip Development Team went in and helped with the heavy work. At the same time the village built a clinic building that was ready and officially opened on the day of the opening of the airstrip”.
Current MAF pilot Kirstein Combrink enjoys getting stuck into the work of the clinics, and he can be found working among the nurses assessing babies, recording vaccines and registering new patients; “We have a small medical team due to the size of the aircraft we use for this outreach, so I like contributing to as many people as possible receiving medical attention during the day’s clinic”.
The monthly medical clinics are hosted in the house of the local evangelist, Emmanuel Sarwat. Emmanuel is with the Mbulu Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) and has been living in Gorimba for two years. He is from the Iraqw tribe, and therefore he uses a translator so that he can communicate with the Barabaig people.
Being able to partner with the ELCT has mutual benefits here. The presence of the evangelist has meant that the condition of the airstrip has greatly improved, previously it had been frustrating for Kirstein to arrive and find the airstrip was not being maintained. The clinic would then have to be delayed whilst the women of the village cleaned the runway, making it difficult for all those who attended the medical clinics to be seen. Likewise, Emmanuel sees the medical outreaches that MAF facilitates as a great way of bringing people together from the surrounding area. One of his biggest challenges is travelling around for his evangelism work, since he has only the options of walking and cycling in a vast area. At the clinics, he is then able to build relationships and to evangelise to a large number of people.
April was the first month in 2016, and the first in six months, that MAF pilot Jarkko Kohornen was able to reach Gorimba with the medical outreach team from Haydom. The uncertainty as to whether a team would arrive meant that the clinic was not as busy as usual at first. However, word soon spread and 200 children and pregnant women were attended to, including twins. Altogether 505 children and 154 pregnant women received medical care in the second quarter of the year at Gorimba.
By Kirstein & Amelia Combrink