Dr. Marty Graber and the Maasai Tribe

The initial instinct of human beings will always be self-preservation. When we as individuals begin to interpret our grand scheme for a successful future and inevitably, retirement, a pattern unfolds. The conceptual ideal of our goals have been consumed by a focus on money, community, health, and a sense of self-worth. Wanting to have success in these areas is not a negative commonality, as we have been nurtured to their relation with success and happiness.

Fortunately, for the committed humanitarian Dr. Marty Graber, these instinctual based goals did not go unnoticed. When his instinct for self-preservation became relevant to him, something unique happened. Dr. Graber did not begin laying out and interpreting how to achieve these goals for himself but instead, for others. Dr. Marty Graber stretched his heart and mind over states, continents, and even seas, in hopes of accomplishing success and happiness in areas that lacked the opportunity to accomplish it themselves.

To a majority, the later years of life are seen as a time when life slows down, as the day to day stress lessens and they can begin to enjoy life to the fullest. It is common for travel and money to be a large apart of this equation. The retirement years have in fact been included in Dr. Graber’s life but not in the ways one would assume. Dr. Graber has dedicated his life to being a medical missionary and his goal became clear as day to see; help those in need, achieve success and restoration. He saw the opportunity to improve the lives of others after experiencing some of the most horrifying possible moments, one of which he recalls in the next paragraph.

While serving at the Tenwak Hospital in Kenya, on a Sunday morning, a man presented himself to Dr. Graber, soiled in blood caked dressing. He asked the man when he was injured and the man proclaimed that he had been stabbed by robbers two days prior. This man had walked over 100 miles for medical care. Dr. Graber was appalled by the need for such actions and so when he was asked by the leaders of the Masai to help them develop a hospital, clean water, and a school, his journey began.

One of the most influential projects that came from Dr. Graber’s attention and care was the Maasai Medical Outreach program at Ngoswani, Kenya. HELP MASAI is a registered Kenyan community-based organization. Multiple years have been spent working in Kenya to plan, fund, and create, a self-sustaining medical clinic so that proper care could be supplied to those whose untreated sickness is causing a deterioration of health and in some cases, fatality.

The main goals of this project closely relate to the goals that we as humans have set for ourselves. Money, community, health, and sense of self all tied in to this project. It was known that this couldn’t just happen overnight and it wasn’t going to be a lightly funded project. Thousands upon thousands of dollars have gone into this project and the projects connected to it in order to provide those near death, with the option of life. As the money began to accumulate through donations and grants, construction went underway and the walls of the medical center went up.

With this starting point alone, a renewal of hope began in the Kenyan people. Even when funds were behind schedule or grants were awaiting approval, Dr. Graber used his personal money to support the workers that were involved in this project and many others like it. The Ngoswani people were given an option to promote their own health and with it, are being reminded that life beyond survival is still possible; living a healthy and happy life is still an option.


A main goal that was set for the health of the Kenyan people was to decrease the spread of malaria, infant death rate, and the spread of HIV and TB. Dr. Graber lived in a tight knit town in South Haven, Michigan for a significant amount of time and knew what that sense of community meant to him and so he applied it to the Maasai Tribe. When people feel safety and comfort with each other and their quality of life, they themselves inevitably feel as though they have the option for a good future. Knowing that this center would positively effect 34,000 people, Dr. Graber exerted himself as a medical servant to those in need day in and day out, striving to establish this communities sense of humanity. This hospital was a big step for Ngoswani but it wasn’t the end.

Problems in Kenya still lurked. Although sickness was more assessable to treat, the sickness itself was still a problem. Evaluating ways to create rapid testing for Malaria and TB was worked on as well as programs to educate and instill hope in those aware or affected by HIV. These human beings are direct targets of illness because their poverty greatly affects their access to nutrition and proper drinking water.

The wealth of the Masai was greatly reflected in the number of animals they owned as the wealthier owned up to 500 cows. Until recently, Masai were pastoral, following the rain to greener pastures across the open ranges, and this allowed them their fortune.  Unfortunately, other tribes have been encroaching on the once free grazing land of the Masai and now the government has demarcated the land with male Masai receiving title deeds that minimize the encroachment. Since many fences have been erected those Masai with many animals now find it difficult to feed them. Masai were then forced to find other ways to feed their families and pay school fees. Now, a once rich community was now forced into monetary poverty.

Poverty is not something a single man can fix, but with 36 years of passion towards missionary work, Dr. Marty Graber did his very best. The work that went into creating micro industries for the locals to run themselves (such as a bore hole with clean water) successfully allowed the consistent supply of proper food to sustain the health and progress of the people and their homes. This tribe did not need to be given food and water, they needed to be given the tools to access and self-supply proper nutrition, water, and income. Survival of a human being relies on 3 things; food, water, shelter; but the people of Ngoswani deserved much more than to just survive and Dr. Graber recognized that. If the people were only taught to survive, then they would never be able to progress on their own. By creating hospitals and industries for these Kenyan people to thrive meant that they needed to become the kind of people that could sustain progressive educated individuals. This brings up the sense of self-worth aspect that humans desire in achieving success. A final step of what most people idealize for their personal success in life, but where Dr. Graber’s focus is on the Maasai Tribe.

When education is an option, then so is one’s sense of self as a participating member of society. There is not much that an individual can do if they lack the mental capacity to do so. Let us shine a light of Fernanda Teresa Castellón Sanchez; an individual being supported through a scholarship with their studies in school. They have a goal of working in the medical field to continue promoting health and wellness of others. This particular individual exerts themselves to the fullest extent with their education because of how blessed they feel to be getting the opportunity to learn and eventually help save lives.

This story is not unique to the people of Ngoswani. All over Kenya there are young minds craving opportunity to do something important and make a difference in their country. Individuals like Fernanda that have these desires and are able to reach for this sense of self and hold it confidently. As well as giving support to this individual student, Dr. Graber also put much time and energy into constructing 8 new classrooms for the Masai tribe. This has allowed students with dreams just like Fernanda to keep their minds sharp and their faith strong.

There is no doubt of the immense dedication that Dr. Graber showed towards the east African country of Kenya and specific organizations did not allow his work to go unnoticed. This past May 2017, Dr. Marty Graber was honored to receive the International Rotary’s Service Above Self Award, the highest honor of the organization, given to only 150 people every year. With the valuable financial support and time provided by METAD, Dr. Graber, and others, the assisted communities in Kenya such as the Maasai tribe in Ngoswani have begun to transition into a life being beyond self-preservation and survival. These individuals and their families are now blessed with more than that; opportunity to thrive.

Over time, the projects that Dr. Marty Graber initiated and created will allow these survivors to create lives of their own and make them successful. Money will lessen as a barrier as they begin manufacturing food and water and health services for the community. The community itself will feel stronger and entirely closer as they are able to confide in one another for support and betterment. The health of the people will exponentially begin to increase as better nutrition becomes available and illness can be properly treated. Lastly, the sense of self among the individual Kenyan will be rejuvenated as each and every one of them begin to find purpose within the abounding opportunity for growth in the country as a whole.


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