Governor Wenge (middle right) walking with Yaoum Sani (middle left) to board the Manolos Aviation flight home.

MAF’s Mount Hagen base worked closely with a helicopter operator and local governor helping to save the life of a five-year-old girl.

Story by Ashley Leyenhorst

Five-year-old Yaoum Sani was born with two large tumours on her right shoulder and chest. The tumours first started causing pain and sickness in 2020, so her grandfather and guardian, Sani Matayam, began seeking assistance.

The family lives in the very remote village Hote in Salamaua, a local government area that has limited hospital access.

“The people from Morobe, there is no transport that can reach them. The only way to reach them is through chopper (helicopter),” said Sayer Mendai, Sani’s brother-in-law.

The family first received logistical assistance from Lae-based Manolos Aviation. The family was flown to Angau Memorial Hospital to do the initial scans, with this flight funded by Manolos Aviation. The journey that would have taken multiple days on foot and by boat took only two hours by helicopter.

Yaoum Sani's family that was brought to Mt Hagen for her surgery, showing Yaoum (far right), her grandfather Sani Matayam (second from right), his sister Anna Mendai (far left), and her husband Sayer Mendai (second from left).
Yaoum Sani (right) with her grandfather Sani Matayam (second from right), his sister Anna Mendai (left), and her husband Sayer Mendai (middle).

At Angau Memorial Hospital, doctors informed Sani that Yaoum would need surgery they could not provide, and recommended the family go to Port Moresby.

It was during this time that Luther Wenge, the Governor of Morobe Province, heard Yaoum’s story. Mr Wenge provided funding for both the medevac and surgery that Yaoum needed.

“The Morobe governor made an arrangement for this little girl to come all the way here in Hagen,” said Sayer.

God has a plan for her life
Sayer Mendai

The surgery was performed at Mt Hagen General Hospital over five hours. While similar cases had previously proven incurable, Dr Benjamin Yapo successfully removed both tumours.

"God has a plan for her life,” said Sayer.

The family remained at Mt Hagen General Hospital for about two weeks, and recently were able to return home. Governor Wenge - again - worked with Manolos Aviation to visit Mt Hagen for the family’s return. The family was brought to the MAF base at Mt Hagen while awaiting the flight home.

“MAF facilitated the handover of the patient out of Hagen back to Lae,” said Manolos Aviation Pilot Jan Henning.

Manolos Aviation Pilot Jan Henning standing beside Manolos helicopter.
Manolos Aviation Pilot Jan Henning.

The MAF team not only hosted the family as they arrived from the hospital but were also able to guide the safe arrival and departure of the Manolos Aviation helicopter.

Through cases like these MAF stays connected and supports many different partner organisations to help isolated people in PNG.

“You guys have been awesome,” said Jan Henning. “Not just in this case, but any time we’ve needed your help, be it drums of fuel in remote locations or just to say hello.”

It is through one of MAF’s values, partnership, that people, especially children like Yaoum, can receive the support they need when they need it most.