Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin knew that they needed to build a life together that was fulfilling and challenging. As experienced and forward-thinking obstetrician-gynaecologists, they had both experienced working in several overseas postings, yet when a posting to work in Ethiopia was listed in the medical journal The Lancet, it was an opportunity that the couple could not let pass by.
An adventurous life
Between 1952 and 1956, Catherine and Reg worked across the globe, on the hunt for adventure. Reg worked as the ship’s surgeon on the English Star, a cargo ship the couple took to Britain. In London, Reg took up a position at the Samaritan Hospital for Women while Catherine was at the famous Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was in London where Catherine gave birth to her son Richard and where Reg received his MRCOG (Member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists), yet London did not prove challenging enough for the young family, so they moved on to Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, Catherine worked in a clinic in Kowloon while Reg worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. After nine months in Hong Kong, the humidity proved too much so the Hamlins decided to return to the antipodes. After a one-month obstetric locum in New Zealand, Catherine and Reg finally returned to Australia where they spent some time in Sydney and Adelaide.
A serendipitous sign of luck
Establishing a comfortable life in Adelaide, Reg and Catherine were still left feeling unfulfilled; they knew they had so much to offer to people in less privileged parts of the world. Scanning their medical journals for possible jobs, the Hamlins found an advertisement in The Lancet Medical Journal. The position was perfect: it included teaching and midwifery, and was helping vulnerable people; nevertheless, Reg had doubts about moving the young family to Ethiopia, a place they knew very little about.
The accounts of Ethiopia that the couple did receive were vastly contrasting and did little to assuage Reg’s doubts, even as their departure date approached. On an uncharacteristic long drive into the country to mull things over, Reg stopped over at a pub for a drink. As he nursed his beer, the barman approached Reg asking, “What’s up mate? You look as though you’ve got something on your mind.” After Reg explained his situation, a man quietly sitting next to him said, “I’ve just come from there. It’s a marvellous place. I’ve been there for three years with a mapping mission and I love it… just go.”
That was the sign for the Hamlins. Their doubts soothed; they took off for Ethiopia knowing it was where they were meant be.
Over the following 61 years Catherine, Reg and the team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia have treated over 60,000 women. This staggering result is only thanks to the generosity of our donors. Please consider donating today.