Building a New Life with New Skills

Nestled along quiet gardens, and in the shadow of a mountain on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, are ten houses which each accommodate recovering obstetric fistula patients. Desta Mender is more than a home to its patients, it is a community, where women can learn, recover and live together. Patients with chronic injuries that require longer-term medical treatment find sanctuary here. After Dr Catherine Hamlin opened Desta Mender in 2002, the emphasis of the rehabilitation centre expanded to incorporate programs focused on reintegration.

Desta Mender today

Today there is a large market garden where vegetables are grown. This supplies the entire community at Desta Mender; surplus vegetables are used at the nearby Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. The Juniper Café at Desta Mender opened in 2009. Initially to teach patients hospitality, the cafeteria is now run largely by former patients. Many former patients have been able to leave Desta Mender to set up their own cafés.

The emphasis at Desta Mender has matured over time and now focuses on reintegration, enabling recovering patients to develop skills useful in the community so that they can leave Desta Mender and be self-sustaining. Patients take literacy and numeracy classes as part of their rehabilitation and reintegration, as well as learning vocational skills and handicrafts. In the 2019 financial year, 673 patients graduated from an education course, and 830 patients were enrolled in life skills and vocational training courses.  Vocational skills are vital in reintegrating patients back to their communities; with vocational skills, patients can find sources of employment which allow them to lead autonomous lives.

Read former Desta Mender patient, Fetenech’s story here.

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