“An incredible trip – highlight of my entire life, and hard to put into words the sheer awe I have for Catherine and everyone involved with Hamlin both in Ethiopia and Australia.” – Mike
One cold, foggy, Sunday morning in England 20 years ago, my daughter Harriet’s heart rate was dropping seriously during labour in her mother’s tummy. Doctor and midwife were worried. 10 minutes later thanks to an emergency caesarean, Harriet was in my arms, a healthy newborn baby.
A magical moment in my life and fabulous maternal healthcare for a difficult birth that we take for granted. In Ethiopia, that is a “one in a million” situation.
Fast forward 19 years and now living in Sydney, Harriet says “Dad… you like running. You’ve been talking about going on a charity fundraising trip. Why don’t you look at the Hamlin Ethiopia trip?” And so off to Ethiopia I went in November 2017 with the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation. It truly was a trip of my lifetime.
Africa gets into your heart. I visited Africa (Zimbabwe) 25 years ago. I was eager to return and see another African country. And to go in the Great Ethiopia Run there, excellent! Little did I know then that over 40,000 people in Addis Ababa participate in this race every year! Oh yes and they all run (actually many dance round the course!) at altitude – 2,200 metres above sea level. I was off and fundraising for the trip.
Ethiopians may be poor but they are not in poverty. They have a rich, strong, family based culture and are so welcoming. Moreover, Ethiopia has stunning scenery and a warming climate given its highlands.
It is vibrant with colour.
From the stunning and emotionally powerful coloured blankets that all the Hamlin fistula patients wear in Ethiopia, to the striking story-telling paintings in Ethiopian churches from centuries ago, to the picturesque contrast of big, broad blue skies with greenery of trees against the brown land. Like Australia, it is also a country of big skies, epitomising I feel the hope and dreams of the Ethiopians and the Hamlin people there.
The miracles of Hamlin
Meeting just a fraction of the Hamlin people and seeing the impact they have on women’s lives in Ethiopia was simply inspirational. From the incredible surgeons and nurses (many ex-fistula Hamlin cured patients) in the hospitals in Addis Ababa and the regions, to the midwives and teaching staff at the midwives college to the staff and patients at Desta Mender, you cannot not be amazed by the compassion, skill, warmth and joy of these people changing women’s lives for the better.
And a fitting testament to all that Catherine Hamlin has achieved. Being with her for a lunch in the Addis main hospital grounds during our trip was amazing. We were in the presence of a truly great person.
My lasting memory? Seeing the pure joy and gratitude on a women’s face about to return “home” to her village, after 40 years of suffering from a fistula from her obstructed childbirth that long ago. As close as I will ever get to seeing what a miracle in real life looks like. And the Hamlin team give someone a miracle like that every day.
Why not go and see for yourself?
Author: Mike Barker – Hamlin Ethiopian Adventure participant, November 2017
To help Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team eradicate fistula forever, please consider donating today.
Interested in joining our November 2018 or March 2019 Hamlin Ethiopian Adventure? Find out more here.