How One Illawarra Mum is helping thousands of Mums in Ethiopia

How one Illawarra mum is helping thousands of mums in Ethiopia, and get this, it is when she shops online!

“If the way I spend my money can have a positive impact on someone’s life, I’ll choose that option”

These are the words of 34-year-old Southern Illawarra based, Calderwood Mum, Jo Teylor, who says she is striving to minimise her impact on the world around her.

“I try to vote with my wallet when I shop. I try and buy ethical and Fair Trade products when I can. As I get older I think more about the impact I have on the world, and I’m trying to teach my children about the type of society we should strive towards,” she says.

And when it comes to gift giving it’s now the story behind the gift that she thinks about most. In Jo’s case all she needs is an internet connection in Calderwood to make a difference to the lives of thousands of women in Ethiopia.

“A friend told me about the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation and I’ve started trying to buy gifts from them when I can,” she says. The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation was founded 60 years ago by Australian surgeons Catherine and Reg Hamlin.

What started as a three-year posting in Ethiopia turned into a lifetime quest to provide treatment to the most marginalised women – those who have suffered an obstetric fistula.

Over the last 60 years the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation has helped over 60,000 women who have suffered an obstetric fistula. In 2018 alone they helped over 1,000 women with major fistula repairs and over 23,000 babies were delivered by Hamlin trained midwives.

“It’s pretty amazing to think me buying a small gift for someone like earrings or lip balm can contribute to such life-changing work,” Jo says.

Jo is a busy mum of two and believes society has become so fast paced that we don’t think enough about the impact our purchases have on the world. “We live in a society that loves fast-fashion and cheap mass-produced products. I think that at times like Mother’s Day or Christmas it should be about quality, not quantity. I would encourage everyone to try buying from a charity like Hamlin. Find out the story behind your gift, it’s important to think about our footprint.”

The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation sells products online so everyone in Australia, including regional areas like the Illawarra, can have access to their Fair Trade and ethical products. Artisans across Africa make Hamlin’s products. They range from homewares, fashion accessories, jewellery, books, baby wraps and toys, spices, coffee and kitchen accessories.


Every purchase helps provide income and employment to these artisans. It’s all about conscious consumption. Shopping for a sustainable gift that supports employment in places where it is needed most. In addition, the profits are used to support the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Proceeds fund fistula treatment for many hundreds of Ethiopian women.

Obstetric fistula is virtually a thing of the past in the western world. But in rural Ethiopia, where women have little or no access to maternal healthcare, they will be in agonising labour for days if their birth is obstructed. They almost always lose their baby and suffer unimaginably horrific internal damage that leaves them leaking urine, faeces, and sometimes both. They are shunned and cut off from their communities.

With support from the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia gives these women back their life and dignity through surgery, rehabilitation and counselling. You can find out more about the Hamlin Shop and make a fair trade purchase here.

Guest author: Kate Mayhew

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