Dr Catherine Hamlin lives in a little cottage on the grounds of the hospital she founded in 1974 with her late husband, Dr Reg Hamlin. Even from this plot of land by a river, Catherine’s pioneering actions have resonated across the world, inspiring thousands to do what they can to help eradicate fistula. Forever.
Catherine’s autobiography, ‘The Hospital By the River’, written with John Little, raised awareness of the plight of thousands of Ethiopian women suffering the indignity of obstetric fistula. For many, the discovery that this childbirth injury is entirely preventable has inspired them to make a contribution to the work of Catherine and the team at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.
For Hamlin Champion Shobhana, learning that she could help women suffering on the other side of the world inspired her to turn a special day into a life-changing one. For her 40th birthday, Shobhana decided to raise funds through a community fun run. The impact of her generosity not only brought her community together, it fundamentally changed the lives of 15 women in Ethiopia.
You can read Shobhana’s story, in her own words, in the excerpt below:
Bigger than a Birthday
Approaching my 40th birthday I was actually very apprehensive. I had the usual life questions that tend to surround these milestones and I wanted to mark the occasion in a way that would have real meaning. I toyed with the idea of a weekend away or a party but these ideas just didn’t resonate.
I first read Dr Catherine Hamlin’s book when I was 21 and about to graduate from medical school. Catherine has been one of my greatest heroes ever since, and I have been so inspired by her generosity and courage.
So I decided to dedicate this birthday to something bigger than me… and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Two of my other great loves are fitness and community, and I wanted to find a way to bring all of these into my celebration.
In the lead up to my 40th birthday, I ran an online fundraiser asking my friends and colleagues to consider donating any money they might have spent on a present or a dinner to this cause. The response was overwhelming – I even received incredible support from friends and family I haven’t seen for years. And the best part? Every time you receive a donation you get a little birthday message pop up in your email. It honestly makes your heart burst and would brighten up every single day!
On the day of my birthday my friends and family gathered in our local park and ran – quite literally – our very own fundraiser. Some of us ran, while others strolled. People pushed prams and kids rode scooters and bikes! For every km that we covered I donated $10 to the Hamlin foundation…and in the end we covered combined total of 120km!
Afterwards, we had a food truck come to the park from a wonderful organisation called Crepes for Change. We all ate our well-earned crepes for breakfast, and all the proceeds went to a youth homeless shelter.
Perhaps the best moment was seeing my four-year-old daughter cheering as I crossed the finish line. It has been amazing to talk to her about the joy of giving, and spurred many conversations about how fortunate she is and how she can reach out to people in need.
All in all, we raised just under $10,000 which completely exceeded anything I could have hoped for. Together we paid for 15 women to undergo fistula surgery at Hamlin Fistula Hospitals in Ethiopia.
Without a doubt, it was my favourite birthday so far and such a special way to start this next decade of my life!
Author: Dr Shobhana Nambiar – Hamlin Champion
More of a foodie than a fitness lover? You can join the Hamlin Sister Circle and host your own Hamlin fundraiser through our High Tea for Hamlin initiative. Find out how you can make a difference here.