Educator, Volunteer, Advocate: Meet Hamlin Champion Lynne

Lynne at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital

Meet Lynne Acworth: educator, volunteer, and passionate advocate for obstetric fistula patients. Now retired, the Sydney-based Geography teacher has participated in a variety of activitiesfrom volunteering at the Hamlin Shop to educating future generations about preventable childbirth injuries in Ethiopia. This reflects the amazing ethos that all of our Hamlin Champions embody.

Passionate about eradicating fistula

Lynne first heard about Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia when a friend recommended ‘The Hospital By the River’. Reading Catherine’s book left a lasting impression on Lynne: “As I went through, I was so amazed at what they did. One couple raising the money to transform the lives of so many while continuing to work as doctors!”

Lynne’s perspective on Hamlin was shaped by her own experiences. After spending three years teaching English near the town of Jos in northern Nigeria in the 1970s, Lynne knows first-hand how essential it is to access community services such as schooling and health care. Determined to help, Lynne decided to volunteer at the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation in 2012, after retiring from teaching high school Geography. “I kept the story in the back of my head, and when I retired, I wanted to do something to really help others,” she explains. By helping out at the Hamlin Shop, working Hamlin stalls at events and giving talks to community groups, Lynne became a Hamlin Champion.

Lynne visited Ethiopia as part of the Hamlin Ethiopian Adventure in 2016. During her trip, Lynne and her fellow Hamlin Champions visited Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Hamlin’s Bahir Dar Fistula Hospital, Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Centre Desta Mender, and a Hamlin-supported midwifery clinic – in addition to seeing numerous cultural and historical sites around Ethiopia.

Sharing the Hamlin story with the community

Since 2014 Lynne has given numerous talks to community groups. “I like engaging with people. I’ve given talks to about six rotary clubs – I even did a probus club, to about 50 people! I like to include photos from my trip to Ethiopia, it really brings Hamlin to life,” says Lynne.

In June, Lynne visited Christ Church, St Ives to give a presentation about Hamlin’s work to eradicate fistula in Ethiopia. “It was the first time I had spoken at an event in two years – because of COVID – and I was actually quite nervous!” exclaims Lynne. Despite the nerves, her talk was well received by the community: “They were very welcoming, very friendly – it was lovely!”

“I knew that most of the audience were familiar with the Hamlin story and had read Catherine’s book. Therefore, they wanted to know more about the wider issues and the cultural impacts, such as ‘can every woman go back to her community?’  So, I concentrated on Desta Mender and the holistic approach, about rehabilitating these women so that they can restart their lives. I also explained the recent developments at the hospital and plans for the future such as the Patient Identification Program and the diversion surgery,” she explains.

Lynne’s award-winning school resources

After travelling to Ethiopia, Lynne wanted to help young people learn about obstetric fistula and maternal health care, so she developed a school resource pack for Geography students. Using the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation as a case study, within the wider context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 3 (good health and wellbeing) and 5 (gender equality) she has written lesson activities, presented data and included articles. The resource pack is in line with the Stage 5 and Stage 6 NSW Geography Syllabus and Australian Curriculum.

In 2018, Lynne’s work was published in the bulletin of the Geography Teachers Association of NSW & ACT. Her feature article won the Geography Teachers Association’s Geoff Conolly Memorial Award! Explaining her approach to developing a resource for young people to learn about Dr Catherine Hamlin and obstetric fistula, Lynne explained that the syllabus, and accordingly the resource pack, has an intersectional overview of fistula. “It’s all interconnected with cultural issues and resources,” says Lynne.

Click here to see Lynne’s award-winning geography resource.

Lynne’s inspiring story shows how an individual can make an impact that reverberates beyond their own community. Thank you, Lynne for being a tireless Hamlin Champion and supporting fistula patients!

If you would like a Hamlin speaker at your community event, get in touch with us by emailing [email protected]

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