Reclaiming their lives

For women with more severe fistula injuries, Dr Catherine Hamlin’s Desta Mender, or ‘Joy Village’, offers them a kind of haven.

The rehabilitation facility is a place where women can live in peace and harmony while they slowly regain their physical and mental health.

“Most of them would love nothing more than to return to the world outside. They may not want to go back to their village, or to their family, but they do want to re-engage with the community again. Our strategy is to support them to re-integrate with the community,” says Beletshachew Tadesse, Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Manager.

At Desta Mender, recovering patients are offered a huge range of courses in life skills, problem-solving, basic literacy and numeracy, healthcare, setting up a business, financial training and how to deal with banks and government departments.

They also learn handicrafts, and many, like 23-year-old fistula survivor Asrebeb, produce the ‘Brave and Beautiful’ wraps available here. Last year, 607 patients successfully completed skills training and handicraft education.

In the grounds of Desta Mender, there are vegetable and herb gardens that women look after to learn how to grow food, and they can also do shifts at the café that operates commercially on site, gaining skills in cooking and hospitality.

“It can be difficult building up their confidence and skills but we have had so many success stories now, it’s just wonderful!” says Beletshachew. Among those are women who now love working in childcare, or others who’ve set up their own cafés.

“It’s all about empowerment and then watching them reclaim their lives,” says Beletshachew. “And sometimes you see real miracles happen.”

Warmest thanks to everyone who supported our rehabilitation program this year. Click here to read more. 

Story: Sue Williams 

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