Say yes and work it out later

“Our purpose was united, we all wanted to support the wonderful work of Catherine Hamlin. Each day of our trip was even more amazing than the last.” – Caroline 

So why did I choose to travel to Ethiopia?

Saying ‘yes’ is something that I have been trying out lately and it has certainly changed my life in so many ways. It scares me half to death to try so many new things. Moving out of my comfort zone and into the wonderful world we share together is priceless. So that is how I found myself travelling to the continent of Africa. I said ‘Yes, I am going to fundraise for Hamlin and travel to Addis Ababa. I was going visit the Fistula Hospital that Reg and Catherine Hamlin set up 60 years ago’, that I’d read about in the book The Hospital by the River. This was a unique opportunity that gave me new experiences to appreciate, and opportunities to meet new people. I was so excited!

This is how I found myself in Ethiopia with 16 new friends. I would be spending 12 hours each day with them for the next 19 days. Our purpose was united, we all wanted to support the wonderful work of Dr Catherine Hamlin. Each day of our trip was even more amazing than the last. We met Catherine and her team and shared a lunch experience at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. How lucky we were to be in this tranquil and healing oasis. The grounds were calm and peaceful, a happy place for fistula patients to be cured and loved. We loved spending time with the staff and patients there.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia focuses on the treatment of obstetric fistulas; rehabilitation of scars, both emotional and physical and prevention, by training midwives and resourcing regional health centres.

“Don’t worry the money will come”

The scary bit about saying “Yes” was having to raise $10K… but I found this to be surprisingly easy and fun. Connecting with people and raising awareness for the Catherine Hamlin Foundation has been a privilege and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Hamlin Team. Many friends came along to an Easter morning tea, a bike ride and a Casino night for my birthday. Three events was all it took to raise over $10,000. I was blown away by the generosity of friends who were so willing to support this cause.

Ethiopia – an unexpected surprise

Some of the most memorable experiences from the trip were the little surprises that weren’t on the itinerary.

An impromptu stop in a village called Maseru, on the drive to Lalibela, found us meeting a local family, having lunch in the front yard and a walk through their modest home. Some would find this bizarre to drop in unannounced, let alone as a group of 17 foreigners or ‘forengi’, as we were so often called. However, our unannounced arrival couldn’t have been more welcomed. Genet* who welcomed us into her home, brought out a woven floor mat and cow skins for us to sit on and eat our picnic lunch. We were then lucky enough to meet all of her family members who promptly showed up at the house.

Her three-room home consisted of two bedrooms and a kitchen to store grains. The cattle and chickens lived under the house which helped to heat the rooms above. Her home was simple, uncluttered and she welcomed us in without thinking twice.

This beautiful lady who has raised her children makes me reflect on how remote the country side is. Where she has little in terms of material possessions, she is rich in heart and generosity.

In Ethiopia, a woman dies every 2 minutes due to pregnancy and childbirth related complications. For a population of 100 million there are only 250 obstetricians/gynaecologists and less than 10,000 trained midwives. Currently about 85% of births in Ethiopia take place without on a skilled birth attendant.

I wondered how this mother would have received help if she needed it when she was giving birth to her children.

Yifag Health Centre and Hamlin midwives

Our visit to a Hamlin Midwifery Clinic at Yifag health centre showed us the reality of a very basic setting where two young Hamlin midwives have been deployed to help give family planning education, assist with childbirth deliveries and referral to hospitals if needed.

Midwives save lives 

Since 2007, the Hamlin College of Midwives has been training midwives in a four-year Bachelor of Science Degree in Midwifery. Hamlin midwives are helping more mothers have safe deliveries and access quality healthcare. Every Hamlin student is on full scholarship. The Hamlin strategy is to place a midwife within their community and hometown, particularly in rural areas where there is no existing medical assistance.

Having seen the Hamlin College of Midwives first-hand, I was amazed by the standard of excellence in the academic program. Dr Catherine Hamlin’s dream to eradicate obstetric fistula will be made possible with the training of more midwives.

When a Hamlin midwife is placed in a rural area, the number of new fistulas drops to zero in nearby villages!

Funding is needed to train more midwives. A four-year degree for one student costs $18,000. I hope Australian donors will continue to be generous in their support. Together we can eradicate obstetric fistula.

*Not real name

Author: Caroline Forbes – 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 2018 or 2019 Hamlin Ethiopian Adventure? Find out more here.

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