1. When did you first hear about the work of Dr Catherine Hamlin?
Oprah and books! Catherine’s Gift and The Hospital by the River are memoirs that inspired me just as much as they shocked with stories about this devastating injury, obstetric fistula, that affects the most marginalised of women.
2. What motivated you to start volunteering?
The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is special in that it focuses on obstetric fistula, a disease of poverty that disproportionately affects girls who are underdeveloped and ill-prepared to give birth. I believe advocacy of women’s health is key to tackling gender inequality and poverty so it was clear to me that volunteering was something I could give to this cause.
3. How long have you been volunteering and what are your volunteer roles?
I have been volunteering for over a year now, helping out mostly in The Hamlin Shop. Roles range from spreading word of the wonderful work that is being done by Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia to packing and posting orders from all around the world. I also help out in the backend of our e-commerce store and process donations in the office. As a volunteer, you get opportunities to try new things and learn as well.
4. What’s your favourite part about volunteering?
The people: your fellow volunteers, the Hamlin staff and the supporters you meet. Everyone is your teacher and I cherish being able to learn and volunteer aside such a wonderfully diverse team. Last but not least are our patients who have overcome overwhelming odds. When I hear the story of a woman who sat at a bus stop for six years, begging for the fare that would take her from the Kenyan border to Addis Ababa, facing rejection and suffering from this terrible internal injury, I am inspired by her resilience – her indomitable desire for life.
5. Why are you passionate about this cause?
I strongly believe healthcare should be a right for all, not a privilege. The free treatment of fistula patients, Hamlin model of holistic care, education of midwives from rural areas and five hundred Ethiopian hospital staff all contribute towards restoring the dignity and health of women. This cause is part of a broader vision to provide maternal healthcare to all. The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is a humanitarian endeavour par excellence.
6. Anything else about volunteering at Hamlin that you’d like to say?
When you volunteer at Hamlin, you cannot help but think of the bigger picture. When Reg passed away, Catherine wondered how she could bear the burden. With the support of those around her, she realised she could carry on. As she wrote in The Hospital by the River “I began to realise the enormous blessings that I had, and the future seemed suddenly bright and exciting.” Catherine’s perseverance and dedication is a constant affirmation of the power of aspiring and altruism. That is Catherine’s gift to all of us.