One operation can repair a fistula. But that’s not the end of the story.
Dr Catherine Hamlin has dedicated nearly 60 years of her life to restoring the lives and dignity of close to 55,000 women. She has always believed that treating a fistula patient isn’t just treating a hole in the bladder but rather the whole patient.
Beyond the physical mending of scars and injury, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia provides rehabilitation programs that help recovering fistula sufferers reintegrate into their community. For these women who have been shunned from society, this Hamlin Model of Care is a critical aspect of rebuilding self-belief and empowering women to live independently, with dignity and choices.
Every woman who undergoes fistula surgery at one of the six Hamlin hospitals, also receives counselling, physiotherapy and basic literacy and numeracy lessons. However, some women require a lot more support.
With your help, a woman is not defined or condemned by fistula.
From healing to independence
Opened in 2002, Desta Mender (meaning ‘Joy Village’) is a farm and training facility where longer-term patients are provided with counselling and skills training program that are individually tailored to each woman.
Training can range from farming skills, child care qualifications or business skills training. In some cases, this also includes start up grants to establish their own business, enabling these women to generate an income. It enables them not only to survive but to thrive.
Brave and beautiful wraps
Last year more than 600 patients completed skills training and handicraft education. One of the products made by patients are beautiful chunky-knit wraps, knitted from raw Ethiopian cotton.
You can purchase a patient-made wrap at The Hamlin Shop, and support both the patient who made it and the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia!
It’s time to re-write these women’s stories
Below are the incredible stories of three women, Fetenech, Besemu and Beburuyosh who have used their personalised Hamlin care program to successfully find their independence and rewrite their stories.
Customers at Fetenech’s coffee shop are inevitable treated to her beaming smile. The 28-year-old is thriving since she started her business three years ago. She boasts that she is ‘born again’ with a bright future ahead.
It’s an outrageous transformation from when the woman who hid herself away from the world for seven years. A double fistula suffered after after an obstructed labour left here incontinent and as a result humiliated, isolated and cut off from her community.
In her darkest days, Besemu contemplated taking her own life.
“Now I want to live”, she says. Today she is studying English and working as a childcare worker at a local orphanage.
Besemu suffered an obstructed labour for five agonising days without medical care, when she arrive at Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital she was unable to walk, sit or stand.
But it was here that her dramatic transformation started.
For almost two decades, Beburuyosh’s life was filled with unimaginable pain and torment.
For 18 years she lived with severe injuries from childbirth without medical treatment.
Her road to recovery was challenging. Yet her life today, tending her farm and helping others, is inspirational.