A dark time
Yeshi was just a teenager when she suffered a severe obstetric fistula, due to an obstructed labour 20 years ago. The experience was so traumatic, she does not talk about it. What we do know is that her bladder was destroyed and the nerves in her legs damaged, leaving her with difficulty walking and the need for a cane.
Living in a remote village where no one knew what a fistula was, she was shunned and alone – no longer invited to see friends, not allowed to travel on public transport. For one year, Yeshi lived this painful, invisible existence. During this time, her father passed away from what Yeshi believes was a broken heart from what had happened to her. Finally, her mother heard about Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and raised enough money to pay for Yeshi’s transport to Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.
Welcomed with love and care
When Yeshi arrived at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, she was completely taken aback. Having imagined she was the only person in the world to have this condition, Yeshi was surprised to see so many other women suffering just like her.
For the first time – in a long time – she was no longer invisible but part of a loving community.
Yeshi’s case was extremely complicated. Since her first fistula surgery 20 years ago, she has had three more operations, as well as intensive physiotherapy for her legs. Though she had a good recovery, her nerve damage means she will always have difficulty walking. Yet for Yeshi, the fact she can walk at all is amazing.
“Catherine is like our emaye (mother). I have no words – there is no other person in the world who could help me.” – Yeshi
Thriving at Desta Mender
In 2003, Yeshi made the transition from Hamlin’s hospital in Addis Ababa to Desta Mender. Yeshi was one of the very first patients to experience Hamlin’s longer-term rehabilitation program.
The Hamlin Model of Care aims to nourish not only the body but also the mind, so these women not only survive – they thrive.
At Desta Mender, Yeshi received something she thought she would never have – an education. Now, she is no longer illiterate and through the education programs at Desta Mender, she also learnt bookkeeping and cashier skills. This set Yeshi up for the next stage of her life – a new chapter as the owner of a coffee shop called ‘Courage’.
“I’m so proud of Yeshi. She has made remarkable success in her life and business. She is a lesson for all of us, she is amazing.” – Beletshachew Tadesse, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Manager at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia
Yeshi’s café is based at the Hamlin College of Midwives – and is prospering. Since opening the café in 2012, Yeshi has not missed a single day of work. For her, being able to work is a gift she never takes for granted.
Yeshi now has her own income and has created a life where she has choices. When asked about her success, she is most proud of the impact she has been able to make for her family. Her regular income enables her to pay for her younger brother and sister to attend high school.
Yeshi knows how important an education is. Being able to support her siblings through their studies is, for Yeshi, a wonderful gift.
“Fistula is behind me. It doesn’t prevent me from being someone special. I am a business woman, I have something for myself and my family, I have big things. So fistula? Behind me, behind me.” – Yeshi
A life lived with courage
Yeshi’s café is called ‘Courage’. This beautiful name is reflective of Yeshi and her courage to create a life she could never have dreamed of 20 years ago.
Hamlin’s Desta Mender helps to rewrite the stories of many women like Yeshi. The education and skills training provided enables women to earn an income and go on to live with dignity and independence. To date, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has helped 40 past fistula patients start their own business.
An empowered woman creates an empowered community. An empowered community creates an empowered world.
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