Tuesday, 11 November 2008

time to give

I'd heard about Catherine Hamlin a few years ago, and each time I read stories about her work I cry. An aussie obstetrician and gynaecologist in her 80s she works tirelessly to help women injured in childbirth in Ethiopia. Some of her patients walk for hundreds of kilometres to seek her help, some of them have been living with their injuries for decades.

Women whose births are difficult and prolonged and who receive no medical aid often lose both their child and their health, especially when they are young. They develop fistulas, holes between their bladders or rectums and their vaginas. They most often become outcasts because they smell and leak and are sometimes cast as cursed. Their husbands and families frquently abandon them and they are often still just teenagers.

Catherine Hamlin and her husband Reg opened the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital 35 years ago and have cared for, operated on, educated, housed and in every imaginable way worked for a better life for the 32,000 women who have come to their door. All treatments are free and women who can't be cured are provided with long term accommodation and purpose for their lives.

I think I feel particularly affected by this issue because if I hadn't had surgical help to birth my children this almost certainly would have happened to me. How unfair is the world that we live to complain about the medicalisation of our births while women routinely lose their babies, their husbands, their dignity and place in society for lack of it.

This work is so so important, and sadly still so incredibly vulnerable. They do not have the kind of financial backing to ensure their ongoing survival let alone fully realise their plans to train midwives to help prevent these kind of injuries at the village level. They really need our help, and Catherine's 50 years of hard work needs to be rounded off with the confidence that her work matters and will continue after she is gone.

While $450 isn't enough for one night's stay in most hospitals in Australia or the United States, it is enough for Hamlin Fistula Hospitals to provide one woman with restorative surgery, postoperative care, and classes in health and basic literacy while she recuperates. It's even enough to provide her with a new dress and bus fare home.

If you give to just one charity this year, make it this one.


kirsten said...

amen to that, sooz, i am with you on this one.
i, too, would have ended up like these women without a doubt during my own childbirth experience.
[and what an incredible and inspiring woman she is.]

Anonymous said...

I just read this book too! Now I think about it I would have had the same problem if I was in their situation. It is such a preventable thing that is a very complex, cultural issue. This woman is inspirational!!


Wisdom.Courage.Love said...

Thanks for bringing subjects like these out into the open... I too am extremely interested in this and hope to in the future take a trip over to help out even if only for a short time!!! I recently watched a documentary and the heartbreak and elation I felt for the women (girls!! in most cases) compels me to be more thankful for our health system. We all have a story to tell and who knows who it might help in the long run.

By the way, I enjoy reading your blog!!!!

travellersyarn said...

Hear! Hear! When I was at University (many eons ago) I did a unit called "the Victorian novel", and was amazed by how frequent the death in childbirth was as a plot device.

As for me, medical intervention probably saved the lives of my children. I had a pregnancy condition in both pregnancies that is a cause of still-bith.

Thanks for promoting this wonderful charity.

Marita said...

A great post. I saw a doco recently and was so inspired by Catherine, her work is so important. Seeing a woman's life so dramatically improved and her dignity restored was just wonderful.

Colleen said...


Just, thankyou.

sewjourn said...

Yes couldn't agree more Suzie, I heard a couple who work with Catherine speak about 2 years ago and it was amazing. We are so blessed to live in the country we do!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I really enjoy your blog. You've sort of opened the door to a whole new world. Thanks.

Carli said...

I love that book too (an Catherine Hamlin!) - I made everyone in our book club read it too - it was a real awakening for some of our members.

I got my soapnuts at the organic expo in Sydney - I think it was from these guys http://www.soapinanutshell.com.au/main/page_order_soapnut_products_online_soapnut_shells.html

Hope that helps you!