Nonprofit Spotlight: Healing Hands of Joy

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5 months ago, thanks to the Pangea Advisors initiative through Columbia Business School, I travelled with 2 friends throughout Ethiopia to conduct impact assessment on Healing Hands of Joy (HHOJ) and organization which addresses one of the most urgent, critical issues of women in developing countries:  obstetric fistula.

What is Obstetric Fistula?  I’ll let journalist Nick Kristof tell you:

“obstetric fistulas [is] a condition almost unknown in the West but indescribably hideous for millions of sufferers in the poorest countries in the world.

It typically occurs when a teenage girl cannot deliver a baby because it is too big for her pelvis. After several days of labor without access to a doctor, the baby dies and the girl is left with a hole between her bladder, vagina and sometimes rectum. The result is that urine and sometimes feces drip constantly down her legs. In some cases, she is also left lame from nerve damage….

They are often abandoned by their husbands and driven out by other villagers.

Take Mahabouba Mohammed, whom I met here in Addis Ababa…After a long labor, she delivered the dead baby herself but suffered crippling internal injuries, including a fistula.

Ms. Mohammed crawled back to the village, but the baby’s father was horrified by her smell. He confined her in a faraway hut and removed the door — so that hyenas, attracted by the odor, would tear her apart at night.

This girl fought off the hyenas and crawled for a day to reach an American missionary, who eventually brought her to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital that Dr. Hamlin heads. Dr. Hamlin was able to repair her fistula, and now Ms. Mohammed is a confident young nurse’s aide at the hospital here.”

HHOJ works with the Hamlin Fistula Hospital and “gives former fistula patients a second chance by giving them a purpose, training, counseling and the opportunity to improve their villages and save lives by training them as Safe Motherhood Ambassadors. We also empower these women economically with income-generating skills training and start-up small business funds.”

Alongside HHOJ’s incredible founder Allison Shigo and her dedicated staff, we met with many of the Safe Motherhood Ambassadors who have gone through the HHOJ program including:

  • Ametetsion (pictured above): her husband left her and before she went through the HHOJ program, she had no money to pay for day-to-day life – now she is running a successful home brewery and pub

In addition to meeting many of the women who graduated from the HHOJ program, we also met the current group of women who were living at the HHOJ center in Mekelle and going through the program.

We absolutely fell in love with the women at the center and with HHOJ and encourage anyone interested to:

  • Visit HHOJ’s website to learn more about the organization: http://www.healinghandsofjoy.com
  • Watch Founder Allison Shigo’s Emmy Award winning documentary on these women: A Walk to Beautiful
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Filed under Ethiopia, Nonprofit Spotlight

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