Dream to help women of Ethiopia

HAYLEY Piggott is preparing to fulfil her lifelong dream and embark on the trip of a lifetime. But she’s not packing for a cruise, or mapping out a tour of Europe.

On November 12, Hayley will be leaving her family’s cattle station in Rolleston to travel to Ethiopia where she has dreamt of witnessing the astounding work of the Australian-based charity, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.

Before she flies out, Hayleyalso aims to raise $20,000 to donate to the charity which helps women who have suffered an obstetric fistula, or a hole in the vaginal and bladder wall, or the vaginal rectal wall, which often causes the death of their baby and severe incontinence.

The devastating condition is caused by a lack of blood flow during a prolonged, obstructed labour that can last three to seven days. Afterwards, the women are ostracised and abandoned in their villages because, due to their incontinence, they smell.

Hayley says: “Most of the time, their baby dies because of the obstructed labour. Sometimes families will still look after the women. Sometimes the women become malnourished and need to go to physiotherapy. Because the situation is so distressing, some women literally curl up and hope it goes away. But then their muscles contract because they are curled up for so long.”

Ever since she was a young child, when her grandmother would buy her an endless supply of second-hand books, Hayley has been in awe of the work of Dr Catherine Hamlin – now aged 93 – an Australian who made it her mission to help the women whose lives were so cruelly affected by obstetric fistulas.

“I read the book, The Hospital by the River, which documents Dr Catherine and her husband Dr Reg Hamlin’s lives, and their developments in Ethiopia,” she says.

“I was about 10 when I read it. I’ve started trying to read the new version again and I’m impressed that I read it a few times as a kid.

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“I found it interesting and inspiring. It’s an uplifting story at the end. It’s stuck in my head and I’ve always thought about it.

“Since then, I’ve had a fascination with Ethiopia and the work the Hamlin Organisation does. So, after I finished my Bachelor of Agribusiness at UNE, I had this burning desire to find out more.”

Twenty-five-year-old Hayley will travel with a group of 18 to visit the main hospital run by the charity, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital which opened in 1974, along with other regional hospitals which are part of a network of support established by the Hamlins.

So far, they have cared for more than 50,000 women.

Hayley says that while she’s in the country, she’ll also take part in a few tourist activities, including the Great Ethiopian Run which is an annual 10km event expected to attract 45,000 participants.

“That’s a day before we come home. And I hate running! I’d rather swim in a pool. But I’m going to try my hardest to run the lot.”

Aims of the 17-day trip are to see where and how the money the charity raises is spent, and spend some time interacting with the patients.

The biggest part of the campaign, Hayley says, is to raise the profile of obstetric fistula because if women are cured of the debilitating condition – and it can mostly be repaired with a single life-changing surgery – they can return to their homes and villages.

Patients, with an average age of 22, who arrive at a Hamlin hospital receive a customised program including nutrition, physiotherapy, counselling and rehabilitation, with the Hamlin model of care focussing on “repairing the injury and restoring dignity”.

The women who can’t be cured live in a village, Dester Mender, where they can make their own income as they are taught skills, help run a farm and can sell crafted goods such as hand-woven wraps.

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While many women receive treatment, the charity is also intent on facilitating prevention. Hayley says in villages where there are trained midwives, obstetric fistula does not exist.

“With a bit of knowledge and a bit of education, prevention can be better than cure. The Hamlin College of Midwives is probably the most important thing, and that’s run by the charity as well.”

The college in Ethiopia celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and runs an intensive four-year degree to train midwives who then live in the local villages. Since 2007, 125 midwives have graduated from the college and, currently, 34 rural midwifery clinics are staffed by Hamlin midwives.

The Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia) charity was started on Dr Catherine Hamlin’s request.

The Hamlins had first travelled to Ethiopia in 1959 to set up a college for midwife training, when they saw the need to help women who had suffered an obstetric fistula.

Hayley says her “natural childhood curiosity and a desire to help” have fuelled her passion as an adult to want to do something for the disadvantaged women.

“I have always loved Hamlin’s story and found it inspiring, so it only feels natural that I try and give back.

“It has always been Dr Catherine Hamlin’s dream to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. It would be absolutely amazing to achieve that,” Hayley says.

“I don’t think any woman deserves to labour alone, to then have a dead baby and a lifelong injury that without treatment leads to a lifetime of ostracisation, lack of livelihood and increased risk of infection.”

Hayley says she also wants fundraising efforts to be able to support the Hamlin College of Midwives.

Donations can be made to Hayley’s fundraising efforts on her Everyday Hero link: https://adventure-2017.

everydayhero.com/au/

hamlin-fistula-ethiopia. People are also welcome to follow her Facebook page: Hayley’s Ethiopian Trip

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