One of my images was included in the Ten Best Images of 2011 list from Mercy Corps from a list of 15,000 images!
We just completed a video interview with Dr. Catherine Hamlin from the content I captured last October at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital. This video is being used by Hamlin Fistula USA as well as in Ethiopia.
I was interviewed for this ASMP Bulletin about the difficulties in securing permissions to use music for multi-media presentations. Thank you, David Schommer, for granting permission to use one of your groovy songs from Bole 2 Harlem for my Ethiopia: Feel The Love video. Bole 2 Harlem was playing everywhere I went in Addis last month!
Read interview here.
Day ends, and I am bone tired. Dani took me to meet his aunt Welansa and I instantly fall into her and her very enaging friend who recently moved back to Ethiopia. They are a duo of fun, and I once again find myself wanting to stay here forever.
I feel like I fit here….my humor is understood, I dance every day, my visual senses are fed. I miss my family and friends at home, and I wish I could somehow bridge the two. Perhaps there is a way….
I find myself wanting to be silent – watch everything go down in front of me. Mix mash of people, classes, tribes and various forms of transportation and languages. A sashay of Amharic and Oromic interplay, here, there, everywhere. Music, click click of high heels on sidewalks, people running everywhere, fast. Rhythm. Everything has rhythm here.
Out of the chaos, a small boy tugs my sleeve. I look down, and see Miki, hair church-ready slicked back and torn shirt haphazardly tucked into his frayed pants. I see a lot of street kids here, box of gum in hand, showing a persistency that any CEO would envy. But Miki seems different. There is something about him that makes me want to engage with him. Yet, experience warns my heart, and I pass by, finding a seat at the nearby coffee shop.
I see that Dani offers Miki one birr ($.05) for gum. Miki’s face lights up and he asks Dani to choose what flavor he would like. Dani waves at him and says it is ok, he doesn’t need gum today, sell it to someone else. Miki instantly begins to cry, deflated that Dani was not taking his gum. He pleads with Dani, saying that it is not right to take money without giving Dani what he bought. With integrity front and center, he stands firm until Dani relents and takes a piece of gum.
Miki works the same corner, in front of Friendship Mall in Addis Ababa, every day. He was born on this busy street, and remains at the same spot, living with his mother and trying to make a few cents each day in the most fair manner.
Ethiopia, I am so honored to be here and learn from your people.
Addiss talks with each woman, giving swift advice and health care diagnosis as she recognizes issues. One by one, the women come in to the makeshift clinic, exposing their vulnerabilities and asking many questions.
Every woman has the right to deliver a healthy baby.
The husbands wait nearby, eager to hear of any news, with their hands reaching out to their wives. Waiting, waiting.
I watch Addiss care for one patient, two patients,…..six patients. Their eyes tell me of their desperation to be seen by a knowledgeable health care worker. Addiss simply moves through her day, ego in check. After all, this is what she sought: to help all rural women in this area give birth to their children without devastating results.
I ask Addiss if she has time for herself, and this question is met with curiosity. She can’t even comprehend what I am asking. After searching my face for a sign of understanding, she simply relays: I am dedicated to the mothers of Ethiopia.
Dani appears from the darkness surrounding the Mimosa Hotel, and my heart takes an extra jump. DANI! I am incredibly happy to see him, this young man who keeps me safe, and more importantly sane, in Addis Ababa.
I am here! He says. Do you think otherwise?
We share the same love for hip hop and rap music, as well as more traditional Ethiopian fare, and when our eyes first meet each time we see each other, we break into shoulder dancing. It is always so great to see him!
He helps me get settled the first day here, and the love I feel for him grows each day I am with this funny and spirited guy. Dani!
Each morning, he comes to pick me up in his van, and helps me navigate language barriers, cultural protocols and equipment issues. Such a creative soul he is. Give him any problem, and he will think of a solution. He only likes spending time with “people of positive” and I watch him as he intently looks at people….he has an uncanny ability to assess situations and make the most of them….or get the hell away.
Do you want to take lunch with me, he asks? YES! I say, and off we go on another happy van ride…..he in modern style, me trying to respect and emulate Ethiopian traditional culture. We make a great pair, and by the end of each day, my cheeks are literally aching from laughing so much. He personifies the Ethiopian wicked sense of humor.
Dani works with me at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, helping to set up interview equipment for our time with Dr. Hamlin and other work. He also is a compatible travel partner; our time in BahirDar following a midwife by foot into the bush to see her outreach health post was productive…..and wildly fun.
I learn so much from this special soul. We sanction our friendship into “family”. He is now my bro in the most heart bonding sense.
I love you, Dani.
Her name is Addiss and she is 21 years old.
She lives in a small village, Wotetabay, just outside of BahirDar, Ethiopia and she has dedicated the next six years of her life to helping rural Ethiopian women give birth to healthy babies. A recent graduate of Hamlin College of Midwives, she also knows the signs of fistula and will refer at-risk women to health centers and hospitals where they can receive the care they need to prevent this devastating condition.
She lives alone in a small thatch roof hut, after completing her three years of study at the Hamlin College of Midwives, and her dedication is unlike anything I have ever seen.
She sees patients as they arrive daily, helping them through miscarriages and difficult births and general health care issues. Five times a month she walks, sometimes for seven hours each day, to outreach health centers where she educates the community on women’s health issues.
My heart reaches for her.
I watch her as she helps a women who has just had a miscarriage. She educates the women about hygiene and proper care, and she tends to the husband, answering each of his questions.
She thinks nothing of my words as I say I honor her and will work hard on her behalf. This is simply her calling in life: to dedicate her time to the Hamlin philosophy of ensuring maternal health for all Ethiopian women. She looks intently, directly, into my eyes. She has seen far more than I have.
I follow her to her outpost, walking through corn fields and forests and open fields. She asks for water, and I give her my bottle. It is the least I can do for this girl, my hero. Confidently and with grace, she proceeds to traverse over harsh landscape, focused on arriving before too much time has passed.
The bush clears, and I see a large group of Ethiopians, celebrating church services. Addiss takes her place in the middle of the village people crowd, and when the priest gives her a signal, she begins speaking, educating those around her about maternal health. Clapping, cheering, declarations of promises break out, and the energy is so fervent, I cry. Look at her!
I hear that the village is building a new church, and I give a donation of 400 birr ($24) and the crowd cheers with heartfelt passion. A $24 donation really goes a long way for this village. They proceed to show me the base infrastructure that is in place, and as much as would like to stay and look at every element, and I see Addiss in the distance beckoning me to come. She is late now, and I need to move on.
We walk further, in terrain more difficult to navigate. Finally, I see a break in the landscape ahead and there, nestled in a small field, is a cluster of small mud walled structures. The health outpost at last.
Women are lined up, having waited hours for Addiss to arrive. Pregnant women, mothers with babies, older women. They count on Addiss’ dedication to them.
Not all fistula patients are teenagers and women. Some of them are children, such as Aynababa, age four. Although child marriage is illegal in Ethiopia, many ancient cultural practices support this tradition, which is one situation that can result in fistula due to the young girl’s body not being fully developed to be able to handle childbirth. Other situations, such as rape, does occur, however it is infrequent due to the gentle nature of most Ethiopians.
Educating the rural community about fistula is vitally important to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital organization. Each midwife is trained to perform education outreach to the most remote areas of Ethiopia.
Although Aynababa suffers from fistula, one can see how the Ethiopian spirit cannot be easily broken. Each person she meets is greeted with an infectious smile and a degree of expressed happiness I rarely see in my own country.
I fall in love with the Ethiopian spirit again and again and again.
They have been called some of the bravest women in the world.
When a woman suffers obstructed labor in rural Ethiopia, she often has no place to go. She labors for days, and fistula can develop due to excessive and prolonged pressure on internal organs. The Hamlin Fistula Hospital is devoted to the repair of fistula and the psychological healing of women who suffer this devastating condition. They also are dedicated to helping to prevent fistula from occurring at all.
In November 2010, Dr. Hamlin’s dream came true when the first Hamlin midwife graduates started working in the field, offering prenatal care and a referral service to pregnant women in the countryside. The midwives work alongside the Ethiopian government to help reduce instances of fistula by providing much needed care to these women who live so isolated from health centers.
Each Hamlin health outpost has an ambulance to assist with referrals to regional hospitals where C-sections can be performed in emergency situations. The midwives, all coming from various villages around Ethiopia, are selected via a rigorous interviewing and testing process. Once they complete three years of training at the Hamlin College of Midwives, they return to their villages to work for six years. During this time, they are also educating villagers on maternal healthcare initiatives as well as building trust with the village as a whole. Their days consist of prenatal care, assisting with difficult births, education, and referrals of extreme cases.
It is not an easy job, living so far away from their colleagues and a team of ready support and modern equipment. But they are well equipped for support when they need it. This does not mean that they do not face extremely difficult situations alone. Rural women still prefer to give birth at home, and often go to receive help after it is much too late.
The Hamlin midwife becomes a wise health official rapidly.