Darkroom Gallery: Multiples Exhibit

One of my photos created while on assignment with Hamlin Fistula Hospital was selected by juror William Albert Allard to be in Darkroom Gallery’s “Multiples” show. The exhibit opens September 14 in Essex Junction, Vermont.

These women each had been treated for fistula and were living in Hamlin’s rehabilitation center, Desta Mender, where they learned new skills such as reading, writing and math after their surgeries were completed.

Many women are ostracized by their villages when they develop a fistula, and often they must find new ways of supporting themselves. Undaunted by their struggles, they form a bond while residing at the hospital and help each other heal emotionally. New confidence is found, and together they help each other find new paths to walk, unbridled by the injury they suffered.

Fistulas can develop many ways, but most often it occurs due to obstructed labor. Dr. Catherine Hamlin saw the great need for prevention efforts and developed a midwifery college where young village girls are trained in midwifery and other maternal health care actions in Addis Ababa after which they return to their villages to provide much needed care in their remote home areas.

It has been an honor to stand in front of these brave women, the fistula survivors and the new midwives, and realize how devoted they are to their own healing and to the healing of others.

 

Desta Mender graduates 2015

Desta Mender graduates 2015

Hamlin Midwife Stories

A large part of my work now entails more than just capturing the still image. I am often asked to collect video and professional sound so that the content can be edited into small video stories or other applications. Here are two examples from my work documenting Hamlin midwives in Ethiopia.

Scrolling story

Video

 

Hamlin Midwife

The Guardian: Hamlin Article

Today, May 23, we celebrate International End Fistula Day.  May we band together to rally around the women who do not have access to health care and surgical procedures that can prevent this devastating condition.

The Guardian published an article about Dr. Hamlin and her life long quest to see the eradication of this condition.

Dr. Hamlin's 90th Birthday

Dr. Catherine Hamlin Turns 90!

I had the honor of attending Dr. Catherine Hamlin’s 90th birthday party this month, and what a celebration it was!

Dr. Hamlin’s many decades of work surrounding maternal health in the area of fistula repair and prevention has earned her a well deserved Nobel Peace Prize nomination this year so there were many reasons to celebrate her life.

She was joyous and curious during the whole event, and even came to an intimate dinner party that same night.  She is an incredible inspiration to many!

Nicholas Kristof wrote an article about her, and Oprah made a generous donation to the hospital in her honor.

I am hoping to be able to devote more time to the organization she started.  First up: a redesign of their website and assistance with a revamped communications plan.

And yes, relaying more stories regarding how Hamlin Fistula Hospital saves and improves the lives of rural Ethiopian women.

Dr. Hamlin's 90th Birthday

Dr. Hamlin's 90th Birthday

Dr. Hamlin's 90th Birthday

Dr. Hamlin's 90th Birthday

Ethiopia: Selflessness

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.

Ethiopia: Meet Addiss, A Hamlin Midwife

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.

Ethiopia: Fistula At All Ages

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.

Ethiopia: Brave Women

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.

Ethiopia: Strong Bodies, Strong Spirits

When Asnaku arrived at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, she was extremely weak. Women who suffer from fistula cease eating and drinking, so that their body does not produce waste, thus contaminating their villages. The shame they feel is enormous, and they try to minimize the effects they have on their surroundings and loved ones.

Often, they arrive emaciated and dehydrated. Before they can have surgery, their body must be strengthened by nutrition and physical therapy. Each day, they are required to eat one egg and one piece of bread, and drink plenty of water. Nurses aides, former patients themselves, help them perform exercises so their muscles begin to strengthen.

Foot massages are given daily to increase circulation. This is a most intimate time, when a nurse aid gives a patient her massage, looking deeply into her eyes and ensuring that the patient feels loved and supported.

Asnaku also continues with her exercises after surgery until she is strong enough to return to her village. From the very beginning when Dr. Hamlin developed the program for the hospital, she and her husband Reg knew that whole body wellness was of vital importance.

As Asnaku becomes stronger, she also becomes part of the support circle for newly arriving patients, helping them to become stronger physically and spiritually.

 

Copyright 2017 Joni Kabana. All rights reserved. Site by TD