I belong to a Women’s Global Giving Circle, and it was through this group that I became aware of the Fistula problem in other parts of the World. I may have heard of it before, but I really did not know the full implications. One of the members of the Circle did a presentation on it, and this brought home the problem. I donated at the meeting, and I thought that was the end of it.
Months later I received a newsletter from The National Fistula Foundation. Reading it, I saw there was a hospital in Tanzania that did Fistula operations for free. I was going to Tanzania to fund the drilling of wells, so why couldn’t I also donate for Fistula operations while I was there? It meant I had to raise more money than planned. And that is what I did.
I was in contact with Sharon Howe from the Foundation. She told me about Dr. Browning who operates free of charge for women with Fistula problems in Arusha. Arusha is located in the far north of Tanzania. I planned to fly there from Dar es Salaam to meet the Doctor and his patients. It was expensive, but I felt it would be worth the trip to meet and help these women. As I got closer to my departure date, Sharon told me Dr. Browning had gone to Sierra Leone to help there. Now what was I going to do?
I presented the problem to my host/business partner, Maria, in Tanzania. She informed me there was a hospital very close to her home that did Fistula operations. Sharon Howe introduced me by email to the CEO, Erwin Telemans, of CCBRT (Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania). This was excellent news. I would save the time and expense of going to Arusha.
I visited Erwin at CCBRT this week. CCBRT performed 350 Fistula operations last year, and their goal is to do 1000 operations by 2014. They have two and one half doctors on the Staff that perform these operations. Each operation is totally free for these women. How wonderful! CCBRT has started an extensive ad campaign to let women know about this free service. Most of the women cannot even afford transportation to get to this hospital, much less the cost of the operation. The service includes transportation, the operation, catheters, and post care before they go home.
Women ages 13 to 80 are being operated on in Dar es Salaam. Some of these women have had this problem for years, and they have been too embarrassed to come forward for help. It is slowly changing as word spreads. I visited one of the Fistula wards. I saw young girls who had just been operated on, middle aged women who were about to have the operation, and older women who were in the final stages of healing. At the present time they have two wards just for Fistula patients, with another ward being built. The Staff was friendly, and the area very clean.
Our donation of $5000 will go just for women who have Fistula problems. It will fund about 15 operations. I left this Hospital feeling very good. I would like to make this a yearly donation if I can raise the funds.
I thank everyone who is helping me help others. Your money is being well spent, whether it is here or for wells, solar power, goats or soccer balls.