It’s that time of year when we tend to feel a bit more generous in terms of giving to charitable causes. Perhaps it’s the holiday spirit, or perhaps it’s the desire to get in some last-minute tax deductions (or perhaps a bit of both). As both an employee of a nonprofit and a member of the board of another, I know how important the year-end donations can be to an organization’s ability to do its charitable work. (We’d like more donations throughout the rest of the year, too, but we know we’ll always get a great deal of financial support at the end of the year!)
Craig and I contribute to a few causes throughout the year, most notably to the animal shelter where I volunteer, our alma mater, breast cancer research, and Craig’s favorite listener-supported radio station. We make a few other donations as well, here or there, to causes that catch our attention. I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m talking about big bucks here (because trust me, I’m not!), but it is important to us to contribute when we can.
Most recently, over the past year or so, I find myself drawn to Ethiopian causes. We feel a responsibility to try to improve things for our future child’s country, culture, and people. It only makes sense as we learn more about the culture and challenges of life in a developing nation, and think more about the situations that may lead our child to needing to be adopted, that we want to help in some way.
One Ethiopian cause I’ve been drawn to support relates to treating obstetric fistula. I must admit to being totally ignorant to the concept of fistula prior to watching the documentary A Walk to Beautiful over a year ago and later reading The Hospital by the River by Dr. Catherine Hamlin with John Little (which I never reviewed on the blog, but would highly recommend for anyone interested in this type of issue and in reading a non-native’s view of Ethiopia). Fistula are, put simply, holes in organs that shouldn’t be there. (Anyone who watches Grey’s Anatomy might have become more familiar with this concept due to a recent storyline involving pancreatic fistula.) In the developing world, including countries like Ethiopia, obstetric fistula occur frequently due to the lack of medical attention during labor and childbirth.
From The Fistula Foundation:
“Obstetric fistula are the most devastating of all childbirth injuries
An obstetric fistula develops when blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and the bladder (and/or rectum) is cut off during prolonged obstructed labor. The tissues die and a hole forms through which urine and/or feces pass uncontrollably. Women who develop fistulas are often abandoned by their husbands, rejected by their communities, and forced to live an isolated existence.
More than two million women live with fistula
Eradicated in western countries at the end of the 19th century when cesarean section became widely available, obstetric fistula continues to plague women throughout the developing world. It is estimated that there are 100,000 new fistula cases each year, but the international capacity to treat fistula remains at only 6,500 per year. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates the world’s population of fistula sufferers at more than two million.
Nerve damage and psychological trauma
The WHO has called fistula “the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth”. In addition to complete incontinence, a fistula victim may develop nerve damage to the lower extremities after a multi-day labor in a squatting position. Fistula victims also suffer profound psychological trauma resulting from their utter loss of status and dignity.”
Today I made a donation to The Fistula Foundation, an organization that works to raise awareness and funding for the prevention and elimination of obstetric fistula in the developing world, including Ethiopia. I chose to participate in the Love-A-Sister program, which means that I will contribute small amounts throughout the year that will fund the surgery and post-operative care to repair one woman’s fistula.
Many of my bloggy friends are also supporting amazing causes in Ethiopia. The one that stands out in my mind at this particular moment in time is Julie, who is raising funds to build a library through Ethiopia Reads AND raising funds to build a school as well through Tesfa Foundation. (Yes, Julie’s awesome!)
I’m hoping that by sharing this information, I’ll bring these issues and organizations to the attention of caring individuals. Whether you choose to support these organizations or not, please remember to support the causes that are important to you this holiday season.