>2. One person can effect change (part 2)

>I cannot finish this lesson without first bringing attention to a phenomenal organization started by a husband and wife team. I suppose in this example, it’s not one person effecting change but rather two. Dr. Reginald & Dr. Catherine Hamlin came to Ethiopia in 1959 for a three year commitment to establish a midwifery school.  When they arrived, the state of the hospital astounded them. A fellow obstetrician said to them, “the fistula patients will break your heart.”  Up until that point the two doctors had never seen an obstetric fistula. (A fistula develops when the blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and bladder (and/or rectum) is cut off during prolonged, obstructed labor leaving a hole through which urine and/or feces pass uncontrollably.) In developed countries, due to prenatal care and the accessibility of capable doctors for deliveries, fistulas were a thing of the past. Fistulas had been virtually eradicated in the United States by 1895. After seeing the need for doctors dedicated to the repair of fistulas, they began studying the repair of fistulas.

During their first year in Ethiopia, they operated on 30 fistula patients. By 1974, the need had become so great and the solution so simple, that they founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Reginald has since passed away, but Catherine at 87 years old is still a practicing surgeon at the beautiful compound in Ethiopia today. She still lives in a hut on the compound. She has written her autobiography and has attracted world attention after appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. Oprah donated a building and came to visit the patients. One of the employees was laughing as she recalled Oprah’s visit. She gave every one of the 150 patients on the compound, an “O” branded mirror and lipstick. Most of the women had never seen lipstick and had no idea how to use it. It was so funny to watch them use the lipstick for the first time. She also gave them each $100. This is obviously a huge amount of money to these women. Most of the women travelled a long distance to come to the hospital and the money given to them will be used to help them travel back to their villages and perhaps start businesses. The rest of the women, who were not lucky enough to be patients while Oprah visited, sell items on the compound to raise their funds to return home. Some women become midwives or get jobs on the compound. It is an incredibly successful organization. A young idealistic couple came to Ethiopia over 50 years ago and saw a need that with their skills and education, they could meet. Their decision to stay in Ethiopia, leaving behind the comforts of Australia/New Zealand has impacted over 30,000 women.  These 30,000 women would have been left for dead had the Hamlins not intervened on their behalf. 

To learn more about The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital go to http://www.hamlinfistula.org/
I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if more people saw a need and did not think, “Someone needs to fix that” but rather “I need to fix this.” The ability to recognize a need comes very easily to most. We can see trash on the sidewalk and recognize that it makes the sidewalk dirty; we can see a child that is wandering alone and recognize they need to be supervised by an adult, and so on.  Andy taught a series a few months back at Tapestry (http://www.tapestrysavannah.com/) that discussed what makes a person a “Superhero.” He explained that what separates a person from most of the population is not a super skill or amazing gifting, but rather their inability to walk away from a recognized need. A “superhero” sees the issue and will not rest until they have addressed it. When they see the trash, they pick it up. When they see a wandering child, they take their hand and guide them to safety. I know that this seems to oversimplify things. But maybe that is why there aren’t more heroes, because we complicate something that was meant to be simple. Could it be this simple? Isn’t it as simple as signing up for the Big Brother program and committing to be a positive influence in the life of a child? Isn’t it as simple as having medical skills and using your vacation time to use those skills in a country that lacks any proper healthcare? Could it be as simple as seeing a need for a better educational system in your community and becoming passionate about it, enlisting your skills as an administrator and recruiting others with skills to make this happen? All of the examples I just gave are of people I know that have seen needs and decided they too can be heroes. I doubt any of them would call themselves heroes, but they are certainly my heroes. Will they impact 30,000 people like the Hamlins? Likely not. But they will make a difference in one young impressionable boy, dozens of Haitian children in need of healthcare, or hundreds (even thousands) of inner-city Savannah students who would otherwise get lost in the system. One person can effect change. It’s just first finding what needs changed… and then taking the step to make the change. And that movement is contagious. If you decide to take responsibility for the needs that you observe, you will be amazed how the people around you will begin to feel that same responsibility.

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