As a fistula surgeon of many years duration and a board member, it gives me immense pleasure and pride to state what a great organization the Fistula Foundation is. It has provided care for many women, their carers, their surgeons and their communities in very difficult and challenging circumstances. Their help reaches all, and without any borders interceding. An organization who manages their finances in an exemplary fashion and who always wants to say yes! One couldn't ask for any more from any organization providing such wonderful care in under-resourced settings.
Twenty years ago I was introduced to women suffering from obstetric fistula during a visit to Ethiopia and have been connected with the campaign to end fistula ever since. I am impressed with the network of competent treatment partners that the Fistula Foundation has funded and nurtured to restore the hope and dignity of these women.
This non profit has a soul: a soul that radiates integrity: it does what it says plainly that it will do: relieve the suffering of the poorest women on the planet. You can use your head as well as your heart, when you contribute: the non profit keeps records of exactly the number of surgeries that are performed each year in the hospitals and clinics that receive grants; and there are records kept for the number of surgeons who are trained to perform the operations that make women whole again and give them back their lives. And then there are the simple words of the women themselves expresssing their thanks which touch your heart. Please contribute and join me in this important effort to wipe out obstetric fistula.
I keep a bumper sticker tucked into the corner of a mirror in the small vestibule of my home which everyone can read upon entering: It says in bright colors, “ A WORLD that is GOOD for WOMEN is GOOD for EVERYONE.” These 11 words summarize for me why it is an honor and privilege to serve on the board of the Fistula Foundation. They form the crux of the organization’s mission.
For almost twenty-five years before accepting the invitation to become a board member—this May will mark my first anniversary— I was the executive director of a program focused on helping U. S. children and teens receive honest, accurate, age-appropriate sex education programs in schools and community agencies. We wanted young people to learn about pregnancy prevention, abstinence, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. We thought students should also learn about sexual abuse, sexual assault and sexual violence prevention. But not once in my almost 25-years did anyone suggest that programs cover information about obstetric fistulas. The reason for that is quite simple: obstetric fistulas no longer are a cause for concern in the U. S.
My hope is that the good work of the countless donors to the Fistula Foundation and the superb work that the staff does to make sure the funds go where they will do the most good for the largest number of women will ensure that in another 25 years, obstetric fistulas will no longer be a problem of great concern among the poorest and most needy girls and women in Africa and East Asia. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could be part of this effort? Remember that the cost of repairing a fistula in one woman is $450, which is a large sum to many, but even a small portion of this can make a difference.
Last year, a group of woman living in Princeton came together to watch the extremely moving, “A Walk to Beautiful,” the film that tells the story far better than I can about young women with fistulas who travel miles on foot and bus to a hospital in Ethiopia for surgery that will restore their lives. After the film, the group decided to form the Princeton Circle of Sisters. Each member would try to donate $450 a year, more or less depending on personal finances. Within a week, we had raised over $4,000. We plan to have an annual event to invite more people to see the movie and join the Circle of Sisters and are even thinking of organizing an annual run/walk to keep raising funds for fistula repairs.
If you are like me, after learning more about the excellent work that the Fistula Foundation does, making your first contribution, or increasing your annual donation, you’ll be hooked. And perhaps you will decide to create a Circle of Sisters in your own town or community.
Together we shall make those words on the bumper sticker become a reality.
About ten years ago I read an op ed column by Nicholas Kristoff in The Times about the devastating problem of obstetric fistula in the Third World. It opened my eyes and started me on a journey to help in whatever way I could. That was the beginning of my involvement with the Fistula Foundation.
The first fundraising event I helped put together was at the Waldorf Astoria in N>Y.C. I discovered that the Hotel coincidently was built on the site of the last fistula hospital in the City,torn down fistula had been virtually eradicated here.Our mission became to do whatever possible to do the same for the women of Africa and Asia.
My work with the Foundation as a member of the Board of Trustees has enriched my life immeasurably. I urge you to study our website,see the amazing work we have been doing and join us in our efforts.It will be a most soul- satisfying experience. Robert Tessler
For over 30 years I worked with an int'l non profit org'n and interacted with many more. The Fistula Foundation has given me an opportunity to continue into my retiremt to serve the poor and marginalised, especially women. I met many women with fistula throughout my career, and wept at the extent of their suffereing. However, seeing the profound impact on their lives as a result of the work of the Fistula Foundationand brings hope and joy. I take my responsibility as a Board member seriously, especially around accountability, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency. The high ratings the Fistula Foundation receives annually from several charity 'watch dog' groups attests to its professionalism and high standards. But it is also an organisation with great heart. It is a privilege to serve on this Board - to work with colleagues who have a passion to end suffering, and to partner with donors who so generoulsy share out of their resouces. Together we are impacting the lives of thousdands of women.
As a Board Member of the Fistula Foundation, I have personally visited many of the hospitals this organization funds to be able to assure donors that their money is actually being spent appropriately. My most recent visit was to Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There I saw first-hand the heartbreak of fistula. I also witnessed the truly heroic work which is made possible by grants from the Fistula Foundation, in one of the worst neighborhoods on earth, to restore these women to life. The organization continues to grow in geographic reach while holding down its administrative costs and increasing services to more unfortunate women.
A friend invited me to join him in trying to help relieve the misery of women with obstetric fistula about 10 years ago. This was how I first became involved with the Fistula Foundation—first as a donor and later as a member of the Board of Directors. Since then I have travelled to Africa many times and have seen first-hand how the Fistula Foundation’s efforts can restore a woman from a dreadful existence as a wretched social outcast to a new life as a productive person. What has impressed me most about this particular charity is how relatively small sums, from an American’s financial perspective, are able to help so many women with an otherwise intractable medical problem. This organization is small but its use of local, regional, and even international partners enables it to have a major effect on this otherwise hidden problem of some of this world’s most helpless women. The Fistula Foundation has been able to hold down its administrative costs to maximize spending on programs that provide direct care to woman and thus achieve consistent highest Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator ratings. This is why I will continue to support this organization and why I hope that you might also contribute whatever you can to aid the Fistula Foundations effort on behalf of these women.
Having worked in international development for obver 30 years - and seeing the debilitating impact of fistula on women in developing coumtries, it was a great privilege to join the Board of the Fistula Foundation when I retired 3 1/2 years ago. The organisation has grown dramatically in that time, moving from providing assistance in only one country to now helping hospitals and clinics in 11 countries in Africa and Asia. The small. yet dedicated and capable staff are committed to alleviating the terrible suffering of women with fistula and have developed important partnerships with other likeminded organisations. Their commitment to accountability to our donors and partners, as well as the women we serve, has resulted in consistently high recognition from charity watch groups like the BBB and Charity Navigator. I have witnessed the light come back into a woman's eyes, and new hope in her heart after she has received the surgery necessary to heal her fistuila. Along with the gift of healing, she has gained back her dignity. Therefore, I strongly encourage anyone interested in making a difference in even one woman's life to support the work of the Fistula Foundation. At a personal level it is a way that I can respond to the biblical directive - much is expected from those to whom much has been given. I am so grateful to be able to participate in and support the work of the Fistula Foundation.