Our Vision is to see a fistula free Ethiopia.
Healing Hands of Joy’s mission is to see obstetric fistula eliminated from Ethiopia. We’ve developed a three-pronged strategy.
Eliminate obstetric fistula by training fistula survivors as Safe Motherhood Ambassadors who provide education and access to safe delivery options for pregnant mothers.
Rehabilitate women recovering from fistula with education, economic empowerment and counseling to transform their lives and support social reintegration.
Identify existing cases of fistula for treatment (referred to fistula hospitals for treatment and then invited to join the Healing Hands of Joy Safe Motherhood Ambassador program).
Our inspiration comes from the unconditional love of God and His call to bring healing and joy to those who suffer as exemplified by Jesus Christ. We are committed to working with partners and individuals of all faiths and beliefs.
Our Core Values
“To suffer together” We are motivated by compassion, respond to the suffering of others and go out of our way to help the physical, spiritual or emotional hurts or pains of another
We treat everyone with dignity and respect and champion the rights and contribution of all to achieve a fairer world
We are accountable to those whose lives we hope to see transformed, to those we work with and to those who support us
We work with others to maximize our impact, respecting diversity and difference in the pursuit of common goals
We act with honesty and conviction and our actions are consistent with openness, equality and human rights
How We Work
The Full Picture
Safe Motherhood Ambassadors
We developed a holistic rehabilitation program to help fistula survivors to rediscover their joy and self-esteem, then train them as educators so that they can reclaim their sense of purpose.
Our Safe Motherhood Ambassadors turn their greatest shame into their greatest strength. One Ambassador reaches an average of 94 other women with life-saving maternal health education.
Male Family Member Training
Many women who experience Obstetric Fistula are abandoned by their husbands, left alone with their suffering.
This is why part of Healing Hands of Joy’s mission is to build up our Safe Motherhood Ambassadors’ male family members — husbands, brothers, and other male members of the community — and turn them into allies in fistula prevention and recovery.
Stakeholder Workshops allow us to connect our Safe Motherhood Ambassadors with influential members of their communities that can form a support network for their work and reintegration. Key social influencers include: health extension workers, midwives, women’s association members, religious leaders, and community members.
Religious leaders have the ability to raise awareness about fistula prevention and identification because of their influential role at the community level. With the insight of our Spiritual Counselor, we created a Religious Leader Training program for Christian and Muslim leaders.
We use community engagement events to spread maternal health education to the most remote areas of Ethiopia, broadcasting messages via mobile van and radio, distributing brochures, and making sure no woman is left to suffer needlessly from fistula.
We screen educational films in communities and schools, and provide platforms for our Safe Motherhood Ambassadors to tell their stories. Pictured right: Ambassador Manahilosh sharing her story with a crowd at a community engagement event in the Amhara region.
Learn More About Our Impact
Where We Work
Obstetric Fistula is prevalent in Ethiopia, primarily as a result of prolonged, obstructed labor, which can be attributed to these risk factors: Home delivery, causing a lack of skilled attendance at birth Harmful traditional practices, including early marriage, that lead to a young age at delivery Poor nutrition, which can result in short stature and a pelvis that is too narrow to allow a baby’s head to safely pass through. Poverty, illiteracy and living in a rural area with limited access to health facilities are also important risk factors.
We currently have Safe Motherhood Ambassador training centers in the Amhara and SNNPR regions of Ethiopia, with active Ambassadors and staff also in Tigray.
Healing Hands was established in 2009 by Allison Shigo and Brett O’Donnell. Allison co-produced the Emmy-Award winning documentary “A Walk to Beautiful” that followed the plight of Ethiopia women suffering from fistula. After witnessing the gap in prevention and social reintegration services for fistula survivors, Allison created the Safe Motherhood Ambassador program. Through this program, fistula survivors receive counseling, maternal health education, literacy, numeracy, and income-generating skills training.
Allison also recognized the potential that former fistula patients had to prevent fistula in their communities by promoting safe delivery and expanding the capacity of health extension workers. She had the vision that fistula patients could be the change their communities need in the fight against fistula.
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