Christine Koh

Hello!

I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

A Day of Hope

fashionABLE.jpgI have been a complete jumble of emotions since arriving in Addis Ababa on the ONE Moms mission trip. Yesterday, I was a bit of a wreck after bonding with a child at Mary Joy. But today, despite the painful histories and continued hardships to which I was exposed, I experienced a day of hope. I saw progress and great strides being made to improve the lives of Ethiopian women and their children. I saw it in the form of fashionABLE and the Hamlin Fistula Hospital.
Let me first address Hamlin Fistula. I admittedly wasn't even aware of fistula until reading Cutting for Stone (amazing, by the way...a recommendation by way of this awesome crowd sourced reading list). Fistula is a condition resulting from prolonged, obstructed labor; it is typically due to lack of timely access to medical care (it's most prevalent in rural Africa and parts of Asia) and usually results in a stillborn child and a hole in the tissue of the bladder and/or rectum (due to prolonged pressure from the baby) that results in the uncontrollable passage of urine and/or feces.

Yes, this is a terrible condition (particularly considering most of our access to modern medicine, and personally given my own emergency C-section with Laurel and prolonged 58 hour natural labor with Violet). And the fact that so many women suffer from this condition for so long before getting help (usually anywhere from 2-8 years as I learned from Drs. Mulu and Ambaye this evening at dinner) and with so much shame from their families also is unthinkable. BUT. I'm not exaggerating when I write that Hamlin Fistula was a magical oasis nestled within a city clogged with chaos and dirt. The grounds were lush and peaceful -- it was the only place I have seen so far where pathways were finished, flowers bloomed resplendently, and the women traveled in quiet, protective circles. I felt deep admiration for the caregivers on site and hope for healing of the patients.

To learn more in general and about how you can help Hamlin Fistula, visit their website and/or watch the PBS documentary, A Walk to Beautiful.

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The second visit that gave me hope today was fashionABLE, a non-profit devoted to helping women rise from prostitution to improve their lives and become part of a sustainable business cycle.

Here's a primer on fashionABLE:

The "factory" (it seems a little grand to call it that) was so primitive yet so productive. We saw women dyeing and hanging cotton... (they kindly let me help...I loved it!)

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...spinning it into thread...

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...weaving it into scarves...

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...and then our group cleaned out the showroom (I bought 9 scarves, plus some beaded necklaces and soap!). Simply gorgeous stuff. I hope you will consider buying fashionABLE scarves for all of your lady friends. ALL of the profits go back to the fashionABLE program to help women get off the streets.

We also had an opportunity to hear from two women -- their stories of rising from prostitution gave me such hope.

Here's an interview with Mulu (the woman behind this scarf):

I also recorded an interview with another amazing woman named Saba (the woman behind this scarf). But my laptop crashed about 10 times while I tried to load it to YouTube...apparently, the internet was only partially on my side today. I'll try loading it again after I return home!

Image credits: First image by fashionABLE; all other images by Karen Walrond, with the exception of the photo of me dyeing fabric, which was shot by Liz Gumbinner

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I'm in Ethiopia at the kind invitation and expense of The ONE Campaign, a nonpartisan, advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. ONE works to convince governments (the US, as well as others) to invest in smart programs that help to eliminate poverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way. ONE never asks for your money, simply your voice.


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