Melbourne City Obstetrics and Gynaecology Associates (MCOGA) has been an all-female practice for over 15 years; during that time, they have been able to treat expectant mothers and give back to women on the other side of the world. Since 2015, MCOGA has purchased soft toys from the Hamlin Shop to give to their patients as gifts.
Since November 2015, doctors at MCOGA have given each postnatal patient with a cute and cuddly toy from the Hamlin Shop. The rationale behind this was two-fold: a way of showing the practice's care for its patients and a way to give back to women in need.
For Elena Mina, MCOGA's Practice Manager, it was more meaningful to give back: "Rather than just get a hamper or other gift for the patient, we thought we would like to get something that would help other women in other countries as well - these women are not able to get the same great medical treatment that we have here in Australia.”
The toys that MCOGA patients receive are from the Shamwari toy range. Shamwari is the Shona word for 'friend.' Handmade in Zimbabwe at a wonderful project which employs and empowers local women, each Shamwari is lovingly hand-knitted. Each toy features the name and photo of the woman who knitted it, and is as unique and cheerful as the person who made it! “It’s a gift that means something, that actually helps someone else out,” says Elena. Proceeds from each Hand-Knitted Friend sold go to its makers in Zimbabwe, as well as helping Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s work to care for obstetric fistula patients. Since 2015, MCOGA have purchased nearly $90,000 worth of ethically-made toys from the Hamlin Shop.
Like Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, MCOGA have used a holistic care approach for maternal healthcare. "We want to be there from the start of the patient's pregnancy to even after they deliver," says Elena. After a patient has given birth, their doctor gives them their Shamwari gift - which is really appreciated by the new mums. The patients receive a brochure about Dr Catherine Hamlin and the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia along with their toy. “The patients know exactly where it’s coming from and how it helps other women in the world. The patients have all loved the little soft toys - a lot of the pictures that we receive from them have got the soft toys with the babies!”
The practice, which has five obstetricians and gynaecologists and five support staff, has created a home within Melbourne's inner-city community. "A lot of the patients we see are recommended by their friends who have been treated here," Elena muses. The imperative to look beyond one's borders and consider the needs of others remains: "We decided to give the little soft toys out so that we could actually help out another community, not just our own."
The Hand-Knitted Friend range comes in 22 iterations. Click here to get yours today.