Hamlin x Dr Colin Walsh: The Gift of Life, Restored

August 07, 2020

Hamlin x Dr Colin Walsh: The Gift of Life, Restored

Dr Colin Walsh's private antenatal/birth practice has partnered with The Hamlin Shop to provide gifts to their patients, at the same time helping to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia.

Colin's practice gives each of their postnatal patients a hand-knitted toy from The Hamlin Shop. The proceeds of their purchases go to the Gogo Olive project and to Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Gogo Olive supports 60 women across four projects in Zimbabwe. The aim of the project is to give hope to local women by providing meaningful employment and the opportunity to use craft skills to build a future for themselves and their families.

Proceeds from sale of the toys - and all other Hamlin Shop products - also supports Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia's work to restore the lives of fistula patients and train Hamlin Midwives who can prevent fistulas from occurring in the first place. It was this aspect that drew Colin and Clinical Practice Manager Dr Nicole Lees to partner with The Hamlin Shop. "We like the idea that we're not just buying a toy, we're essentially buying a donation to a charity that will resonate with our patients," says Nicole. 

Colin and Nicole's appreciation for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia's work stems from their understanding of the long-term challenges that childbirth injuries can have on a woman's life. "Colin actually spent three years of his training at the Pelvic Floor Unit at St George's Hospital, looking after women who suffered complications due to childbirth: pelvic floor injuries, pelvic floor prolapse - nothing as severe as the obstetric fistulas that the Hamlin medical team deals with. There's a huge stigma with urinary incontinence, even in Australia it's only recently where that stigma has begun to break down," Nicole recounts.

Colin has practiced as an Obstetrician and Maternal-fetal Medicine Specialist for several years; in affect he specialises in high-risk pregnancies. He founded his practice in Sydney's lower North Shore five years ago. In that time, Colin has given small gifts to new mothers as a memento of giving birth, however this is the first time that the practice has adopted a policy of gifting every patient an ethical gift that supports a charitable cause. "It's nice to have a bigger meaning behind the gift. The patient gets a lovely, ethical little toy; the fact that each toy has the name and the photo of the woman who knitted them on it is fantastic. It's a really nice thing to include our patients in," reflects Nicole.

The hand-knitted toys that Colin's postnatal patients receive not only provide employment to the wonderful female knitters in Zimbabwe, they also support Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia's work in restoring life to those women who needlessly suffer the agony of a fistula injury.

Nicole says that Dr Catherine Hamlin's story is well known to many in the obstetrics field: "She's very famous in obstetrics circles, as you can imagine. So most people [in obstetrics] would have come across Catherine Hamlin's name, most people would be aware of her hospitals in Ethiopia." Catherine's pioneering work in obstetric fistula repair technique and her humanitarian work in dedicating 60 years of her life to the care of poor and vulnerable women in Ethiopia has garnered widespread acclaim since 1959, when she and her late husband, Reg, first arrived in Addis Ababa.

Despite operating in greatly contrasting circumstances, there are some similarities in the approach of caring for vulnerable pregnancies in Australia and Ethiopia. "We deal with high-risk labours and understand the importance of good care in labour - and that's something that Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia deals with; not just repairing fistulas but also trying to improve access of women to good quality care during labour and afterwards. So it seemed like a natural fit for us as a charity [to support]," says Nicole.

Many people believe that there is empathy between expectant and new mothers in places like Australia, and expectant and new mothers on the other side of the world in Ethiopia. Nicole observes that "I think women do feel a kinship with other women around the world who are going through pregnancy and birth. It's a lovely time for people but it's also a naturally anxious time, there's a lot of uncertainty. We're fortunate here in Australia to have very, very good medical care... a lot of our patients can certainly appreciate how difficult it must be for women who don't have the same access to obstetric care."

The patients at Dr Colin Walsh's practice will discover the joy of the gift of life, restored. With 22 iterations, you can find the perfect gift for a newborn with Hamlin's hand-knitted toy range.

If your organisation is interested in partnering with the Hamlin Shop for ethical gifts, please contact hq@hamlin.org.au

 

Photography credits: Jessica Loren Photography, Mana Meadows