How One Glenfield Woman is Helping Thousands in Ethiopia

How One Glenfield Woman is Helping Thousands in Ethiopia

Anne McLean is a world away from Ethiopia when she shops online from her home in Glenfield, NSW. But with the click of a mouse she regularly makes a life-changing difference to women on the other side of the world.

“I like to know I’m making a difference when I shop online, so it’s a win-win,” she says.

Recently retired Anne has been supporting the work of the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation for over five years. She often buys their ethical and Fairtrade products to give as gifts.

“It’s very unique to know the story behind a product. I recently bought some earrings made out of artillery shells that some women had repurposed into earrings, how special is that?” she says.

Hamlin CEO Carolyn Hardy says it’s the regular support of people like Anne who enable the charity to continue its life-changing work for the world’s most vulnerable women.

“We are so grateful to Anne and supporters like her who help us to keep making a difference. Even just $10 dollars is enough to buy five pairs of shoes for fistula patients in Ethiopia,” she says. 

The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation was founded 60 years ago by Australian surgeons Catherine and Reg Hamlin. What started as a three-year posting in Ethiopia turned into a lifetime quest to provide treatment to the most marginalised women – those who have suffered an obstetric fistula. 

In May it will be the 60th anniversary of Drs Catherine and Reg Hamlin arriving in Ethiopia to change the maternal health landscape forever. In that time the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation has helped over 60,000 women who have suffered an obstetric fistula. In 2018 alone they treated over 1,000 women to repair their fistula injuries and over 23,000 babies were delivered by Hamlin trained midwives. 

And it’s the quality of the products that keeps Anne shopping with Hamlin.

“The products are such great quality and beautifully made, they’re not your average charity gift. They’re a great idea for a Mother’s Day present,” she says. 

Anne wearing her Hamlin scarf.

The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation sells products online so everyone in Australia can have access to their Fairtrade and ethical products.

Artisans across Africa make Hamlin's products. They range from homewares, fashion accessories, jewellery, books, baby wraps and toys, spices, coffee and kitchen accessories. Every purchase helps provide income and employment to these artisans. It's all about conscious consumption. Shopping for a sustainable gift that supports employment in places where it is needed most. 

In addition, the profits are used to support the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. Proceeds fund fistula treatment for many hundreds of Ethiopian women.  

Obstetric fistula is virtually a thing of the past in the western world.  But in rural Ethiopia, where women have little or no access to maternal healthcare, they will be in agonising labour for days if their birth is obstructed. They almost always lose their baby and suffer unimaginably horrific internal damage that leaves them leaking urine, faeces, and sometimes both. They are shunned and cut off from their communities.

With support from the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia gives these women back their life and dignity through surgery, rehabilitation and counselling. 


This article was written by Kate Mayhew.

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