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A generous way to celebrate 60!

When Ruth Nicholson turned 60, she thoughtfully decided to celebrate this milestone birthday as well as the life and work of Dr Catherine Hamlin by raising funds for Hamlin’s Addis Ababa fistula hospital in Ethiopia.

Ruth was born in Ethiopia to missionary parents. Catherine and her work are special to Ruth, in part because of the friendship that she and her family had with Catherine during the years they lived in Ethiopia. Catherine became good friends with the missionaries, including Ruth’s parents and their friendship lasted many years. In fact, Catherine was the attending doctor at Ruth’s birth in Addis Ababa!

A place close to her heart

When she was 17, Ruth left Ethiopia for university in the USA. After graduation, she returned to Ethiopia where she worked as a teacher. She met her Canadian husband there and they were married in Addis Ababa. Their work then took them to Papua New Guinea, where they lived for over 30 years. They raised their five children there, before moving to Uganda in 2018. One of Ruth’s children is now working as a teacher in Ethiopia.

When asked why she decided to do a birthday fundraiser for Hamlin, Ruth says,

“After reading Hospital by the River (Catherine’s book) one can’t help but be deeply moved by the horrendous plight of Ethiopian girls suffering from fistula. It is the worst childbirth injury that any young woman can ever experience. On top of the debilitating injury, they are abandoned by their husbands and stigmatized by the community, often leading to low self-esteem, depression and prolonged emotional trauma.

“This and my connection with both Ethiopia and Catherine were a big motivation for me to give back to the country and the people that I love. I am also deeply grateful for the safe delivery of my five healthy children. It is not something I take for granted.”

A global celebration

Ruth promoted her fundraiser to friends and family across the globe through a dedicated Hamlin fundraising page, also Facebook and email. She invited forty ladies to a 60th Birthday Garden Tea Party, where she shared her desire to celebrate Catherine’s life and amazing work.

US fundraising 6 | Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation | Together we can eradicate obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.

“We are the fortunate ones who DO have access to health care. We need to give generously so that these women can get the medical help that will transform their lives. If we were in their place, we would want someone to do the same for us,” says Ruth.

So, what’s Ruth’s advice for others wanting to make a difference?

“Don’t be afraid of setting a high goal. I was planning to set my goal at $400, but my husband encouraged me to try for $4,000! My friends from New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada, Europe and Ethiopia itself were so moved by the story of the fistula patients that they gave more than $5400!”

Inspired by Ruth? You can start your own fundraiser here.


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All rights reserved 2023 Catherine Hamlin Foundation (R) (ABN58159647499)
Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is fiscally sponsored by KBFUS (EIN582277856) and KBF Canada (RCO769784893RR0001)

Photography credits to Cameron Bloom, Nigel Brennan, Mary F. Calvert, Kate Geraghty, Amber Hooper, Joni Kabana, Johannes Remling and Martha Tadesse.

Patient names have been changed to protect the identities of those we help.