Dr. Catherine Hamlin, Fistula Hospital founder

In 2004, we met Dr. Catherine Hamlin, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has devoted nearly 50 years providing free reconstructive surgery to more than 25,000 African girls and women suffering from fistulas at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital that she opened with her late husband, Reginald.

Fistulas are holes that develop in the tissue that separates the vagina from the bladder and/or rectum during labor because the mothers (often young teenagers) have small pelvises or a poorly positioned fetus. In the United States, this condition could be avoided by caesarean section, but in many developing countries, poverty prevents women from getting proper treatment. Untreated, the fistula causes a constant stream of urine, and sometimes feces, to drip, leaving a trail and odor wherever these young mothers go. In Ethiopia, thousands of young girls suffer from this devastating condition.

After Dr. Hamlin's visit to the show, thousands of viewers were compelled to act. The Fistula Foundation, which supports Dr. Hamlin's hospital, received more than $3 million in donations.
Oprah and recovering patients at the Fistula Hospital

After a warm welcome from Dr. Hamlin and her staff, Oprah tours the facilities and witnesses firsthand where doctors transform the bodies of these young girls, some as young as 9 years old.

In the main ward, Oprah meets post-operative patients, most of whom are very quiet and shy. Next, she meets girls who have been cured and are ready to return to their villages. According to Dr. Hamlin, the hospital has a 92 percent cure rate.

Upon leaving, Dr. Hamlin stresses to the girls the importance of seeking medical help if they get pregnant again. "We tell them that if they get pregnant again, they must get to a hospital next time, otherwise they may get the same injury again," Dr. Hamlin says.
Oprah with a patient at the Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia

During the tour, Oprah met a young mother who was taken into slavery at age 13, given to a man and raped. She was sent into the bush to deliver her baby, but after seven long and difficult days in labor, her baby was stillborn. The internal injuries were so severe they nearly crippled her.

After crawling back to her village, she was shunned by her baby's father. He was so horrified by her smell that he confined her to a hut and left the door open so wild hyenas would devour her tiny body in the night. Unbelievably, she fought off the hyenas and crawled for a day to get to safety.

"Your strength gives me strength," Oprah tells this survivor.
Fistula patients receive makeup, clothes and money

To help ready the girls to return to their villages, Dr. Hamlin and the hospital provides each of them with a new dress so they can re-enter the world with their heads held high. To help in this, The Limited clothing store sent along new outfits for the girls. And, Philosophy provided everyone with a makeup kit, complete with lipstick!

Oprah also wanted to give them a gift that would help rebuild their lives. Each girl received a wallet with $100 inside. In Ethiopia, $100 is the equivalent to one year's salary. It is more than some of them have ever hoped to own.
Joy Village empowers Fistula outcasts

Even though Dr. Hamlin and her team have done remarkable work, there are still some girls whose injuries are so severe they can't be cured or returned to their villages. For those who can't be healed, Dr. Hamlin has created a little piece of heaven on earth called Joy Village.

Joy Village is a small community filled with gorgeous flowers and trees, which create a sense of serenity and healing. Thirty-one women live here, free of ridicule and rejection. Although surgery didn't cure them, they are now fitted with colostomy bags to collect their bodily waste.

Even though these women walk around with a permanent reminder of their pasts, Joy Village has empowered them, restored their self-worth and given them back their lives. In a country where most people, especially the women, are impoverished and uneducated, these women attend school and earn wages for themselves. They work on the farm, maintain the grounds and sell embroidery and crafts.

With the funds donated in part by Oprah Show viewers, Joy Village is now building a brand new facility with classrooms, examination rooms, housing for residents who travel to the hospital for treatment and a small apartment for the on-call doctors.
Cyrene and Sue visited Ethiopia

Viewers Cyrene and Sue were so touched by Dr. Hamlin's appearance on the show that they were moved to action. Cyrene (left), a medical student, raised $2,000 to go on an eight-week medical mission to Kenya. "Dr. Hamlin showed me the power of being willing to use the tools that you're given."

Sue, a busy mother of two, had never heard of fistulas before the show. "I was haunted for weeks thinking, 'What else can I do?'" Then an idea came. Sue began hosting bracelet-making parties at her home. Sixty volunteers gave their time, and soon they had made over 1,600 bracelets for the girls at the Fistula Hospital.

Bracelets in tow, Sue and Cyrene traveled to Ethiopia with Oprah to deliver the presents and meet the girls. It was a trip that touched them to their cores. "I will never forget those smiles," Cyrene says. "Their smiles were such a universal language for us. It was how we could connect...they were really telling us that their joy was full."
Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede

Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede is a Vogue cover girl turning heads around the globe. In 2003, she became the first black model to serve as the face of Estée Lauder.

Liya first captured the world's attention when former Gucci designer Tom Ford discovered her. Now she's the famous face for designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton.

When Liya's not commanding the catwalk, this wife and mother is a crusader working passionately with the World Health Organization to improve the lives of women and children around the world. She became involved with the Fistula Hospital to help women with fistula, a problem she wasn't aware of while she lived in Ethiopia.

"You don't talk about it because obviously the women are shunned or isolated. It's a shameful thing to talk about," she says.
Liya Kebede visited the Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia

In 2005, Liya and her husband visited the hospital. The experience was so moving, it sparked her to launch a crusade to help young women suffering from fistulas in her homeland.

"What's happening in the world is that half a million women during pregnancy and childbirth die every year," Liya says. "I'm getting a chance to give back to put this on the map."

Liya teamed up with three high-profile New York teenagers to host a fundraiser to earn money in support of the hospital. Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour helped coordinate fashions donated by Prada, Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang. The group raised $100,000.
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