Photo credit: ConnectHER Gem Lynne Dobson
When Immaculate teaches tailoring, she teaches more than how to cut fabric and sew a straight stitch: she transmits a sense of possibility. It’s a much-needed infusion for her students—all young women like herself who are emerging from a dark period in their lives. But as they gather the colorful fabric, they emerge like flower bulbs coaxed out of the ground by the sunshine of her buoyant spirit.
Immaculate wasn’t always this optimistic. Eight years ago, while giving birth at the age of 15, she suffered the same fate as her students: an obstetric fistula. This life-altering but largely preventable condition occurs during a prolonged obstructed labor without access to trained medical assistance. The resulting injury to the birth canal causes a woman to leak urine or feces—a condition that often leads to social isolation, despair, and deepening poverty.
Abandoned by everyone in her family except her grandmother, Immaculate had to drop out of school. “I cried and cried,” she recalls of that time. Then one day someone in her community told her about Terrewode, an NGO in eastern Uganda that provides obstetric fistula repair and rehabilitation services. She left her baby with her grandmother and set out, walking for hours to its headquarters in Soroti to seek help.
At Terrewode she received repair surgery and stayed for the two-week Reintegration Program. She discovered her gift for sewing and asked to be enrolled in an advanced tailoring class. That led her to self-sufficiency as a tailor and her current position as a teacher with the organization that helped her heal.
Your $2,500 donation—boosted with a $2,500 matching grant from the Stahl Family Foundation—will support 10 survivors to attend Terrewode’s pioneering Reintegration Program. The program includes counseling, safe motherhood education, and family planning services. Participants also receive life skills, microfinance classes, and income-generating training in five modules. Many graduates launch businesses as tailors, soapmakers, bakers, mechanics, or hairdressers. Some also join Terrewode’s educational outreach efforts to prevent fistula.
Today when she thinks back on that long walk to Soroti, she sees it as the start of her journey back into life. “Nowadays I don’t want to cry,” she says. “I want people to see from me that I’m a champion.”