Vehicle Fundraiser for Reaching Fistula Patients

Help support former Fistula patients save mothers' lives in Mekelle, Ethiopia.
Harlan Bontrager
New York City, New York
United States
1 Team Member
One of the major challenges for Healing Hands of Joy and our Safe Motherhood Ambassadors deployed across rural Ethiopia is transportation. Often women with fistula are identified by SMAs and need transportation for treatment. Healing Hands of Joy faces many difficulties in our evaluation work without a proper vehicle to reach women who live hours away from paved roads.

Finally, Healing Hands of Joy has a desire to start working in Western Tigray, one of the most remote regions near the Sudan boarder where very few organizations have made any efforts to reach women with fisula. Please help us reach these areas and the women who are living with fistula and unaware that there is a cure and a program for them.

The difference your contribution will make

$25k Will be used for the SUV
$5K Will be used for shipping the SUV

Who we are

We’re an organization called Healing Hands of Joy (, or Twitter or Facebook). Our passion is to end fistula and empower the victims that have been stricken with this terrible condition. We do this by educating and empowering fistula patients in Ethiopia to serve their community by preventing more devastating causes of fistula and develop economic freedom by starting small businesses.

What's Fistula?

When fistula occurs, many to-be mothers lose their babies in extensive, painful labors because of a lack of medical care. Immediately afterward they become stricken with a terrible condition called incontinence- the involuntary excretion of bowel contents.

Instead of a life overflowing with passion, fulfillment and the joy of a new baby, fistula victims suddenly become outcasts; shunned and despised by their community. We’re here to change that. Our goal is to end fistula. 

Why do we need an SUV?

We currently have no transportation to reach women in remote rural areas. We are unable to perform monitoring and evaluation of our 200 fistula survivors who have been trained and graduated as Safe Motherhood Ambassadors and are now working as educators for safe delivery in their villages to prevent new cases of obstetric fistula. Many of these women live in remote rural areas with no road access, unreachable without a Land Cruiser.

When we do this evaluation work we often identify new cases of women living with fistula that need transportation for treatment as well as some pregnant women ready to deliver but with no transportation access to a Health Center for safe, skilled delivery. 

Above pic: Our current vehicle: affectionately dubbed the 'Green Machine' - which consistently breaks down. The Green Machine was a donation and for safety reasons we are unable to drive it in the field.

In our first evaluation report, Safe Motherhood Ambassadors expressed that one of their greatest challenges in convincing pregnant women to deliver in a Health Center was transportation. If they were able to reach a Health Center (often a two-hour walk) they usually have no means to return home, fatigued and carrying their newborn baby.

Therefore, they continue to dangerously deliver at home often with devastating consequences of a stillborn child and incontinence- eventually becoming an outcasts in their community.

What will the SUV be used for?

Buying an SUV will save lives. Owning a vehicle with a powerful engine and tires will enable us to drive on unpaved roads that are nearly impossible to drive on because of rocky surfaces. This will empower us radically to carry out our mission of seeing new cases of obstetric fistula radically reduced by 2020 with the goal of absolute eradication in Ethiopia.

Another benefit a vehicle will bring is to increase our work with recruiting fistula survivors who are in rural, unreachable areas, while strengthening our relationships with partners at the district and regional levels. These vehicles will enhance our community outreach efforts, including film screenings and workshops, immensely. With this vehicle, we'll reach an even greater amount of people to create awareness and identify innumerably more victims of fistula.

Most of our community events are held at night and rental companies prohibit using cars after 6pm. Having our own vehicle would provide more flexibility in our work. It would also ensure that we get to important meetings on time and in a reliable manner as Ethiopian taxis are unreliable and costly.

An SUV will be very useful for our M&E work, especially in reaching areas where there are bad roads and a strong engine and tires are needed to travel. We would be able to facilitate M&E on our own schedule without being at the mercy of the availability of vehicles and we can do it more cost effectively.

Why the Safe Motherhood Ambassadors (SMA) Program is Vital

This program empowers former fistula patients to saves mothers' lives. We do this with the one-month curriculum we've developed in conjunction with the Tigray Health Bureau. The objective is to train former fistula patients as Safe Motherhood Ambassadors.

Patients are taught basic maternal health skills including reproductive health, hygiene, sanitation and prenatal care.  Once they graduate, SMA will monitor and register pregnant women in their village, report to trained health workers encourage antenatal care & institutional delivery. SMA fills a vital gap in the emergency referral service network to save mother’s lives.

The Safe Motherhood Ambassadors Program offers 4 dimensions of support to empower and educate women and end fistula. We have graduated 25 classes of SMA students to date. To meet graduates from our most recent class, click on this link:

Fistula Prevention: SMA provides voluntary support for maternal health in communities to save children’s lives and prevent childbirth injuries such as obstetric fistula. Ambassadors educate their neighbors about the causes of fistula and how this devastation can be ended.Literacy: Communication, and in some cases literacy training, is provided in order to adequately spread the message of safe delivery to women in their villages.

Counseling: We provide counseling to women who are traumatized by being ostracized from their communities for having fistula.

Economic Empowerment: Our program also includes implementing income-generating skills, such as weaving, poultry keeping, agricultural training to empower former fistula patients economically and help them lead self-sustainable lives.

Above: Our 25th graduating class of Safe Motherhood Ambassadors

Other Ways You Can Help

If you can’t contribute monetarily, you can help out in other ways:

  • Post HHOJ links on your Twitter and Facebook- ask them to donate!
  • Email this link to your friends and colleagues- ask them to donate!
  • Host a fundraiser in your city
  • Host a film screening fundraiser (A Walk to Beautiful, an Emmy-Award winning film on fistula- in your city
For more information on fundraising, send us an email at or get involved via Twitter (@HHOJ) or Facebook!
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$30,000 USD goal
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This campaign ended on November 1, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $5USD

    Bring the vehicle to Mekelle, Ethiopia.

    0 claimed
  • $10USD
    A Gas & Brake Pedal

    Help the driver do his job.

    3 claimed
  • $25USD
    A Set of New Headlights

    Shine light on the dark broken roads.

    2 claimed
  • $50USD
    A Full Tank of Gas

    Fill the tank to save a life.

    2 claimed
  • $75USD
    A Set of Rearview Mirrors

    Prevent car crashes.

    0 claimed
  • $100USD
    Steering Wheel

    Lead the vehicle to the right place.

    0 claimed
  • $250USD

    Keep out the hot sun, any thieves and wild animals.

    0 claimed
  • $500USD

    Provide safety to all passengers.

    1 claimed
  • $1,000USD
    Transmission Parts

    Bring the vehicle to life.

    0 claimed
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