Montclair Community and Campus Raise Funds for the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital

Women’s Center Volunteers Bethel Tesfaye ’11 and Krystal Arango ’10 raise over $1,000 for the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital with Film Screening and Silent Auction Fundraiser

When Bethel Tesfaye, of Addis Ababa Ethiopia, began volunteering at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital as a requirement for her High School degree she had no idea how the experience would change her.  The Fistula Hospital exists to provide Obstetric Fistula surgery to women from rural and underserved areas in Ethiopia.  Obstetric Fistulas are tears between the walls of the vagina and bladder or vagina and rectum.  These tears leave the victims incontinent, and that incontinence leads to rejection by family and community.  It is estimated that there are 100,000 new obstetric fistula cases internationally each year.  The cost of surgery to repair a fistula is approximately $300-$400 USD.  

As a volunteer at the hospital it was Beth’s role to offer academic support to the female patients.  She was instructed to provide basic instruction in reading and writing, in the hopes that in their time at the hospital the women visiting would leave with skills that would continue to serve them for many years.  What Beth found was that the women in the Hospital were in much deeper need of friendship, support and connection.  Her daily lessons became opportunities for the patients to share their stories and be heard.  

In the fall of 2009 Beth started volunteering at the Women’s Center.  She was determined to host a fundraiser to support women on a global level but was unsure how to proceed.  A conversation with fellow volunteer, Krystal Arango, changed her view.  Krystal asked the question, “What are you passionate about?” and with that perfect question Beth knew what she wanted to do.  Together they constructed the fundraiser, gathering donations and support from Mesob, a downtown Montclair restaurant specializing in Ethiopian fare, and friends and family from Ethiopia who donated items to be sold in the silent auction.  Krystal and Beth settled on showing the NOVA documentary, “A Walk to Beautiful” as a way to raise awareness of the issue , and set their fundraising goal at $400, the cost of one surgery.

The event, held on Thursday April 20, 2010, was an enormous success.  Donations totaled over $1,100 with one donor contributing the entire cost of 1 surgery.  At the end of the event Beth and Krystal were in shock.  They had no idea that their fundraiser would be such a great success.  To change the lives of 3 women was overwhelming.

In addition other groups on campus have taken on the cause.  This Thursday and Friday at 8pm in Life Hall 123 a benefit performance of the Eve Ensler play, “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer” will be performed.  Tickets are $5 for Montclair State University Faculty, Staff and Students and $10 for general admission.  %10 of the funds will go to the V-Day spotlight, Women of the Congo, but the remaining %90 of the proceeds will be donated to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.  In addition donations for the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital will continue to be collected by the Women’s Center at MSU through May 4, 2010.