An Afternoon of Hope Tea Party

Pakistan is an amazing and complex country and a country of extremes. It boasts some of the highest and most beautiful mountain ranges; invites one in to incredible and gracious hospitality; arguably has the best food in the world and, with all that, has some tremendously difficult situations for women.

So it was early on in life that I met women with tremendous disadvantages, many in situations that seemed hopeless. It was before I turned 20, while volunteering at a women’s and children’s hospital in Shikarpur, Sindh, that I first met a woman who had a fistula. By definition a fistula is “a medical condition brought about by obstructed labor and/or trauma leaving a woman with incontinence,” The resulting symptoms are that the woman constantly smells like urine and can never get clean. But that is just the medical definition. The practical definition is loss of family, isolation, being seen as a pariah, and relegated to a cursed position in areas of the world where being a woman brings challenges from the first days of life. Fistulas are indescribably awful for the woman who has one.

”These are the women most to be pitied in the world,” said Dr. Hamlin. ”They’re alone in the world, ashamed of their injuries. For lepers, or AIDS victims, there are organizations that help. But nobody knows about these women or helps them.” (Alone And Ashamed, by Nicholas D. Kristof, Published: May 16, 2003)

Consider these sobering statistics about fistula:

It is estimated that 90% of fistula patients consider suicide as a solution. (Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky)

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2-5 million women have fistula worldwide.

The World Health Organization estimates as many as 50,000 — 100,000 new cases of fistula each year, yet the global treatment capacity is less than 20,000 cases a year. (Hope for Our Sisters)

The treatment is a surgery that has a 90% success rate if there are no complications and with complications the rate is still fairly high at 60%. It is not an exaggeration to say that the treatment saves lives. In a world where these women have been cast out like garbage, alienated and isolated, this surgery brings a hope that radiates through their world, forever changing their future.

“Nothing can equal the gratitude of the woman who, wearied by constant pain and desperate with the realisation that her very presence is an offence to others, finds suddenly that life has been given anew and that she has again become a citizen of the world,” Professor Chassar Moir. (Hamlin and Little, The Hospital By The River)

So why on a Saturday am I bringing up this serious topic? Because today at 1pm eastern time my niece, Christi-Lynn, a nurse and woman who is passionate about women’s health worldwide, is holding a special tea to raise money so that one woman can receive this surgery. The cost of surgery is $450.00. That’s the equivalent of 2 months worth of cell phone service for a family of five. It’s nothing. A tiny dent in a budget – and it changes a life. I have only raised awareness for causes a couple of times, but I believe that those who read Communicating Across Boundaries have a unique love for the world, and for women. So even though you can’t attend – if you can give to the tea party “An Afternoon of Hope” to raise money and awareness of the problem of fistula’s for women around the world, please contact me at

Blogger’s Note: The organization that my niece is working with is called Hope For Our Sisters: Changing the Lives of Women One Woman at a Time. Much of the information on this post was gleaned from their excellent site. Follow the link for more information including articles as well as information on how you can host a tea. One of my good friends, Judy Long, uses her talent as a photographer to create cards to sell with all proceeds going towards Hope for Our Sisters.

Other sources:

16 thoughts on “An Afternoon of Hope Tea Party

  1. Hello Marilyn – Thank you for writing about our tea! I am honored to be one of the co-founders of Hope for Our Sisters and met Christi-Lynn at this tea. The generous women there provided for more than two surgeries! Two lives restored physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Thank you again for sharing the plight of those with fistula. May their stories be heard and lead to action!


    1. Brooke – I am so pleased that you commented. Also excited to tell you that this next week I’ll be sending you a check from Communicating Across Boundaries readers. Id actually like to do a tea in Cambridge so will be in touch with you. Thanks so much.


      1. Marilyn – Wonderful news and wonderful fruit from your words! You can get our mailing address on our website. :)

        As for hosting a tea, thank you very much! Please reach out using our e-mail on the website and we’ll make it happen.

        Thank you so much!


  2. Though fiction, the book,Cutting for Stone descriptively narrates the story of people drawn together as a family (some biological, some not) running a mission clinic in Ethiopia during a time of political unrest.The story includes the poignant account of a woman with a fistula and the subsequent commitment of one of the main characters (male) to improving the surgical remedy and increasing access to the surgery. The author, Abraham Verghese, is a physician from Ethiopia now working at Stanford University. His experience and background inform the story tremendously, so the whole book is a good read.


    1. Thank you so much! As far as copyright – what I did was developed the text and put it into my widgets making sure it would be displayed in an area that you couldn’t miss. Feel free to use the wording I used. It’s pretty basic. I hope this is clear but please feel free to contact me if you’re having trouble!


    1. Loved Half the Sky! Time for me to re-read. I should have blogged on this long ago but glad for my the concern of my niece that motivated me finally. Thanks for reading!


  3. I have never heard of this and am deeply saddened. Thank you once again for bringing such sad and yet I want to say hopeful cause to our attention. For I believe with as many people as you touch, and with God, we truly can offer hope!

    You truly are such an inspiration my friend.

    I have missed you while I have been away.



    1. Miss you so much Traci! How fun to be able to say I miss some one I only know through blogging!! How are you my friend?! Re: this post- I should have written on this a long time ago and didn’t. So thank you for reading. I’m going to do a bigger push to see if I can get Communicating Across Boundaries folks to donate $5.00 each. We could raise a good amount I think!!


      1. I agree Marilyn!!! I think that is an amazing idea –sadly we are swimming in medical bills, just got hit with a $900.00 for 25 minutes of testing! :( I will see what I can do though for it’s an amazing cause, so please don’t think badly of me!!

        I am well, pretty well, still struggling with medical issues but trying to get by! Between the shoulders, chest and knee, I am a 80 year old in a 42’s body! BUT this too shall pass!!! :)

        I agree, I have missed you too–I am trying to get back into the swing of things and actually did post something–and will try and make it more’s hard for me to be on my computer for long lengths of time but I am going to get back into my ‘weight’ blog. I have a few more ‘ personal’ ones over the next day or two and then I will be back to that again!”_

        I have missed your sweet face and your loving words and I am so glad to read them again! You make me think, pray and sometimes cry–you are wonderful!



  4. The chapter about this in “Half the Sky” was so helpful on this topic and I’m glad you quoted them. I was so saddened to hear that this usually happens to girls when they are married off young and their bodies are big enough to get pregnant, but not really big enough to give birth. Then the same husband and parents who encouraged their young marriage are the ones who abandon them because of the shame of the condition. I think this book should be required reading.


    1. I totally agree that the book Half the Sky should be required reading. The essay that I wrote that was accepted into What a Woman is Worth book project is about the first time I encountered a woman with a fistula. Such a preventable problem! Thanks for the encouragement to others to read the book.


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