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home Publications Blog Why I Want to be Worldwide Fistula Fund’s New Executive Director

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Why I Want to be Worldwide Fistula Fund’s New Executive Director

August 31, 2015

Soja Orlowski, Executive Director

I was named the Executive Director in August and I’m grateful for the confidence that the WFF Board has placed in me.

I’ve worked at nonprofit organizations in multiple fields: domestic violence, people with disabilities, substance abuse and treatment, affordable housing and college scholarships for students without means. What these organizations had in common was they provided people opportunities to better their situations. Too often poverty was a factor in their current predicament.

When I first started working at Worldwide Fistula Fund, I did not know what obstetric fistula was. I was horrified when I learned it left women leaking urine or feces continuously from their vagina. Now my goal is to help WFF grow to help more women and address the great injustice of fistula, the consequence of a childbirth gone wrong and no access to quality obstetric care.

Consider that women in sub-Saharan Africa and developing nations in Asia are enduring an average 4 days in labor only to deliver a stillborn baby and then discover they also have a fistula. Many of these women live remotely, far from any health clinic or hospital and they live in poverty. There is no emergency number to call when they realize their baby is stuck. There is no ambulance coming for them. The nearest health facility may be several days’ walk from their home over rough terrain. The facility may not have a doctor and is even less likely to have the operating facilities for a C-section which is a common remedy for obstructed labor in developed nations. Watch Video.

The success stories are amazing! When I hear stories of women’s lives transformed after surgery, I am so impressed by all they have accomplished. These are strong, smart, capable women. Margaret was brought to a fistula surgeon and supported through recovery by our partner in Uganda, TERREWODE. Margaret’s husband left when she developed her fistula which she then lived with for 26 years before her surgery in 2012. Through the WFF funded Women’s Empowerment & Economic Self-Reliance Center (WEES) in Soroti, Margaret  received reintegration training in cooking and group leadership. With her new skills, in 2013 Margaret returned to her village and started her own catering business. She also created the Abarilela Fistula Solidarity Group (AFSG). Today, Margaret employs two other fistula survivors in her catering business. AFSG now has 17 members (12 survivors) and has referred 35 women for fistula surgery.

This year, I made a personal decision to fund one woman's surgery annually. To me, $40 per month means a few lunches per week. To a woman in sub-Saharan Africa, it means having the surgery that transforms her life of odor, isolation, and despair into a life of hope and opportunity. Please consider joining me.

I’ve learned much from WFF’s distinguished Board during Strategic Planning. The WFF Board is comprised of expert clinicians in Obstetrics, Female Urology, Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstruction (Urogynecology), Physical Therapy and experts in continence care as well as medical devices and innovations.

Our Founder, Lewis Wall, had a dream to build the finest fistula hospital in Niger. We have and continue to grow services and sites in more countries to give women with fistulas hope for a better life. We also train doctors in Ethiopia for fistula prevention and access to quality care.

Of course, I want a part in helping heal these women and help them start a new life!