Champagne brunch raises funds for Fistula Project

Linda Chamberlain talks about a previous trip to Uganda during the June 23 champagne brunch fundraiser at Wilinda Blueberry Patch.

Photo by Trisha Walker
Linda Chamberlain talks about a previous trip to Uganda during the June 23 champagne brunch fundraiser at Wilinda Blueberry Patch.

Linda Chamberlain’s interest in The Fistula Project began, she said, with a family of big babies.

Her father was born at home, weighing in at 12 pounds.

“My grandmother never had another baby,” she noted.

Chamberlain’s mother — 5 feet, 2 inches — gave birth to a 9 pound, 9 and a half ounce Linda, whose own children weighed between 9 and a half pounds and 10 pounds, 14 ounces at birth.

“I started to think about my grandmother and my mother,” Chamberlain explained at the champagne brunch, held at Wilinda Blueberry Patch on Frankton Road June 23. “They weren’t 14. They weren’t raped on the way to school on a two-mile walk. They didn’t become pregnant from rape or have eight or nine kids. But that’s the culture (in Uganda).”

And instead of thinking, “I’m so lucky that’s not me,” Chamberlain thought, “Why should these women have to do this?”

Fistula “is an injury, caused by obstruction in labor during childbirth, which leaves women incontinent,” Chamberlain explained in a 2015 News story, which she said often results in the death of the infant. She’s worked with The Fistula Project at Kitovu Hospital in Uganda for the past eight years.

The brunch raised enough funds to provide seven more fistula surgeries, Chamberlain reported. She plans to visit the hospital in October for two weeks, joined by three more women.

“It’s a must-do check-in on the two repaired girls in vocational school and the four ambassadors,” she said. (Ambassadors are women who have had fistula surgery, who then go into villages seeking other women who need surgery.) “I’m a fanatic about following the money — or Uganda schilling — or the grants I’ve written, especially when my name and responsibility are on it.

“Even when someone gives me a tip at the blueberry patch, I put it in another pocket and say, ‘Well, that’s X number of bus or motorcycle rides to the hospital,” she said.

During her presentation at the brunch, Chamberlain told stories of how the women are taught to knit during their hospital to alleviate their boredom. The simple gift of knitting needles and yarn give them not only a purpose, but show that someone else cares about them. Some are wheeled into surgery clutching their balls of yarn and needles, she said.

Additionally, Chamberlain is working to create packs of fabric menstrual pads that allow girls to continue attending school. She is looking for contributions of both money and material, as well as volunteers to sew the pads together (a great beginning serging project, she noted, or women’s group project).

“That’s the greatest gift they could receive after having used rags for several months or years,” she said of the project.

Fistula Project donations can still be sent to Chamberlain, 730 Frankton Road, Hood River, OR 97031. Woven Ugandan baskets are also for sale at the blueberry patch, with all proceeds going to The Fistula Project.

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