finding hope and sharing it

FUELED BY HOPE December 29, 2018

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 1:34 pm
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At Hope for Our Sisters

Hope is what we are all about

What is hope?

Hope is

To expect with confidence

Hope is

A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen

Hope is

A powerful force created by God


Ignites ideas and enables perseverance


Gives people a reason to get up each day


Gives us the energy to do our work


Enables us to imagine a world without fistula


Is something everyone can generate


Can change the world


Has not yet reached every inch of our world

Will you generate hope with our precious sisters today?


Let’s generate it and share it today!


To find out more, go to hopeforoursisters.org

© 2018 by Brooke F Sulahian


Building Bridges December 27, 2018

There is a common adage shared with incoming public health students and with those listening in on important conversations being had in the arena:

One day, a group of fishermen were at their work midway down a river in a small village. A man suddenly drifted past them on the current, in clear distress and near to drowning. The fishermen were able to rescue him, and as their day settled and they prepared to cast their lines again, they were stunned to find another drowning victim passing them by. This went on for hours and hours, into the night, with more and more people washing past them, each in grave danger. Eventually, the fishermen sent someone upstream to see if they could discover where all of the drowning victims were coming from. A bridge was found to have been damaged, with people unaware and falling through. The bridge was repaired in short order, the falls into the river stopped, and the exhausted fishermen were thankful for less eventful working days to come.

This story focuses on “going upstream” to find the source of problems, and its lesson is crucial to practitioners and advocates for women’s health. There are 2-3 million women estimated to be living with fistula across the globe, with 50,000 -130,000 new cases occurring annually. The surgical capacity to repair all of these fistulas doesn’t currently exist. Organizations like Hope for Our Sisters can’t ignore the women currently living with fistula – our hearts ache for these precious sisters and we will always seek to help them by funding fistula surgeries.

But we are an organization uniquely sent to find the problems upstream and start repairing the fragile bridges, the weak infrastructure, that is causing fistula in the first place.

The risks for fistula begin when any female is a small girl: if she is undernourished or if she cannot attend school, she is at risk. If, as a teenager, she is married and becomes pregnant too young, she is at risk. If, as a grown woman, she lives too far from safe delivery options and has minimal prenatal care, she is at risk — with every pregnancy that she undertakes.

We can consider this continuum of a woman’s life, from girlhood to motherhood, to flow like the river in the story. There are many, many points along the river where we can intervene. Someday, we hope to dip our hands into new pools and be shown by our partners how to help in new ways. But at this time, for the women with whom we currently partner, the needs we are best equipped to address are education about safe delivery and fistula prevention, and ensuring that finances and providers are available for safe vaginal or surgical (cesarean) deliveries.

Fifty percent of our funding in 2018 went to preventative care. In 2019, we plan to provide at least 50% towards prevention. We are committed to bringing fistula to an end. We continue to fund the education of surgeons through the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS), who can provide maternal care in our partner countries of Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We provide maternal health funds in Angola and DRC so that cost is not a barrier to care for any woman coming to our partner clinics for help (the poorest women are often the most at risk for fistula). We will continue to support the Ultrasound Empowerment Program in Angola, Fistula Education and Awareness sessions in Angola and Nepal, and Sexual Gender-Based Violence groups in DRC. Our ears will always be open to new ways to stem the tide of women suffering from fistula – we envision a world in which fistula is eradicated because maternal health care, globally, is so sound that no woman would ever be put at such at risk.

There is so much work to be done in 2019 and beyond. There are so many who still need to be reached, so many who are risk of falling from the bridge, into the river below, and drowning. Where we build bridges, women thrive.

Thank you for building with us by investing in preventative care for women.


Guest blog written by Cara Brooks, Hope for Our Sisters Board Member and Partner in Hope

Find out more about our prevention efforts at hopeforoursisters.org

Why Prevention? December 26, 2018

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 10:50 pm
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Surgery alone is not enough.

In addition to providing treatment through surgery,

We choose to partner with our sisters before they get injured.

Our sisters deserve a life path without fistula looming in the horizon.

Let’s work together to kick fistula out of Angola, DR Congo and Nepal.

We can do this!

One woman at a time

One girl at a time

One husband at a time

One family at a time

One community at a time

Lasting prevention takes:







We at Hope for Our Sisters are championing a groundswell movement where each woman

and girl in our partner countries is emboldened to choose her future.


To find out more, go to hopeforoursisters.org

© 2018 by Brooke F Sulahian


Imagine December 8, 2018

Imagine a beautiful world where Hope for Our Sisters doesn’t exist.
Not because it ran out of money.
Not because people stopped wanting to help.
Imagine that Hope for Our Sisters doesn’t exist because it doesn’t need to anymore…because of prevention.
When my daughter gets hurt and I get to rescue her with a big hug and an ice pack, I feel like a hero.
It’s a great feeling.
But then my next thought is, “How can I stop her from getting hurt the next time?”
I might find out more about how she got hurt, and scan the area for what made it dangerous.
Because even though I like being a hero, I’d rather feel confident that my daughter is safe.
When it comes to helping our sisters, there’s something instantly rewarding about funding a fistula surgery or providing a new dress–we can see the problem, and provide a solution.
We see a woman’s face and think, “I helped pay for her surgery!”
But what if instead of a fistula, she had a life-saving c-section instead?
Immediate aid is critical.
Not only because it saves lives, but because it helps doctors and nurses understand the problem better.
With each sister arriving for a fistula repair surgery, we have the chance to learn more about their bodies, backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs.
But prevention is the next step.
We take what we know about human anatomy and pregnancy, and pair it with what we know about many women’s journey to motherhood.
We can take all of that and use it to ask, “How can I stop her from getting hurt the next time?”
Through the Ultrasound Empowerment Program, doctors can help women make healthy, educated choices by determining if a c-section is necessary.
Knowledge empowers women.
Choice empowers women.
Prevention empowers women.
Imagine again that beautiful world, one where women have increased access to prenatal care and know exactly what’s happening in their bodies.
Imagine they are empowered to choose to have a c-section.
Imagine they go home with their babies, fistula-free.
By continuing to fund not only aid but prevention, we give our sisters true hope–hope for their safety, hope for their babies, hope for the future.
Guest blog written by Dianna Sawyer, Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope
Find out more about our prevention efforts at hopeforoursisters.org

Interruption or Appointment? July 17, 2018

Off to barre class…walking the same path I take each time…hoping for a great workout to begin my day

Without expecting it, I saw him…sitting along my path…crutches, backpack, soiled pants, weary

I felt prompted to stop…I was interrupted…I felt prompted to ask if it would be helpful to him if I brought him a sandwich…he said “Yes”

We shook hands…exchanged names…his name is “Eden”…life has been hard

I told him I’d be back after my workout (thinking to myself: I had an appointment with barre and did not want an interruption to get in the way…I would help Eden after)…he promised he would be sitting there

It is so hard to type those words…to admit and acknowledge that I saw him, a person with value, as an interruption…however, I’m willing to be very real here

As I got back on my path, it was clear there was another plan for my morning…not 100 feet further up I saw him…I had seen him before…backpack, weary, tired

He never accepted my offerings of help before but I was prompted…so I asked if it would be helpful to bring him a sandwich on my way back…he surprised me with his emotional reply…”Oh, yea…”

We shook hands…exchanged names…his name is “Kevin”…life has been hard for him too

I told him I had planned to get a workout this morning but he and Eden were more important (so thankful for this change of heart)…I said I’d be back…off I went

I did go to class, but only to ask for an exception since I would be a “no show”…my instructor gladly said “Yes”

Off to Brueggers…it was on the way…entering the restaurant the tears began to fall

Wow, my heart really hurt in that moment…Now I can see that God was allowing my heart to break over what breaks His heart…I also think He had been preparing me for this interruption which I now see as a divine appointment…just yesterday, Peter, Lucy and I met Roy and Melanie…a couple living on the streets of Boston…we shook hands, exchanged names, and gave them Dunkin Donut gift cards to they could get a meal…they shared a bit of their story with us…this has become simply what we do when we meet those in similar situations

Peter and Lucy thankfully don’t like seeing people on the streets…my son said, “Mommy, they are people, they deserve to have a place to live.” I told him our current systems are not yet set up to fully help those in the margins, but we can do our part, work for positive change, love them, and pray for them

I’ve had a broken heart for those who are homeless for years now…I haven’t write about it since it’s not my calling…my calling is Hope for Our Sisters…my calling involves maternal health and lack of medical care

Then it hit me…our sisters, the women with whom we partner through Hope for Our Sisters, are forced to exist in the margins…Eden, Kevin, Roy and Melanie are also existing in the margins…yes, they may be there for very different reasons, but they are there…all around us

Our culture, our world, deems folks in the margins as unseeable, untouchable, and unknowable…this is why when I travel for Hope for Our Sisters and meet with our sisters, I touch their hands, learn their names and listen to their stories (I even hug those who will let me)…I realized I do the same when I meet people living on the street…they too need to be seen, touched and known

Back to Brueggers…tears kept falling as I ordered sandwiches, waters and gift cards for Eden and Kevin…a little offering of hope…an offering I could give today

Why was I sobbing like this? I could not wrap my mind around it…but as I walked back to Eden and Kevin it hit my heart…hope…hope is what Eden and Kevin need…today hope is wrapped up in a meal, drink, gift card, gentle shake of the hand and a smile

Then it hit me even deeper…hope is at the heart of Hope for Our Sisters…hope is what we work to generate as we partner with our sisters…in our efforts to grow and expand Hope for Our Sisters and do more for women in Angola, the DRC and Nepal, had I forgotten about hope?…I think I have

Maybe, just maybe, God used today to not only give me the chance to see, touch and know Eden and Kevin, but to also be reminded of why Hope for Our Sisters exists…to generate hope and pass it along to those in the margins…hope is what it is all about

I share this not to brag…I share this not to make you feel guilty…I share this not to espouse the best way to interact with those who find themselves homeless (I am not an expert)…I share this because I think God wants me to…I share this because I finally see the connection between those in the margins locally and those in the margins globally…it’s also time to finally share my heart about those who are homeless…they need hope just like our sisters

When first accepting my calling, which grew into Hope for Our Sisters, I made God a promise…I promised I would never be selfish with anyone who attends our events or hears me share…if what we do through Hope for Our Sisters prompts anyone, yes you, to generate hope for another person no matter the situation, that is a win, that is a victory for all of us! That is hope!

May we all view life’s interruptions as life’s divine appointments…who are you supposed to see, touch and know today? You could be the hope someone needs


© 2018 by Brooke F. Sulahian



Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 2:19 pm
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Year 7 with our sisters





Doing all we can to generate


That lasts from year to year to year


That will bring about real change for the better


That helps our sisters move in from the margins


That is embraced and shared with others by our sisters


That elevates our sisters within their families and communities


That sticks

What does this HOPE need to generate long-term?

To PARTNER with our sisters, hospitals, doctors and

other organizations

To bring about the END OF FISTULA

To provide quality, timely, accessible HEALTHCARE

for our sisters

To provide OPTIONS for health

What does this require?

This requires QUALITY HEALTHCARE accessible to all

Not sure when we will see this

But we will KEEP THIS IN SIGHT each and every day

Quality healthcare accessible TO ALL…

Now, that is something about which to






© 2018 by Brooke F. Sulahian


One Woman April 24, 2018

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 6:23 pm
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One Woman

What a year to be a woman. One by one, women who had been hiding in shame stepped forward, illuminating their stories and inspiring others. They became more fully themselves as they told their stories of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination. Their courage made a bold statement: “This will not define me. I am more than this.” And now, a culture that for so long accepted what was happening in secret has begun to change. It started with one woman.

When a woman is suffering with fistula, she does not need to hide in shame—she is publicly shamed. She is outcast, she is forgotten, she is told, “This is who you are.” For so many women, this lie is simply accepted. Nobody asks about the woman’s skills, her intellect, her passions, her personality—she is simply a woman who is broken, who cannot work, who cannot bear children, who can contribute nothing. Often, she is abandoned. This is the culture she has been made to accept.

But what happens when this woman, through the generous gifts of strangers and the tireless efforts of nurses and doctors, is healed of fistula? Who is she now? What can she do?

To empower is “to promote the self-actualization or influence of.” To empower someone is encouraging them to discover, “This is who I am. And this is what I can do.” For women healed of fistula, empowerment is the next step.

When she asks, “Who am I?” the empowerment program encourages her to discover, I am more than a woman who lost a child. I am more than a woman who was left. I am more than a woman who was broken. I am strong. I am brave. I am smart. I am capable.

When she asks, “What can I do?” the empowerment program helps her discover, I can sew. I can build. I can create. I can imagine. I can earn income. I can provide. I can learn. I can inspire others. I can change my life. I can change my culture.

If one woman learns to weave a basket, learns how and where to sell it, and earns her own money, she may feel good about herself and what she has accomplished. But if another woman is watching and thinks, “I could do that, too,” then she has made an impact. She has had influence. She has truly been empowered.

The work of Hope for Our Sisters has found that it is not enough to simply heal a fistula. Often, what a woman has endured is not only medical in nature, but emotional, spiritual, psychological, and cultural. When she gets out of the hospital bed recovered, she is a new woman. She has new hope. She has new opportunity. She has the chance to discover who she really is, and what she can do.

The cultural norms for many women with fistula are hard to overcome. But it starts with one woman willing to seek treatment, open to learning new skills, eager to share her story. It starts with a woman empowered. With the opportunities through the Hope for Our Sisters empowerment program, one woman at a time can look back at her past with fistula and boldly declare: “This will not define me. I am more than this.”

And as one woman empowers another, and then another, and then another, anything is possible.

Guest blog for Hope for Our Sisters Mother’s Day Gift of Life Campaign by Dianna Sawyer

© 2018 by Brooke F Sulahian

Hope for Our Sisters is currently generating hope and raising funds through our Mother’s Day Gift of Life Campaign to support our work with our precious sisters in Angola, the DR Congo and Nepal. If you want to help us generate more hope that ever, go to http://hopeforoursisters.org/donate-online/ to make a donation. For a minimum $25 donation, we will send a beautiful Mother’s Day card to a mom in your life if you provide the needed information in the text boxes on the online donation form. Thank you!