hopesightings

finding hope and sharing it

On The Outside Looking In May 28, 2017

When I turned 11 I found myself on the outside looking in.

I grew up in warm Southern California as the youngest of three.

I would describe it as an idyllic childhood…

Riding bikes with my brothers, lots of friends on our street and at school,

good grades, fun times of soccer and softball, and a loving family.

I also had a strong sense of who I was.

I felt anything was possible.

I felt I could conquer the world.

Then we moved…

My life was rocked to my core.

I no longer belonged.

I forgot who I was.

Moving to Texas at 11 is still one of the most impactful and difficult experiences in my life.

Not only did I move to a new town in a new state, but

I moved into a new and totally different culture.

I felt as if I had moved to a new country.

I did not have the right clothes.

My accent (or lack thereof) was wrong.

I even had different slang.

No matter what I did or how I tried to connect, I was constantly reminded that I was

An outsider looking in.

Once we entered Texas, I had lost my sense of who I was.

I did not feel valued but lost.

I felt as if I was stranded on an island, in the middle of an ocean.

Over time I found my way “in” through new friends

Who accepted me for who I was.

I made friends just being “me”.

I learned that I could overcome and rise above obstacles by being myself…

The one God created me to be.

As a child, I always cheered and spoke out for the underdog.

Now, I had become the underdog.

I had a new appreciation of the value of community and

This increased my life-long compassion for

Those on the outside,

Those considered less than,

Those considered not important or of value.

I should not have been surprised that the issue of fistula would resonate with me,

Even though at the time I felt it hit me out of the blue.

As I first read about fistula, the focus of Hope for Our Sisters,

I was not only struck by the injustice of the situation but

The aloneness,

Isolation,

And lack of community

Suffered by these sisters of ours.

At Hope for Our Sisters we extend our reach beyond fistula surgery and prevention

By directly investing in each woman.

Just like you and me, each one of our sisters has value.

Each one of our sisters has a story to tell.

Each one of our sisters has a contribution to make.

Each one of our sisters has the right to rejoin their communities.

Each one of our sisters has the potential to change the world.

(NOTE: A session with the organization Resonate helped me tap into this story behind my passion for HFOS. I fully believe God broke my heart for this issue but I also believe He used this very difficult experience of mine to help fistula resonate with my heart.)

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

 

 

Motherhood is Eternal, as is Hope May 10, 2017

Springtime brings with it new life – flowers blooming, baby animals being born, the miracle of Easter. With our attention on creation, we as a society choose to mark a Sunday every May as “Mother’s Day”, pouring extra gratitude and love out onto the women who birthed us, raised us and supported us. We also reflect with reverence and fondness on the mothers in our lives who have passed away – some older, like our grandmothers, and some younger, dying of illness or accidents too soon.
There is a special group we are challenging you to consider in your prayers this year – women suffering with fistulas. Women who may or may not be mothers to living children, who may or may not have anyone celebrating them at all. According to a United Nations report from 2015, 70-80% of the babies born to mothers in obstructed labor (the mothers who are most likely to develop fistulas) will be stillborn.  Of those who do survive, there is a high risk of para- or quadriplegia, cerebral palsy and other defects related to low fetal oxygenation while the mother is pushing.
Motherhood is simply defined as “the state of being a mother.” This definition doesn’t exist solely in the present tense, it doesn’t have conditions. Famous artists, like Michelangelo with his Pieta, and famous authors, like Maya Angelou in Mom & Me & Mom, have tried to capture the spirit of motherhood and its endlessness in ways we all understand – but find so difficult to put into words.  Mothers who have departed from us do not stop being our mothers – so what of mothers who suffer on the opposite end of the spectrum? Are mothers who lose their baby or a child any less in that state of motherhood? Their child is with them always, a part of their existence and the course of their life. Whether their child lived thirty seconds or thirty years, the hopes, dreams and prayers for the life a mother supported likely differ little from those of every other mother around the globe. Surely the very act of hoping, dreaming and praying is an integral part of the transition from “woman” to “Mother”.
Women with fistula are desperate for new beginnings and life of their own – for repairs that will help them transition back to their communities and families, for cesarean sections that will bring their babies safely into the world with less risk of consequence from obstructed labor. They are desperate for HOPE. Is there a better place from which to honor our own mothers than from a mother’s constant place of generosity, support and love? As Mother’s Day approaches, we invite you to partner with us to honor our own mothers and these beautiful mothers in other parts of the world with your prayers.  Additionally, if you feel so moved, please consider making a gift for a mother in your life by supporting fistula care and prevention programs, whether by way of a Mother’s Day card or any other donation format available at hopeforoursisters.org.
Motherhood is eternal, as is hope. Thank you for your support of the sisters we care so deeply for at this special time of year.
Written by Cara Daniels, Hope for Our Sisters Team Member & Hope Generator
 

Stepping Up Courageously…Pursuing Hope December 1, 2016

celeste-aka-edalina-with-baby

I am Edalina. I am a wife. I am a mom. I have dreams, hopes, strength and potential. Tragically, I leaked urine all the time. Fistula tried to destroy my dreams, my hopes, my strength and my potential. Fistula almost succeeded.

 

I want healthy children. I want to contribute to my community with my husband. I want to make sure my daughters don’t suffer like me. Hearing about a visit with women from America and nurses from a local hospital brought me out of hiding. With ten courageous sisters I put aside my fear of further isolation and shame. I came to the local clinic. I stood strong. I said, “Here I am, I am worth your time”.

 

At this meeting, I discovered the name for my suffering…fistula. I discovered healing and help were available. I never knew anyone could help.

 

I never knew anyone wanted to help. I never knew anyone cared.

 

At the end of the meeting, we were advised to see the local doctor. Hope filled my heart. I was closer to healing, to a life worth living, the life I wanted! At the clinic I saw our American sisters and local nurses. They smiled, held our hands, and loved us. In them I saw hope in who I could be, who I was meant to be.

 

My flight to the main hospital was hope-filled and fearful. I came with my sisters who suffered just like me. People, those who believed I was worth it, YOU, funded my surgery. YOU saw my strength. YOU saw my potential.

 

After surgery I was told, “You are DRY!” DRY? Me? After three years of leaking on myself day after day, minute after minute. Three years of soaking my only clothes. Three years of isolation. Three years of despair. DRY!

celeste-aka-edalina-preso

I have hopes, dreams, strength and potential. Now that I am DRY I get to discover all that I am…all that I can be.

 

My sisters, our daughters, our mothers, also have dreams, hopes, strength and potential. They live for the day to hear, “You are DRY!” They pray for the day fistula no longer exists. Can YOU see their strength and potential? I can!

© 2016 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

Standing with Our Sisters…Unleashing Strength and Potential November 27, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 3:19 am
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ak-as-elisa-post-surgery (Elisa, recovering from fistula surgery)

 

I crouched in my hospital gown, leaning on the woman holding my IV tube while another woman in front of me held a cup beneath my legs. And I realized something profound: I was not ashamed.

 

I had every reason to be ashamed. I was mostly naked, bleeding, and shaking on very weak legs. All the parts of my body that made me female were sore; I was sweaty and un-showered after over 15 hours of labor. And yet, in that moment, I was not ashamed.

 

The reason is simple: I was surrounded by women. I’d never before felt so fully woman as I did in those moments after giving birth, because fellow women – sisters – rushed to my side and cared for me in my weakness, my exhaustion, and my pain. They cleaned me, comforted me, and ushered me into the beautiful sisterhood of women – a sisterhood I had always been a part of, but never fully understood. These women made me feel powerful, strong, and capable – even though I couldn’t use the bathroom on my own. And I knew they wouldn’t leave my side.

 

By this point I had been a Partner in Hope with HFOS for over a year, but it wasn’t until this moment that I realized how powerful this opportunity was. No, I couldn’t physically help clean a sister, or wrap my arms around her and tell her she was strong. But from across the ocean, my monthly donations enable other sisters to be there for each other. These sisters serve not only to clean, support, and encourage each other, though – they help unleash the undeniable strength and potential of every woman.

 

In all of us there is a fighter. A warrior. Sometimes that warrior comes out when we need to fight for ourselves, stand up to adversity, or take charge. And sometimes it comes out when one of our sisters is weak. We stand by each other. We bend so that a sister can lean on our back. We clean up the mess and tell her it’s ok to ask for help – that someday, she’ll be helping another sister who needs her.

 

Our sisters in Nepal, Angola, and the Congo were created with the same undeniable strength and potential that I was, that my mother was, that my daughter was, that the nurses in my delivery room were. And while in this moment of time they are relying on sisters like us, they should not be ashamed. They should feel proud and powerful to be women. They should feel beautiful and strong. They should know that at any time, any woman in the world could be in need of a sister. And with fistulas healed and dignity restored, they’ll go out and be that sister to lean on.

Written by Dianna Sawyer, Hope for Our Sisters Partner in Hope.

© 2016 by Dianna Sawyer

 

To learn more about fistula and how to unleash our sisters’ strength and potential, visit our website: hopeforoursisters.org.

 

UNDENIABLE, BEAUTIFUL STRENGTH! September 9, 2016

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 3:21 pm
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holding-hands-together-old-young-love-close-up-outdoors-60397819

Loving, yet Tough

Weak, yet Strong

Gentle, yet Feisty

Who do these words describe? The beautiful sisters I have met on my journeys to Angola. The incredible women we serve and invest in through Hope for Our Sisters.

Battling through their days as they suffer from fistula, they exude sadness along with hope, dismay at their loss with strength in their core, and love for each other with an inner strength hard to describe with mere words.

Undeniable, beautiful strength!

These words also came to mind these past two days as I shared precious moments with my 97-year-old grandmother, Mimi. Given the gift of time, I flew to Texas to see my parents, aunts and Mimi. Simply sitting beside Mimi, swapping stories, and watching her do the basic things required of life inspired me.

Mimi is one of the most giving, loving and selfless people I know. However, there is also an inner fire that runs through her veins that makes her who she is. I see this fire in my mom, my daughter, and myself. (My husband can attest to this!) An inner fire that shows itself through loving others, living out of our weakness, and being gentle as well as tough, strong and feisty. All women have this…

Undeniable, beautiful strength!

It touched my heart to see the same strength in Mimi that I do in our sisters in Angola. All of us, no matter where we live, are connected. All of us can find within ourselves what is needed for each day. Don’t get me wrong, men have this too, it’s just different. Men and women, when both celebrated, can complement each other, serve with passion, strive for lasting change, and live out the beautiful lives we and others were meant to live.

May we all recognize and live out of our own undeniable, beautiful strength. Think about what would the world look life if all of us were willing to be…

Loving, yet Tough

Weak, yet Strong

Gentle, yet Feisty

 

Changing the lives of women, one woman at a time.

© 2016 by Brooke F Sulahian

http://www.hopeforoursisters.org

 

CAN HOPE BE FOUND IN A JAR OF COINS? October 30, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 1:57 pm
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Jar of Coins

EVERY PENNY COUNTS!

A friend decided it was time to deposit her HUGE jar of coins. She realized she had no specific plan for the money, but knew she could use always it.

However, it turns out that someone else had a PLAN for her money. As she drove to the bank, this is what happened:

She prayed to God that if there was enough money in the jar to fund a fistula surgery, she would donate the money to Hope for Our Sisters.

Guess what?

There was MORE than she had asked for!

With JOY, she decided to donate the money to our organization on behalf of our sisters.

My friend could have done a lot of things with this money, yet she chose to INVEST in HOPE. She chose to GIVE another woman or girl the CHANCE for a NEW LIFE. With her investment in our mission, she SENT HOPE across the waves to our sisters in Angola, the Congo and Nepal.

Can HOPE be found in a jar of coins? Where else can HOPE be found? Do you have HOPE sitting in your home? If so, what will you do with your HOPE?

Let’s take our HOPE and INVEST it in OTHERS’ LIVES!

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

GETTING MUDDY FOR HOPE September 12, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 1:58 pm
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Mudderella-Participants

Exciting, challenging, empowering, heartbreaking, awe-inspiring, exhausting, uplifting and joyous. This is how I describe the adventure of running Hope for Our Sisters, Inc. (HFOS), our “For-Purpose” (i.e. non-profit) organization. What a journey it has been.

Through God’s provision for and guidance through HFOS, I have been compelled to do things I never dreamed I would do…start a For-Purpose organization, travel to Africa, speak with friends, family and anyone who will listen about a relatively unknown condition, work for no salary, and give my life for others I may never meet.

And now…I am getting really muddy!

The Mudderella for Hope is the result of a young mom whose heart was moved by my sharing at her Mom to Mom group on June 1st of this year. She and a friend wanted to do the New England Mudderella and decided to do it in honor of our sisters with and at risk of fistula. Thank YOU! We now have the Muddy Madonnas, a team of beautiful women willing to work hard, challenge themselves, and raise awareness and support for our sisters.

Through my HFOS journey, I have learned to pray for God to simply “show up and surprise us” at all events. Yes, we set financial goals and targets, but you never know how events will and will not appeal to others or who will and will not support us this time around. In the end, this is God’s organization and He will do what He wants to do. He always shows up. He always surprises us.

While praying this morning, I sensed this message from God…(Visualize a smile on his face…)

“My daughter, you tell me everyday that you will say YES no matter what, that you will trust Me no matter what. So, for this event, I could give you and your team some earthly affirmation or you can wait on Me to do what I want to do with this event.”

I so enjoy being part of His bigger plan! Before HFOS, I never saw God work so clearly. All we can do is all we can do then leave the rest to Him. He is going to use the Mudderella event in a HUGE way…I can feel it. I cannot wait to see what He does through the Muddy Madonnas.

Why am I doing this? Yes, I want to raise awareness and support for our sisters. Yes, I want to do something new and accomplish challenges as a team. Yes, I want to push myself and see what I can do as I see birthday #45 in my near future. However, I also want to show Peter, Lucy and the other young kids at the event a different side of beauty…not the kind our world honors on the cover of a magazine, but a beauty in strength, confidence, teamwork and courage to push ourselves to the limit, get completely filthy, and help each other reach our goals and finish the race while we help change the lives of our sisters one woman and girl at a time.

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian