Dr. Catherine Hamlin is eighty seven years old and still performing surgeries. Her work has been included in multiple award winning documentary films, including A Walk to Beautiful and Lighting the Candle. We hadn’t received confirmation on our request meet, so when an interview was granted, we had to race back to the hotel to grab our equipment.
Along the way I hooked the lavalier microphone to Philippa and tested the audio levels, an excellent sample given the bump and jolt of the old minivan and the chaos of horns and street commerce. Joni configured her cameras for video and together we honed our questions to respect Dr. Hamlin’s time.
Dr Hamlin’s presence is graceful and enchanting. She fills a tall, composed space in her hospital whites surrounded by a backdrop of large window panes framing the extensive flora on the hospital grounds. As we prepare to film, a group of tourists come in to greet her. They are at once speechless and giddy with respect before this humble, grandmotherly presence.
I hoped to ask five questions in about ten minutes, but the tape started rolling as she talked about her gardens, how there were only two trees on the property when they purchased it, and how she personally planted each and every plant and tree. She spoke in long, thorough narratives and my five questions became a dialogue on women’s health and access issues that lasted for almost of forty minutes.
After our interview she gave us a more personal tour of the plants and trees that document her tenure here. Amid the chaos of Addis Ababa she has cultivated a garden, a hospital, and a system of support where rural women can begin finding peace and building a new life after the horrific, isolating trauma of fistulas so common in rural Ethiopia.
Photos by Joni Kabana
NOTE: Two duffel bags of KEEN shoes were delivered to Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who couldn’t have been more sincerely appreciative. Darlene and Philippa delivered two additional duffels to their clinic in Mota. The shoes are a big success and we’re working with Dr. Hamlin to transport more to her clinic, but there are so many more to deliver and we continue to look for delivery options.