Meet Bernard

Bernard Owino is one of six county mobilizers with Disciples of Mercy (DOM), an organization that runs a fistula outreach program in Kisumu. Before joining DOM, he worked with orphans and other vulnerable populations in the region for four years as a social worker.

Bernard's Story

During that time, Bernard came across a number of women with fistula but did not know how to support them, as he was largely unfamiliar with the condition. His concern for these women continued to grow and he decided he wanted to do something to help. That’s when he first heard about DOM.

As a county mobilizer, Bernard’s main role is to identify new fistula patients. He first conducts verbal screenings then refers potential patients to our partner facilities for a more thorough physical exam. Women who are diagnosed with fistula are then referred to the nearest treatment center to undergo free repair surgery. Following treatment, Bernard follows up with patients to ensure they are doing well and to address any reintegration challenges they might be experiencing.

“Challenges are inevitable while working with this kind of population,” Bernard says. “Men are still the sole decision makers in our African setting, so even women who have fistula are unable to make the choice of whether to go in for treatment or not. Men don’t like being part of any conversation that talks about women’s reproductive health. The few who do allow their wives to go for treatment often don’t even visit them while they are in the hospital. The lack of men’s support in the treatment process is a stumbling block.”

What keeps Bernard motivated in the face of all these challenges? The smiles on the faces of fistula patients after their surgery. “Is there anything on this planet as rewarding as seeing someone smile?” he asks. “Those smiles keep me going when the going gets tough. I feel it’s the least I can do in gratitude of the life my mother gave me.”

About Kenya

  • Population: 45,010,056
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.54
  • Female Literacy: 84.2%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

News
Out of the Margins #2 – This doctor is unstoppable

Dr. Charlotte Kaliti is a force to be reckoned with. She is the first female surgeon to complete Fistula Foundation’s rigorous training program in Kenya—and she’s just getting started. Dr. Kaliti commands the room as she sits at the head of a conference table in Nairobi. She looks impeccable—even though she entered only moments before…

News
Fistula Foundation partners with Quilts For Empowerment

Fistula Foundation is partnering with Quilts for Empowerment, an organization that teaches quilting to impoverished women in Kenya, including obstetric fistula survivors. Quilts for Empowerment has completed many quilt commissions for Fistula Foundation, with each one featuring the women’s work. Read more: Fistula Foundation partners with QFE Quilts for Empowerment is honored to announce that…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Soazara

    Madagascar

    Soazara's husband abandoned her, because he could not stand her smell. Life became almost unbearable for her.

  • Wilmina

    Kenya

    “The last 22 years have been years of great pain, loss and very deep sorrows. I lost my baby, later lost my marriage, lost friends, and lost my only family (my parents). Fistula robbed me of everything that I once valued, and I have been left very empty.”

  • Kaudha

    Uganda

    Kaudha is from eastern Uganda. At age 27, she developed a fistula after spending hours in labor with her third child. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive, and Kaudha’s condition left her feeling isolated from friends and loved ones. But in fall 2015, her story—and her outlook—changed dramatically.

  • Fistula Foundation - Kamala

    Kamala

    Nepal

    Kamala is a 47 year old mother of four and from a very remote area of western Nepal known as Dailekh. She lived with fistula for eight years, but thankfully is one of few patients who had the support of her husband the entire time.

  • Pastor Raphael

    Kenya

    The fact that he is blind has never slowed him down, and at 45 years, Pastor Raphael is feeling young and energetic. As a child, Pastor Raphael was unable to finish school as he had tend to the family’s cattle, but he always felt a calling to become a pastor and to serve his community.

  • Fistula Foundation - Lia

    Lia

    Angola

    Lia arrived at CEML with great misgivings - she had sought help at many places for her fistula but was given no hope. A friend told her that she might find help at CEML and urged her to go, which she eventually did. She told staff there that she sat on some rocks nearby, cried and repeated “God help me” over and over before coming through the doors.

  • Alitash

    Ethiopia

    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Extremely shy, and embarrassed by her condition, Rasoanirina stopped going to school.

  • Vitasoa

    Madagascar

    Vitasoa is from the village of Manja, approximately 250km from the nearest city, Morondava. She developed fistula during the birth of her first child.

  • Goni-Ethiopia

    Goni

    Ethiopia

    Goni is fifteen years old and lives in a small village in the hills of northeastern Ethiopia. She married and became pregnant. During labor she developed a fistula; her husband abandoned her after the injury became apparent.

  • Naresia Kenya

    Naresia

    Kenya

    Naresia is a Masai girl from a rural village in Kenya. Only five months ago, at the age of 14, Naresia gave birth to a baby. After a prolonged and difficult labor, she awoke to find her bed soaked with urine. The doctors informed her that the delivery process had left her with an obstetric fistula and she was now incontinent.

  • Sujata

    Nepal

    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.

  • Christine A.

    Kenya

    Christine loved her husband and bore him six children. But after he died, Christine's life changed when she was forced to marry her eldest brother-in-law, who cared very little for her or her children. She became pregnant with her seventh child, enduring a prolonged labor that left her with obstetric fistula. Her new husband shunned her and kicked her out of her home. But then she found hope.

  • Annet Jane

    Annet Jane

    Uganda

    Pregnant at 14, Annet Jane suffered with a fistula for 23 years before receiving treatment. Now, she has hope for the future.

  • Francine

    Madagascar

    She became pregnant with her first child around age 17. Things did not go as planned, and Francine found herself in labor for three days. Finally, she was taken to a hospital where her baby was delivered via C-section. As a result of her prolonged obstructed labor, Francine had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Umuhoza

    Rwanda

    Umuhoza arrived at the hospital with two massive fistulas and could barely walk. She was so traumatized by her labor that she could not remember any details. Today she is healed, but the road to recovery has been long and difficult.

  • Jahanara

    Bangladesh

    Jahanara is just 23 years old. She was in labor for a full day at home before going to a hospital for an emergency C-section. By then, unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

  • Seline

    Kenya

    Seline lives in a small village in the remote region of West Pokot, Kenya. She did not go to school and married young, as is tradition in this pastoralist community. She went into labor with her fourth child about three years ago, preferring to give birth at home with a traditional birth attendant from her village. Only 18% of women give birth in a health center in this region of Kenya, far below the national average of 44%