Like many who saw the January 2004 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show featuring Dr. Catherine Hamlin, Sue Hoese had never heard of an obstetric fistula. The show opened her eyes and moved her to take action. She founded a group called the “Bead Together Circle of Friends” to make beaded bracelets for patients at the hospital, and to raise awareness of obstetric fistula and raise funds for the Fistula Foundation.
By October 2004, she and her friends had made 1,600 bracelets. Sue was invited to join Oprah on her visit to Ethiopia, and presented the bracelets in person to patients at the Fistula Hospital. “It was an incredible, life-changing experience for me. Dr. Hamlin is as loving, kind, genuine and gracious as she appeared to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I admire the way she truly lives her faith.”
When Sue returned home to Minneapolis, she felt she had to do even more. “My ‘Bead Together’ friends and I decided to design a message bracelet that women around the world could wear to support this cause.” Sue contacted the Fistula Foundation with her idea for the Dignity Bracelet. “We chose the word ‘Dignity’ to inscribe on the main bead because of what the hospital does – it restores dignity to women – and we wanted people who wear the bracelet to feel a connection to the women in Ethiopia.” Sue and her friends connected with Jill Johnson, owner of Minneapolis-based Jilco, Inc., who was so moved by the plight of the fistula women that she is manufacturing and distributing the bracelet at cost. Donors can obtain a bracelet from the Fistula Foundation for a gift of $125 or more.
“I’m so grateful to The Oprah Winfrey Show for shedding light on this problem… I will be a life-long advocate for this cause.” True to her word, Sue spoke at a Women’s Day event on March 4 at the University of Minnesota about fistula and the work of the Hospital.