Brookline High School Freshman, Sarah Gladstone, is more than a little amazing. We know Sarah because she is, so far, the youngest recipient ever of a BrooklineHub.com Youth Award. In 2012, she won the award; the only 8th grader to ever receive one. At the age of 12, she began raising money to save young woman in Africa who are around the same age as herself from a horrific fate; obstetric fistula.
According to Sarah's website, throwbackastarfish.org, Obstetric fistula afflicts 100,000 girls in 19 developing countries in Asia and Africa. It is caused by a combination of girls having babies at far too young an age and lacking birth attendants to help them with delivery.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a fistula is an "abnormal connection between an organ, vessel, or intestine and another structure" and is typically the result of injury or surgery.
In the case of obstetric fistula, the young girl's pelvis is too small for the baby to pass through, sometimes leading to weeks of labor before the infant is delivered. The physical trauma of this compresses and kills healthy tissue between the bladder and vagina or rectum and vagina, creating holes through which waste material leaks uncontrollably. After suffering from the experience of such a horrific birth, these girls are then treated as outcasts by their village, as their community feels the physical side effects are proof the girls are cursed.
Inspired by the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Sarah decided to do something about it. A hospital in Ethiopia specializes in correcting Obstetric Fistula, and offers the operation for $450. This amount Is almost nothing if someone in our families needed the procedure, but $450 is a fortune in the third world. The cost might as well be $450 million dollars.
To raise money for treatment and education about this affliction, Sarah creates and sells beautiful bracelets using beads purchased from women in Cambodia. These women use the money earned from selling their beads to educate their children.
In a nutshell, Sarah purchases beads which help educate kids in Cambodia, creates wonderful bracelets for woman locally and uses the money to help young woman in Africa. That's about as efficient as a socially conscious, sustainable non-profit can get. To date, Sarah has sold over $8,000 in bracelets.
One May 20th, Sarah's Throw Back a Starfish Project will host an event for the Fistula Foundation at BATV. Dr. Jennifer Scott, Director of the Global and Community Health Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will discuss her experiences performing fistula repair surgeries in Africa. The event is free, but all are encouraged to purchase a necklace for $20. It's worth it.
The event begins at 7 with a dessert hour followed by speaker at 8. Special props go out to Paris Creperie, Peet's Coffee, and JP Licks for providing the refreshments.
I don't mean to sound overly preachy here, but if young people in our community choose to dedicate their time and efforts to these kinds of noble pursuits, it is our duty as responsible community members to support them. Come to the event, buy a bracelet, go online to throwbackastarfish.org and do what you can to help. And please don't forget to tell Sarah you and her community are proud of her.
"A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back in the water.
'What are you doing, son?' the man asks. 'You see how many starfish there are? You'll never make a difference.'
The boy pauses thoughtfully, picks up another starfish, and throws it into the ocean. 'It sure made a difference to that one,' he says."
- From Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
~ R. Harvey Bravman, Publisher