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The Beyond Fistula Story

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

On 6th May 2021, a few days after I completed my winter bikini challenge for the Birth Trauma Association, and not long after the BBC released the video cataloguing my journey, an email dropped into my account from an unknown sender:

“My name is Nell Maynard and I work with Beyond Fistula, a non profit based in Kenya. We help young women heal and rebuild their lives after obstetric fistula, just like you! Your story is so inspiring and we have passed it along to a few of our girls in our programs who also have a stoma to manage their fistulas.

Are you potentially interested in seeing what we can do together to support this population? I hope so!”

And so began one of the most rewarding, life affirming and eye opening relationships I have ever had.

I was immediately intrigued, and logged onto the Beyond Fistula website ( Beyond Fistula - Beyond Fistula) to find out some more. The Foundation was set up in 2012 by Arielle Matityahu and mum Dr Debbie Matityyahu, after 12 year old Arielle visited Kenya for the first time and saw the horrific suffering of Kenyan women left with obstetric fistulas following difficult childbirth. Just as I was in 2011, the women are left physically leaking bodily fluids (ie, incontinent both ways) while dealing with the significant emotional aftermath of such physical and mental trauma. It was telling that the Foundation was set up at the same time as I was battling my own septic fistula and stoma. I am not sure whether I believe in fate, but sometimes coincidences are hard to deny.

Within a few weeks we had arranged a zoom meeting with Nell, myself and Debbie. I was initially unsure how much help I could be, as I explained that I had just completed a big fundraiser and was reluctant to start any more, particularly in view of the Channel swim fundraiser I was going to launch next year. As so often in life, money isn’t always the answer, and I was able to help in a much more personal way.