WAHA International is holding traditional coffee ceremonies for women recovering from obstetric fistula surgery to help them overcome the psychological trauma of living with the debilitating condition.

Coffee Ceremony in Assella, Ethiopia

Seble joined WAHA’s Fistula Center in Assella as a nurse six months ago. She recently told us about one of her strategies to help patients recover from the psychological wounds inflicted by obstetric fistula: traditional coffee ceremonies, an important ritual of the Ethiopian culture.

“Fistula patients are not just like any other patient”, Seble says. “We are not here to just mend a hole and send them on their way. The majority of these women are in a state of grand despair. We have to make sure they get proper psychological support before, during, and after their treatment. Simply put, by the time they leave the Fistula Center, we want to ensure that our patients have the strength to rebuild their lives”.

This is where the coffee ceremonies come in.

“The coffee ceremonies are more cathartic than classic therapy sessions”, Seble tells us laughing. It’s all about creating a safe sanctuary for the patients; taking them out of their isolation and helping them confide in others.

All the patients come together, as the coffee beans are roasted and ground. They drink coffee and eat popcorn. They chit chat, laugh, and tease each other. Over time, as they build trust, they start sharing their stories.

“When they realize that others have gone through a similar journey, they stop feeling like monsters. They slowly start to understand that they are not cursed and that they have all the cards in their hands to start over”, Seble explains.

Coffee Ceremony

Fistula patients drinking coffee in Assella

Quality nursing care is a key component of the treatment provided to victims of obstetric fistula. As such, WAHA International trains all of the nurses working in its Fistula Treatment Centers in high-quality fistula care, including medical and psychological care.

“When I started working in this Fistula Center, I was given very specific training about how to receive and interact with patients, how to diagnose obstetric fistula, how to provide adequate pre-and post-operative care, and how to counsel and follow-up with patients”, says Seble. “Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Fistula Center in Gondar where I assisted Dr. Ambaye in the operation theatre. It was a very useful.”

“When you work in a place like the Assella Fistula Center, you can’t just clock in and clock out,” says Seble. “Even when I sleep, I think about my patients. Caring for women suffering from fistula is a very big responsibility; it’s a delicate and complex art. You have to be attentive to the patients’ needs. And coffee ceremonies are just one of the many creative ways of helping them”.

Nurse Seble

Nurse Seble with fistula patients while attending training in Gondar

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