Friday Harbor High School graduates Amber and Kelsea Peterman bicycled from Seattle to San Francisco to raise money for – and awareness of – women’s health issues in sub-Saharan Africa.
The ride was called the Bike to End Fistula.
“Fistula is a childbirth injury from prolonged labor and lack of delivery services which occurs mostly in Africa and the Middle East,” Kelsea explained.
Fistula is easily repaired by doctors in the U.S. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where such medical care is not available, the unrepaired injury “leaves women incontinent for the rest of their lives. Women with fistula are often ostracized because they are unable to work and bear children. Fortunately fistula is a treatable condition with surgical success rates as high as 90 percent. However, without assistance it is virtually impossible for women to access and afford treatment.”
The sisters’ goal was to raise $3,000, the cost of surgery and rehabilitation for 10 women; they raised $4,521. They completed the ride in two weeks, arriving in San Francisco June 11.
Fistula is an issue of special interest for Amber, Friday Harbor Class of 1999, who is earning a PhD in public policy with an emphasis on women’s health from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Kelsea, Friday Harbor Class of 2003, earned a degree in marine biology from Western Washington University in 2007 and after a visit home for the summer will head to Greece to do marine research there.
About that campaign to end fistula – it’s not over. More than 3 million women are estimated to be living with untreated fistula in developing countries and an additional 30,000 to 100,000 develop cases each year on the African subcontinent alone, according to the Petermans’ blog.
“Even $5 or $10 helps,” Kelsea said. To help, visit http://www.endfistula.org/donate.htm and click on “Donate now.” Upon completion, an e-mail will be sent to the address you provide. Forward this e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so they can keep track of how much money they’ve helped raise.
The sisters wrote a blog during their Seattle-to-San Francisco experience. Visit http://biketoendfistula.blogspot.com. Click here.