How We Began
A Few Women - A Trip to Nigeria
Hands of Hope was started after a trip to Nigeria in 1999 disclosed startling conditions affecting women and girl children due to the cultural practice of early childhood marriages (as early as age 11.) The pregnancies that follow come at time when a young girl is not adequately physically developed to permit the passage of a baby, which can lead to a prolonged and obstructed labor, death of the baby, death of the mother or a horrendous physical condition called vesico vaginal fistula (VVF). The immediate consequences of VVF are urinary incontinence, dermatitis, and some may suffer from paralysis of the lower half of the body. The social consequences of this condition are severe in a culture where a woman’s value is based on her ability to bear children. Estimates are between 250,000-700,000 women are afflicted with this condition in Nigeria alone.
As a result of that trip and of others hearing about the plight of women and children in Nigeria a northwest suburban community of Chicago came together, bringing their skills and resources, to help address the critical needs of women and children a world away. Our initial efforts funded a hospital addition which is being used for the surgical repair of women with VVF in Jos, Nigeria. A grassroots effort of just a few has now grown to include over 250 volunteers, annual fundraising events, and cooperative relationships with other helping organizations. With an ever-expanding support base in the Chicago area and a clear vision focused on making a difference, Hands of Hope works to raise community awareness and provides resources to women and children that offer education, address health concerns and provide the tools and resources for women to be economically self sustaining. Our efforts bring hope and open doors of opportunity to women and children who want the same things we all universally value; health, safety, the ability to make a living and provide a viable future for our loved ones.