On family travels in 2011, 12 year-old Arielle Matityahu visited Kenya for the first time. The Matityahus visited Gynocare Women’s and Fistula Hospital in Eldoret, which provides surgery to fix fistulas. Arielle saw Kenyan women suffering with obstetric fistulas from difficult labors, physically leaking fluids, and bearing the emotional burden of the ailment. It was also apparent how much more help the women needed after physical recovery—help to establish financial stability, find work, and rebuild their lives. Arielle knew of the huge impact that funds—even a small amount by western standards—could have on these women’s lives, so in August of 2012 Arielle and mom Dr. Matityahu decided to help. The two founded Beyond Fistula with the mission of helping young Kenyan women, post-obstetric fistula, rebuild their lives through education and vocational skills training.
Arielle and Debbie reached out to Carole Mabeya, a Kenyan social worker, college professor, and wife of Dr. Hillary Mabeya, founder and primary surgeon at Gynocare Women’s and Fistula Hospital. Carol was eager to help, and managed the program in Kenya as a volunteer. She partnered with Linner Too, another social worker at Gynocare, to work with the young women locally. Initial funds for Beyond Fistula were raised in Los Altos, California, by asking good-hearted friends and family to donate. For four years the organization operated under the name A Little 4 A Lot before becoming Beyond Fistula in 2016.
In its earliest days, the organization provided financial support for six women in boarding school and three women in a tailoring program. One year later, in August of 2013, the program had grown to accommodate six more young women in the tailoring program, including room and board. The women spent three months learning to sew, then stayed an additional three months to pay off their microloan for their own sewing machine and fabric. One tailoring student and fistula survivor, Ann Ojina, was so talented and hardworking that upon her graduation from the program, Deb hired her as our full-time tailoring instructor. By 2014, Beyond Fistula had grown to accommodate 12 women in the vocational program, and the learning choices expanded to include hairdressing, literacy skills, computer training, and a business module. The Los Altos staff has correspondingly expanded to include several staff members and volunteers who help with marketing, web design and upkeep, fundraising, and administrative support.