Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Fall 2013
Life – just surviving day to day – can be a tremendous challenge for women in Ethiopia. Many are forced to put their children up for adoption, because they don’t have means to care for them. Many are HIV positive and on the brink of homelessness.
Susan Hulse ’92 wants to change this, and as medical director of Because Every Mother Matters, she is.
“BEMM is improving the quality of life for women and children,” Hulse said. “Our mother sponsorship program in Dessie, Ethiopia assists indigent women. We partner with an Ethiopian organization that helps connect them with medical care, educates them about HIV/AIDS, and encourages them to get ID and open bank accounts.”
“Women are enrolled in the program for three years, and once matched with a sponsor, have the opportunity to turn their lives around,” Hulse continued. “Each woman is expected to open a business – some sell vegetables at the market, others make baskets and one makes silver crosses now sold all over the country.”
As medical director, Hulse travels to Ethiopia every six months to support efforts to reduce infant and maternal mortality. She also checks on the program’s mothers and those in BEMM’s safe house for sexually exploited girls. Her extensive background in HIV care is critical when she’s facilitating medical access for complex cases. Hulse has been a physician assistant at the University of Rochester’s AIDS Clinic for eight years, and has worked in HIV medicine since 1996.
Merema, pictured here with Hulse, was destitute with four children prior to sponsorship. Now, she’s gaining security and independence for her family with a clothing stall at the local market.