2014 – May

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Well I know I am late but we have had a lot going on. Our last trip was Feb. 2, 2014 and we had many patients anxiously awaiting the surgery that would change their life back to normal and fortunately we were able to successfully help 85% of these ladies as the other 15% had had multiple surgeries previously or were deemed irreparable until we get our new facility which will allow us to have a 100% success rate on these ladies.  We also were able to operate on many women and young girls for Gynecological conditions including a lady that had a 22lb. tumor that was fortunately benign (not malignant).  Unfortunately we continue to see many women with cancer that if seen earlier would have a very good chance of survival.  We had a 14 year old girl with severe complications from FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) we were able to repair and restore her to a near normal condition.

To give you an idea how life changing surgeries can be we had 2 ladies that had had urine running down their legs for 50 years and 34 years respectfully that walked out of the hospital completely dry.

Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith continues to amaze all of us with her efforts in fund raising as she again competed in the Iron-Man competition in New Zealand surpassing her previous record by raising $33, 593.60 which was donated to the West Africa Fistula Foundation by many of her friends and patients.

During this trip we were honored to have the Restore Hope Foundation associated with the First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas and several of their board members and spouses visit our facility as they also have projects in Sierra Leone. We also had Mr. Steve Pfieffer, a board member of Project Hope, come and tour our program.

A few weeks ago a group of ladies from the Gateway Church in Southlake Texas visited our site and had prayer with the patients on the ward. We very much appreciate all those that contribute to the physical and spiritual needs of our patients and their families.

Bottom line we continue to make great strides with each member of the WAFF team very dedicated to helping the less fortunate and with the Good Lord’s Blessing we will prevail.
We again appreciate your support to make a difference in this world.

For those of you that shop with Amazon.  AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU, Amazon will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchase to WAFF if you will go to www.smile.amazon.com to do your shopping.  It is the same products, same price, same service.   When you log in just be sure to change the charity to West Africa Fistula Center Foundation.  Even better, at checkout, there is a place for you to spread the word that you have donated to WAFF via social media!

With gratitude,
Darius R. Maggi, MD

West Africa Fistula Foundation

West Africa Fistula Foundation
3621 Pottsboro Rd #150
Denison TX 75020

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Dry for the first time since 1964

Josephine preparing potato leaf for the patients’ meal.

Happy patient after surgery! !

Sierra Leone cooking
Sierra Leone children with homemade toys.

Creative recycling with a gas can, tomato cans, sardine can and pop bottle lids!

2013 – May – Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith raises 30K for WAFF

Doctor runs triathlon to save women a world away

Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013 2:15 pm susan hardwick-smith

On Saturday Feb. 16, Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith, a Houston-area obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) and founder of Complete Women’s Care Center, will make her first trip to the West African country of Sierra Leone. Dr. Hardwick-Smith will make the trek in conjunction with the Texas based West Africa Fistula Foundation (WAFF), to help bring an end to the devastating effects of Obstetric Fistula.


“As a doctor in this wonderful country I am constantly aware of how very lucky we are,” said Hardwick-Smith. “While many of us complain about our healthcare system, most of us have access to at least basic healthcare. We expect a safe, good outcome from normal events like having a baby. But for many women in Sierra Leone in West Africa, having a baby is a truly dangerous business with maternal and neonatal death rates among the highest in the world. Horrific complications such as fistula formation?the development of a hole between the bladder or rectum and vagina? causing permanent and constant fecal or urinary leakage, are common.”

Many of the 2–3 million women who suffer from fistulas worldwide are ostracized by the communities that they live in and their husbands often abandon them to fend for themselves.

“I feel passionately that I have a duty to help these women with the skills that I have developed as an OB/GYN in this country,” said Hardwick-Smith. “And that includes helping to educate local healthcare providers in Sierra Leone to understand how to prevent fistula formation as well as how to perform the surgical repair needed to help the women already suffering.”

Hardwick-Smith pays for her own travel expenses and donates her services –but she wanted to do more.

Even with services and travel donated, the surgical procedures cost nearly $1,000 per woman, plus the WAFF provides not only badly needed medical treatment, but also a working staff within the country to establish local care and treatment for this terrible condition.

Funds donated to the WAFF help to provide:

  • Treatment for ongoing cases
  • Preoperative hostel for waiting patients
  • Education to help prevent fistula
  • Postoperative treatment and care
  • Reintegration into society through vocational school or enterprise training

To say that Dr. Hardwick-Smith is driven is an understatement. When she does something, she does it BIG. She is the founder of a busy ten-provider OB/GYN practice, is a renowned obstetrician and gynecologic surgeon, wife, mother of three (two of the three are twins), marathon runner and now Ironman triathlete.

“I decided to train for the Ironman to raise awareness about the plight of these women in Sierra Leone,” said Hardwick-Smith. “Let’s face it, training and competing in an Ironman triathlon event (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race and a 26.2 mile marathon) could rank up among the most selfish activities in the world.

Months of training upward of 12 hours a week mean those hours are taken away from friends and family. But thinking about those women and their incredible suffering fueled me, my family, my friends and my associates. Doing something really challenging, overwhelming and often painful to help others is a spiritual journey–one we were all willing to take.”

On November 18, 2012, sporting a shirt she had made featuring the West Africa Fistula Foundation logo, Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith crossed the finish line in 12 hours, 45 minutes having raised more than $31,000 and carrying in her heart the hopes of millions of women that they would not be forgotten.


2013 – May – York Post article

York couple move to Sierra Leone to provide care to women in childbirth

8:44am Tuesday 14th May 2013 in News By Gavin Aitchison, gavin.aitchison@thepress.co.uk


A COUPLE from York have moved to Sierra Leone to help provide vital care for women giving birth.

Andrea and Paul Robinson, both 55 and from Dringhouses, are heading up an American organisation in Bo, the country’s second city.

The west African country has one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates and many women die in childbirth or are left injured due to poor care.

Andrea, who was a nurse in Wakefield then worked for the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust before retiring, said: “We had been on holiday to Africa, and married in Kenya. We had seen so much poverty and hopelessness and we wanted to use our skills. We are not missionaries; we are not religious; but we saw there were opportunities to improve conditions for a lot of people.”

She said she wanted “somewhere warm where I could use my skills,” and found work with Voluntary Services Overseas.

“This job description fitted well and we knew it would be very colourful, and they have made us very welcome,” she said. “There is a lot of malaria and tropical illness but the people are very friendly.”

The couple are working with the West Africa Fistula Foundation, established by Texan obstetrician Darius Maggi to repair fistulas in new mothers – internal tears caused by obstructed labour.

Sierra Leone has a severe shortage of skilled medical staff, with many leaving during the 1991-2002 civil war and others being lured away since to better jobs.

Mismanaged labour often leads to the baby and/or mother dying, or the mother suffering a fistula. Women suffering the condition face lifelong incontinence unless it is treated, and are often ostracised by their community as a result.

Dr Maggi has repaired 1,000 fistulas and the organisation seeks to treat more victims and prevent avoidable new cases, through education and medical provision.

Andrea is now working as the Foundation’s head of operations, with Paul as head of facilities and transport, focusing on building a Surgical Centre of Excellence in Sierra Leone to help reduce the shortfall of medical staff.

For more information on the Foundation, visit www.westafricafistulafoundation.org


2012 – October

Dear Friends and Supporters,I have not sent a letter in several months but we have had 2 very successful trips to Sierra Leone in the last 5 months. I delayed in sending this out as I thought for sure we would have some good news on acquiring a hospital that would catapult us into an entirely different stratosphere from the patient care aspect. Unfortunately despite very vigorous negotiations the last several months we have been unable to pull this off.We will not give up on our dream to provide top quality care to the people of Sierra Leone and West Africa despite the obstacles we have faced. Sometimes you just have to redirect those energies and keep on keeping on. We must continue to do the right thing as my father would say ” you do not change right you change wrong”.

Bottom line we have had several very successful surgeries and made life changing differences in many a patient. Thanks to each and every one of you that have supported our organization we could not have done this without you. I will not ramble on but will show some pictures of some very happy patients and Ladies that speak for themselves.

You will notice that we are doing a lot of surgeries other than Obstetrical Fistulas because the need is so great we cannot turn them away.

If you’ve like to support WAFF – please consider using our NEW monthly donation option on our website. Even just $10 a month can make a huge impact in Sierra Leone for these women.

Again thank you for your support and confidence in our organization.


Darius R. Maggi M.D. West Africa Fistula Foundation
Young lady with very large tumor on Vulva which was benign. She did extremely well post op and is home.
Young lady with very large tumor on Vulva which was benign. She did extremely well post op and is home.
5 women carrying water awaiting very complicated surgeries for their Obstetrical fistulas

Young Lady (Jabu) that brought us Mangos, Pineapples, Palm oil and a live chicken showing her appreciation for getting her dry from an Obstetrical Fistula.

Mariama, an elderly lady very happy after her surgery ready to go home.
Lady with extremely large abdominal mass that fortunately was benign and went home very happy. This mass weighed about 26 lbs.
Lady with extremely large abdominal mass that fortunately was benign and went home very happy. This mass weighed about 26 lbs.
Husband expressing his thanks (a chicken) for taking care of his wife.

An area of the hospital that is being isolated because of an outbreak of Cholera that has killed hundreds of patients in Sierra Leone in the last few months.

Erin Fluke a young pre-med student from Beaumont Texas befriending some young Sierra Leonean girls and letting one try on her surgical cap.

2012 – April


West Africa Fistula Foundation provides life-changing surgery to women free of charge in Sierra Leone and surrounding communities.  With your help and donations we can eliminate this  forgotten epidemic:
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Dear Friends and Supporters,
We have returned again from a very challenging trip to Sierra Leone. One thing we’ve definitely learned over the years is that there is one constant in Sierra Leone: CHANGE. We’re constantly dealing with new situations with the government, the workers, the facilities, and all kinds of things out of our control, but it is extremely important to be able to adapt and roll with all these changes in order to stay focused on our number one goal of taking care of all the patients in such great need.

Of course, this would not be possible without the continued generosity we receive from all of our supporters. There are many of you, and we are humbled by all contributions big and small, but we want to send a special thank you to the Idea Foundation, founded by Jennifer Seaborn and Betty Seaborn, for their very generous donation of medical supplies through Medisend of Dallas. The Idea Foundation sponsored an ENTIRE container of medical supplies and had this shipped to Sierra Leone so we might continue helping the people of Sierra Leone.


We have also been very fortunate to add a highly experienced Sierra Leonean Doctor to our staff – Dr. Augustine Mannah. Dr. Mannah has a vast background in surgical management of a multitude of problems in patients in Sierra Leone, and we feel this expertise will help catapult our goal of training Sierra Leoneans to sustainability. Welcome Dr. Mannah.  His primary role will be General Surgery once we get our own hospital up and running.  He will join Dr. Phillip Koroma who has been with us for 4 years now and we hope to add more doctors as they are trained.


Additionally, we had two Canadian Nurses from Calgary join us this trip, Marnie Shields and Amanda Chenuz, along with medical student Megan Januska from Chicago, Illinois. These young ladies were very helpful in the care of the many patients and hopefully will be returning to assist in the near future. Isaac VanBebber, a longtime family friend with vast overseas experience, was a surprise guest a few months ago, as she has decided to spend some fulltime volunteer work with WAFF and is our latest “boots on the ground” in Sierra Leone. She has already proved to be extremely helpful in her Administrative duties, and her dedication to making the program as efficient and organized as possible is very much appreciated. As we all know, getting the most out of the resources we have is of the utmost importance, and Isaac is helping significantly with that. Our Sierra Leonean Staff continues to do a remarkable job and remains very eager to learn how to continually improve the quality of care for the people of Sierra Leone.


As for the patients and the care itself, we continue to face great challenges in caring for the Obstetrical Fistula patients due to the multitude of problems associated with the lack of good facilities and trained personnel. However, despite the challenges, we are very pleased that we are still sending a lot of happy women home dry after coming in leaking urine and feces down their legs. We continue to have many stories we could tell about the hardships these women have gone through, but hopefully the main focus will be the fresh start they have gotten and their new chance at living a normal life without these physical ailments.


We were able to purchase and take a portable Ultrasound unit and 2 doptones this trip, and this helped tremendously in diagnosing conditions in their early stages. These are very simple things we take for granted in the U.S. but are incredibly rare in places like Sierra Leone where they can add so much to the inadequate care currently available. We continue to assist in the Obstetrical and Gynecological care at the Bo Government Hospital and with this synergism we will make a difference.


Finally, we are very excited about a new fund raising effort that will be launched in a few weeks. Shawn Graft and Leila Janah have spent hundreds of hours working on this project called Samahope, and hopefully this will facilitate and expedite our goal of providing the quality of care these people deserve. Shawn had visited and helped us a couple of years ago in Sierra Leone and have remained very active in our program. Leila has a long list of overseas accomplishments, and she visited Sierra Leone about two years ago and has been working on helping our program ever since. Be sure and look Samahope.org up, and we will keep you posted as it goes live – we’re very excited about it.


We will be returning again in a few weeks, and thanks to all of you that continue to support our program, enabling us to help many more people.



Darius R. Maggi M.D.
West Africa Fistula Foundation

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Dr. Mannah and wife, along with twin daughters
Dr. Mannah and wife, along with twin daughters
WAFF Ward – patients recovering from surgery.


Amanda Chenuz (left) and Marnie Shields (right)
Megan Januska (left) and Isaac VanBebber (right) with Sierra Leonean children.