Extraordinary circumstances often bring out the best in ordinary people. Take Becky Kiser, a businesswoman from the American west. Becky didn't plan to become an angel to women suffering from a horrible condition in a far off African land, but it happened. In the latest edition of our series, Making a Difference, VOA's Peter Heinlein has the story of the Trampled Rose, how an average woman seized an chance to do good after she fell ill during a holiday in Ethiopia.
Nigistin doesn't know how old she is but she remembers decades of hopelessness as an outcast. She suffers from fistula, a childbirth-related condition that leaves women leaking foul-smelling fluids.
"When I got fistula, my husband threw me out," Nigistin said. "I was alone and thrown away, then Becky took me in."
Becky Kiser is an unlikely angel. She is an affluent American who runs a cosmetics distributorship in Colorado. She came down with typhoid while on vacation in Ethopia in 2003. She asked the man who had saved her life what she could do for him. He asked her to help his sister who had fistula.
"So, I said, 'Would you please translate fistula to English, because I had no comprehension of fistula," Kiser said.
In the five years since, Kiser founded a halfway house for fistula victims in Addis Ababa. It's called the Trampled Rose.
"I came in as a beauty consultant, a Mary Kay sales director from America with no backing," Kiser said. "I'm sure they thought I was absolutely insane or trying to get money."
The Trampled Rose has given hundreds of women like Nigistin shelter and taught them skills so they can return to society after a simple surgical repair. One goal is to help women recover from the social stigma.
"Your family doesn't care about you," Kiser explained. "Your husband asks you to leave the home, so they're left with no one, and even believing that God has cursed them."
For women like Nigistin, the Trampled Rose is salvation.
"I was really in a bad way, and now I have a good future," Nigistin said. "I won't go back."
Nigistin is now the head cook at the Trampled Rose. In a country where most women are illiterate, she says the Trampled Rose offers hope and skills that might save them from a life of begging, or worse.
These days, more help is coming, in the form of donations and volunteers like Karen Sharp who find inspiration in Becky Kiser's work.
"Becky was the first angel I saw," Sharp said. "Becky through many ways -- through her love, support, her incredible humility."
"These are the lucky women," Kiser added. "These are the ones who escaped a dark room where they are thrown food for years. These are the ones who escaped being starved by their families. These are the ones that escaped way worse."
And still, Kiser speaks of thousands more women who suffer such humiliation.