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  • Australian woman donates $1m to Ethiopian women in need

    South Sydney councillor Sonia Fenton

    The proceeds from the sale of one of Sydney's hottest properties are being handed over to help some of the world's poorest and most desperate women.

    Businesswoman and former South Sydney councillor Sonia Fenton had lived in the glamorous The Quay apartments at Circular Quay for about eight years when she heard of the life-changing work being done by an Australian obstetrician in Ethiopia.

    On a whim, she flew to the African nation to see for herself the hospital that Catherine Hamlin, who has just been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, set up 40 years ago to provide medical services to poverty-stricken women suffering from damaged bodies after childbirth.

    Ms Fenton was so moved by the experience that on her return, she put her apartment onto the market. She settled on the sale of the property last month and is now donating $1 million to the charity.

    "When I came back from seeing what incredible work is being done to save the lives of women in the most agonising hardship, I realised how many more lives could be changed with a little more help," says Ms Fenton, 69, a former banker.

    "I read Catherine's book about her life and the lives of these women and sobbed over every page. So really, it was an easy decision.''

    The hospital treats women with obstetric fistula, which occurs when childbirth causes problems with the bladder and/or rectum where there is no adequate medical care. As a result, the women suffer severe urinary or rectal incontinence, and are often abandoned.

    by their husbands and cast out by their families and communities.

    A $600 operation can completely transform their lives.

    As a child, Ms Fenton had an ovarian cyst. "I had the best medical attention and parents who doted on me,'' she says.

    "These women, on the other hand, have pee and poo running down their legs, no running water and no one to help them. They're all so skinny because they try not to eat knowing it's going to make the problem worse. It's absolutely heartbreaking.''

    Ms Fenton says seeing the care and the second chance the women get is incredible.

    Dr Hamlin, the multi-award-winning former Sydneysider, founded the hospital with her late husband Reg and has dedicated her life to helping the women. It has been said of her that she has one son and more than 40,000 daughters.

    "It's so wonderful to have so much financial support from my home country, Australia," says Dr Hamlin, who turned 90 in January.

    "My vision is to eradicate obstetric fistula and have a midwife in every village in Ethiopia. It might not be achieved in my lifetime, but with continued support from Australia, it will be achieved."

    The Australian-registered charity Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia raises funds for the hospital as well as for training midwives to prevent the problem occurring and a farm for long-term patients.

    Ms Fenton's donation will be used to set up and equip midwifery clinics in rural Ethiopia, among other activities, and the hospital relies on regular donations from supporters to keep its work going.

    ''It's those regular small donors who give us $50 or $100 a month we're so grateful to for making the work of the hospital sustainable, and Australians are the largest donors of anywhere else in the world,'' says the charity's chief executive, Lucy Perry.

    Ms Fenton's apartment was valued by the bank at $1.7 million. But when a neighbour, who by coincidence turned out to be a supporter of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, wanted to buy it, they negotiated a price of $1.9 million to enable her to give the round sum.

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  • The FORBES Billionaires List: The Richest People On Earth

    #61 Mohammed Al Amoudi

    The ranks of the world’s billionaires have swelled to a record 1,645 including 268 newcomers. While wealth spreads to new corners of the world, including for the first time places like Tanzania and Lithuania, the U.S. still dominates with Bill Gates back on top after a four-year hiatus and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg the year’s biggest gainer.

    Bill Gates is back on top after a four-year hiatus, reclaiming the title of world’s richest person from telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, who ranked No. 1 for the past four years. Gates, whose fortune rose by $9 billion in the past year, has held the top spot for 15 of the past 20 years. Spanish clothing retailer Amancio Ortega (best known for the Zara fashion chain) retains the No. 3 spot for the second year in a row, extending his lead over Warren Buffett, who is again No. 4. American gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who added $11.5 billion to his pile, makes it back into the top ten for the first time since 2007. Another first: A record net worth of $31 billion was needed to make the top 20, up from $23 billion last year.

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