By Daniel Swanson
A local Cornell University student is preparing for a life-changing experience.
Between Dec. 30 and Jan. 16, the campus group Mountains for Moms will travel to Tanzania and spend seven days trekking to the top of Everyman's Everest, Mt. Kilimanjaro. The trip is focused on raising awareness and funds for obstetric fistula, a condition that affects women after pregnancy, where an unnatural connection is formed between a woman's reproductive and excretory systems, resulting in a constant flow of urine.
Alyssa Troutner, a Sherman native and junior at Cornell studying human biology, health and society, is one of 13 students involved with the organization.
"$200 can save one woman from this condition," said Troutner, who fell in love with East Africa after a previous trip to Kenya for an evolutionary biology course. Since she was a young girl, Troutner knew that Kenya was the first country she wanted to visit. "... I had an obsession with the African wildlife for as long as I can remember," she said.
"I initially enrolled in the course hoping that my experience would bring me closer to my obsession with the African wildlife and that it would cement my decision to transfer into an animal science major," Troutner said, "but the trip did just the opposite. I witnessed poverty, disease, hardship, and, surprisingly, happiness, unlike anything I had been exposed to previously."
Despite her enjoyment of animal research, the experience led Troutner to continue with the human biology, health and society major, with an understanding that her life would be best spent helping other people.
Mountains for Moms was an organization that combined Troutner's sense of adventure and fascination with East Africa with helping communities in need - in this case, mothers suffering from obstetric fistula -so it was a natural fit.
OperationOF, a nonprofit organization founded by Cornell alumnus Seth Cochran, is directly involved with the efforts of Mountains for Moms. All funds raised by the team will be donated to OperationOF, which links women in need to reputable clinics, provides transportation to the surgery and provides funding for the surgery and rehabilitation.
The organization's goal is roughly $19,000, with each member hoping to raise around $1,300. The organization will be accepting funds before and during their trip. All funds raised will go directly to OperationOF.
To donate specifically to Troutner's goal, visit www.opfistula.org/alyssa-troutner.
To learn more about obstetric fistula, Mountains for Moms or to track the team's fundraising efforts, visit www.opfistula.org/m4m.
Troutner specifically thanks B&L Wholesale Supply, Webb's Captain's Table Restaurant, The Crystal Cove, Dr. William Schuver, Dr. Robert Gatto and all family and friends who have contributed to her trip.