I’d been to Bali for the first time over 20 years ago and on the way to our accommodation I remember the driver pointing out a small building we were passing, saying it was a birth clinic run by an American woman.
The small clinic was Bumi Sehat and the woman was Ibu Robin Lim. Robin, a mother of 8, had moved to Bali and after volunteering to help local women birth their babies at home, in response to demand, began offering free midwifery care to Balinese families as an option to an expensive hospital stay.
In Indonesia, babies can be held by hospitals until payment is made for birthing services, sometimes forcing parents to give their baby up for adoption.
Even more tragically, Indonesia has high mother and baby mortality rates due, in large part, to unaffordable medical care.
The second time I visited was with a friend 12 years ago. Bumi Sehat had moved on from it’s humble beginnings and was already outgrowing it’s newer, larger premises. I knew who Robin was by then and inspired, was hoping to meet her, but she was away at the time.
Then last month, my visit to Bumi Sehat was at the invitation of Debra Pascali-Bonaro who was there to co-facilitate an annual Eat Pray Doula retreat with Robin and Dr Sarah Buckley. Bumi Sehat has now grown to two clinics with around 80 staff offering a full range of perinatal care and birthing services and, following the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Aceh, providing birth support in disaster zones. In 2011 Robin was awarded Hero of the Year by CNN, created to honour individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian and a difference in their community.
A highlight of visiting Bumi Sehat was spending a special few minutes with a very spent family - two small boys asleep on the floor next to their bleary eyed father and a very proud big sister sitting next to an exhausted but relieved looking newborn again mother and her new very contented black tufted hair baby boy.
Ibu Robin was still cleaning up from another birth and joined us for lunch. It was great to finally give her a hug.