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Saving mothers and their babies

October 28, 2011 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Robin Lim was named one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011
  • Her group helps combat Indonesia's high maternal and infant mortality rates
  • Lim: 'It is the new mothers ... they are the true heroines"

Editor's note: Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year continues through December 7 at CNNHeroes.com.

(CNN) -- Robin Lim is helping thousands of low-income women in Indonesia have a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Lim is a midwife and founder of the Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation) health clinics, which offer free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to anyone who needs it. She and her team have been working to combat the country's high maternal and infant mortality rates since 2003.

CNN asked Lim for her thoughts on being chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011.

CNN: Where were you when you got the call that you'd been selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Robin Lim: It was breakfast time, and the family was gathered in our big, open-air kitchen at home in Bali. Someone was cutting up papaya and mangoes. I could smell toast being made. I was pouring tea, still quite sleepy from the birth I had attended the night before.

When I was told the news, I was joyful but thought, "Oh my goodness, can this be real?" ... It seemed impossible that I would be named a (Top 10) CNN Hero. It is the new mothers who give birth in small, dimly lit rooms all over our planet, day and night -- they are the true heroines.

CNN: What do you hope this recognition will mean to the Bumi Sehat Foundation?

Lim: Naturally, I hope that (this) will mean that Bumi Sehat Foundation will have more support. Though my passion is patient care, day to day, my work is mostly fundraising. It's a huge responsibility keeping the two community health and childbirth clinics open.

We also have a youth education center, a scholarship program, a village recycling program, free ambulance and emergency medical service, and free weekly general health clinics. ... The list goes on. As a team, we work together to keep all these projects funded, but at the end of the day, it is my responsibility. To be honest, sometimes I am afraid that I won't be able to carry on, so we work diligently to make the entire team more self-sufficient.

In the first eight months of 2011, Bumi Sehat has had more than 20,500 incidences of patient care and assisted in the delivery of almost 400 babies. ... Being a (Top 10) CNN Hero means these essential free medical services will continue on.

CNN: What do you want people to know most about your work?

Lim: Bumi Sehat is built on three simple principles: respect for nature, respect for culture and the wise implementation of the science of medicine. Our focus is equality in reproductive health, including prenatal care, birth services, postpartum and breast-feeding support. ... We advocate for marginalized, displaced, low-income people from all islands, faiths and cultures.

Following disasters, reproductive health care falls by the wayside. Yet babies continue to be born. When all infrastructure falls apart, when the hospitals and all their technological equipment are destroyed, midwives come in handy. They can help women give birth with or without electricity, running water, equipment -- even shelter is optional. When babies are ready, they come. This is why, from our humble beginning as a community health and childbirth clinic in Bali, we ended up going to Aceh following the tsunami of 2004. And when earthquakes struck, we took Bumi Sehat's heart and hands to Yogyakarta in 2006, Padang in 2008 and Haiti in 2010.

Right now, somewhere on our planet, someone's mother is dying from a complication of pregnancy or childbirth. ... The lion's share of these deaths is related to poverty, malnutrition and lack of access to good midwifery care. This means the loss of these mothers' lives could be prevented.

Also, because the cost of childbirth often exhausts the family's income, the poor and even the middle-income people of the world find themselves in a downward spiral of suffering and loss, just when they should be celebrating the births of their babies. ...

Making me a Top 10 CNN Hero puts the courageous stories of all the mothers and babies in the world in the news, where it should and must be. For this opportunity, I am full of gratitude.

Read the full story on CNN Hero Robin Lim:
'Mother Robin' delivers for poor women in Indonesia

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