by Catriona Mitchell
“Bumi Sehat is dedicated to protecting each child at the time of their birth, because if you do have an intact capacity to love and trust, it translates into how you treat your planet, and our planet needs people on it that create peace.” – Robin Lim, CNN Hero 2011
Last Sunday, at bridges, to the accompaniment of local musical duo Benny and Donna crooning love songs (lyrics mostly directed at mothers) and while being served an exquisite and extensive brunch (roasted chicken with baby carrot and zucchini, grilled salmon with wilted onion, fennel and rucola, filet mignon with creamy mushroom, a basket of fresh-baked breads, balsamic tomatoes, mushroom fricassee, asparagus bacon bundle, prawn in garlic butter, duck croquette, chorizo with green peas, carrot sformato, onion jam, minty fruit salad, vanilla gelato and a choice of two cakes… it went on and on and I hoped it would never end), Robin Lim gave a speech in honour of Mother’s Day.
This has become something of a tradition at bridges: an impeccably-presented Mother’s Day brunch buffet is brought on a wooden board to your table, with a percentage of the proceeds going to Bumi Sehat.
Bridges was packed with Ubud’s familiar faces. I nearly came to blows with Hubud’s Steve Munroe over who has the best mother – until I realized his was sitting right next to him, and courtesy won out. Bridges’ former whiz-kid chef Nico had stopped by for a visit, and sounded like a proud mother himself, telling me how proficient his sous-chef – Haley G. Rahmasih from Solo – now the restaurant’s head chef, has become in his absence. An auction was held of a photograph of a Balinese mother and child by British photographer Michael Johnsey, who joined me at my table to chat about photography while I was busy putting into practice some of Sally May Mills’ advice on food “deconstruction” (see last week’s blog here) with proceeds from the auction going directly to the Yayasan. The photograph, finally, went for four million Rupiah to Peter Phee.
Robin had the tricky task of distracting diners from the dainty delicacies on their plates and the chilled prosecco in their glasses, in order to tune into serious issues for a while. But she pulled this off with aplomb: serious and driven yet down-to-earth, compassionate and infinitely approachable – with enthusiasm, it seemed, to talk to all who wanted her attention including the many children present – Robin is quite simply one of those people who stops you in your tracks because she truly has something to say, something of significance to offer the world.
“Thank you all for coming. I don’t know what to say, except to tell you that if you were to visit Bumi Sehat you would find three mothers resting there; we have three new babies. Two of the mothers had their first babies in Bumi Sehat and have just had their second babies there. So we continue to do that work, and we love the work.
In the Philippines, we arrived in November and really just started delivering food, solar lights, water filters, buckets, much in the style of our beloved IDEP… The storm has affected nine islands; all of our patients there are living in shacks, if they’re fortunate, and for the first couple of months they didn’t even have shacks. And at this point now I think we’re close to 8000 incidents of medical relief, plus over 440 babies have been born in our little tiny tent. So we’re continuing in the spirit of Bumi Sehat to try to take care of the mothers, and their babies, and to provide the most optimal medical care for everyone, regardless.
Bumi Sehat here in Bali is really blessed because you not only have the moms that are really under-privileged, you have moms from all over the world who come to have their babies here because our care is known to be so gentle. So we try to provide the most beautiful care for mothers. I think all of you know that it is in the hands and the arms of mothers – in the lap of mothers – that we create our culture, that we create a society of peace and love. And that fulcrum of birth when you’re actually coming into the world, when you’re landing in it, if you can land gently, then with the help of really caring professionals that can keep you safe when you’re landing on Earth. Because 800 mothers die per day on Earth – that’s the recorded statistic – 800 moms don’t make it through the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, every day. So there is that need for skilled midwifery or obstetric care, and then along with that, there’s that need for love and gentleness and again to protect the babies’ experience so the baby can have an intact capacity to love and trust.
So many of us worry and think about our children’s education, but what a child learns in those first moments of life, during the mom’s pregnancy, during the labour and in the first hour or two after birth is so profound. So we are trying – on a bigger scale – to affect the beginnings, the landings, of each and every child in Indonesia and beyond. So in Indonesia here last year over 15,000 midwives had half-day seminars with our midwives and with me, on essential life-saving skills and how to be gentle.
Those of you here that have any friends that speak Bahasa Indonesia – you can pick up some of these booklets. I don’t know if you noticed, but your hand-phone comes with a little manual, a booklet, but your kid did not. It’s really nice to know: what is a normal temperature? What does this cry or that cry mean? How to develop that instinct? Because so much of what we’re taught socially can undermine our instinct as parents.
We also have a book for dads. In a low-resource setting, infant formula is a recipe for death. So let’s not support Nestle; let’s support exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. At Bumi Sehat we have 100% breastfeeding rate. And that takes a lot of dedication, it takes follow-up, it takes phone calls, it takes jumping on a motorcycle and going to take care of a mom in the middle of the night when she feels like she’s going to break down and give the baby a bottle. So we wrote a book for dads, because we know that without the dads’ support, especially in Balinese culture, without the family of the father’s support, it’s pretty tough for the moms to breast-feed.
And then we have a book for moms. So many of us who raised our babies in the West were able to go to bookstores and buy beautiful books. But here they’re not really available. Or the ones that are available are really expensive, and they’ve been translated into Bahasa but they’re not really appropriate for this culture, and the kinds of foods that mothers can choose here and how to make wise choices within this culture. So this book is also free. Just go by Bumi Sehat and you’ll see Ibu Eka there most of the time. Pick up the books. You can also tell your friends that if they’d like to avail of our services then five days a week here in the clinic in Nyuh Kuning we have, in the mornings, alternative medicine, acupuncture and such. We have an amazing team. And then we have of course childbirth services 24/7, and in the evenings on weekdays we have regular doctors who work hand in hand with our holistic healers.
So I’m going to keep it short because I want to get back to eating – the food is fantastic. I’m actually really enjoying being here, having come from a tent recently. I’ve actually spent a couple of nights in my own bed; I really like that. I had forgotten what a bed felt like. Imagine, the 440 or more babies – I haven’t received the morning report yet from the Philippines – but around 440 babies were born in a tent that’s a metre and a half by two metres and a quarter. And no-one’s complaining there. That’s the thing that really amazes me. People are standing up and really working together and trying to get back on their feet, but no-one’s complaining.
And those of you who are concerned with climate change and environmental issues: we’re really seeing the effects. You know, we’re really seeing what happens. So keep working to save our planet because we are in the last moments. We really need to do something. We see these families – thousands and thousands of families homeless and without clean water and without adequate food, without electricity… it’s staggering. And so we really have to do that: we need to teach this generation. It’s one of the reasons Bumi Sehat is so dedicated to protecting each child at the time of their birth, because if you do have an intact capacity to love and trust – and that’s not to say that a baby born that has a difficult birth has lost that, because everyone can be healed, especially in the arms of loving parents and a loving community – but when you do have that intact capacity to love and trust, it translates into how you treat your planet, and our planet needs people on it that create peace. We need stewards of our air and our water, and that’s what we’re doing. I believe that the earth-keepers are brought in by the birth-keepers.
I love you so much, and whenever I get a group of people together I like for all of them to say “I love you” together. So I’m going to count to three, and let’s not be wimpy. Ok? We want to hear how much you love your mom. So when I say three, you say “I love you Mom”. Because nobody got here without a mom. Did anybody get here without a mom? I’d like to meet you if you did. Nobody got here without a mom. So, all together, nice and loud, let’s make some noise. One – two – three – I LOVE YOU MOM!”
Bumi Sehat means Healthy Earth Mother. Yayasan Bumi Sehat believes that access to quality healthcare and to kind, hygienic, culturally appropriate childbirth is a human right, and that each individual is an essential societal component of peace. You can learn more about Bumi Sehat here.
bridges is a casual fine-dining restaurant located on the Western riverside of the Campuhan (Wos) River, at the end of the two Campuhan Bridges – hence the name. See here for more information.