Robin Lim: A Hero to Expecting Mothers

Every woman and infant deserves the right to a healthy, clean and affordable birthing experience. However, this is not the case for everyone. Fortunately, activist and midwife Robin Lim is doing her best for shunned mothers-to-be.

Robin Lim, a wife and mother of eight, was born in 1956 in Arizona, but she traveled frequently as her father fought in the Vietnam War. Her desire to help others was inspired at a young age when she witnessed the injuries of many soldiers in Okinawa. She was also inspired by her grandmother, Vicenta Munar Lim, who was a birth attendant and healer.

In 1991, Robin Lim experienced heartbreaking tragedy. Her midwife Sunny Supples and her friend Brenda Swartz passed away. In the same year, Lim’s sister Christine and her baby died in childbirth. It was then that Lim decided that she needed a change. Her family moved from Hawaii to Bali. In 1994, she became a midwife, volunteering with local deliveries.

Lim saw a great need in the area for free prenatal care and birthing services. It’s been reported that in Indonesia the average family makes $8 a day, but an average delivery costs $70 and a C-section costs $700. The hospitals refuse to release the newborns if the families don’t pay the bill. Some mothers might even have to relinquish their parental rights.

In 2003, it was stated that Indonesia had a high maternal and infant mortality rate at birth. And many women decided to give birth without assistance, avoiding fees. Lim and her team started Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation). They offer birthing services, midwife classes, and outreach programs like earthquake and tsunami relief.

They now have two clinics, one in Bali and another in Aceh. They have assisted with over 5,000 births which is how Lim acquired her nickname Ibu Robin or “Mother Robin.” The clinics function mostly on donations as 80 percent “of the families served by the clinics can barely pay anything.” Sometimes the families will give mangoes to show their thanks.

In 2011, Robin Lim’s work was recognized by CNN Heroes. Out of 25 featured heroes, Lim was named the CNN Hero of the year and received a $300,000 grant for her program. To read more about Lim and see her acceptance speech, check out this CNN link.

Main article photo credit: U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia / Flickr