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Ibu Robin Lim & The Bumi Sehat Foundation

In Indonesian Ibu means mother and Ibu Robin Lim is a mother in every sense of the word…birth mother to 5 children, 2 children she was blessed with after their mother, a close friend tragically died and mother to one further young girl who was given to Robin and her husband Wil as a dying baby, but who today is a happy and healthy 4 and a half year old…8 beautiful, much loved children. These are Robin’s literal children… but countless other children, their mothers, families and communities have also been helped and blessed by the mother in Robin Lim.

As a mother myself I am in awe of all that Robin and the valued team who work along side her do on a day to day basis…quietly and efficiently helping ensure Indonesian babies are given the very best start in life…turning so many life stories into stories of love and hope when they might otherwise have been stories of suffering and needless heartache. I feel great respect, compassion and interest in what Robin has already achieved in Bali, Aceh and more recently Haiti and a strong sense of the importance that she and her team are able to continue making a difference. I am hopeful that in reading the following article you too will feel compelled to learn more, spread the word about Robin’s work and if possible lend a hand in any way you feel able…

About Robin

In addition to being a mother and grandmother, Robin Lim is also an author, poet, midwife and educator who lives in Bali with her husband and their family. Ibu Robin is a Certified Professional Midwife, with the North American Registry of Midwives and Ikatan Bidan Indonesia.

Robin lives in the small village of Nyuh Kuning, near Ubud in Bali, where she and her family settled 15 years ago, after leaving the United States. “When two baby owls fell out of a coconut tree into my care, the villagers took it as an omen that I should become their new midwife.” She began to attend home births and hold post-natal clinics at her house. Convinced that her calling lay in being a midwife, as her Filipino grandmother was, Robin returned to the United States to obtain her professional certification.

After she returned to Bali, a local doctor showed her the results of a Unicef study that showed the leading cause of death for women in Bali was hemorrhaging after childbirth. “Dr. Susanti didn’t feel there was something that was really woman-, family- and baby-friendly happening on the island,” Robin has said of this meeting. “She appealed to me to do whatever I could.”

Robin was inspired to dedicate herself to a life of service after she lost her best friend, her sister and one of the midwives who delivered her own children, all in the space of a year. The lesson she took from their passing… “Is that life is precious and short, and we really need to follow our bliss.”

In 1994, Robin began providing health services for pregnant women and children under five for free in the area of Ubud, Bali based out of her home in Nyuh Kuning village. Over the next decade as demand grew and knowledge of her services became widespread, others joined together with Ibu Robin to support the initiative of providing care for women and children of need.

Robin Lim, Author

Ibu Robin is an author. Many of her articles, stories and poems have been published in Midwifery Today magazine and The Birthkit newsletter. Her books include “After the Baby’s Birth,” a postpartum guide, and “Eating for Two,” a cookbook for pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as a novel, “Butterfly People”.

Robin has been given the prestigious 2006 Alexander Langer International Peace Award in Italy. The Alexander Langer Award is given to one person or institution each year who demonstrates to the rest of the world the ability to construct bridges between opposing realities, to deal with conflicts in a spirit of non-violence, and to look lovingly at the non-human sentient world.

Robin’s daughter, Deja Bernhardt, has created “Guerilla Midwife”, a documentary following Robin and her work at Bumi Sehat and response to the 2004 Tsunami.  This film has premiered at film festivals throughout the world.

Yayasan Bumi Sehat

On May 29 2003, the Jakarta Post reported that maternal mortality at birth in Indonesia at 373 per 100,000 births, the highest among countries in the ASEAN.  Ibu Robin and her team, along with business and community leaders, believed it was time to formalise their activities to create an institution to provide social services and health education to improve the quality of health for mothers and children through prenatal clinics and labor services and environmental programs for cleaner communities.

In January 2005, a foundation was established by license through the Notary, and in 2006 became legally incorporated under the name “Yayasan Bumi Sehat Nyuh Kuning Village”. Yayasan Bumi Sehat’s main office and headquarters is located in the Nyuh Kuning Village near Ubud in the Gianyar District of Bali, Indonesia.

Yayasan Bumi Sehat has two by-donation clinics located in Bali and Aceh that provide health and peaceful midwifery services to those in need, it is a not-for-profit organisation.  The clinic in Bali has been running for almost six years to a community that was economically devastated by the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2004. The Aceh clinic was established in early 2005 in direct response to the December 2004 Asian Tsunami to provide for tsunami survivors and their families.

These clinics provide over 17,000 health consultations for both children and adults per year.  Robin’s dream to ensure gentle births is at the heart of Bumi Sehat and they welcome approximately 600 new babies into the world each year.

All this would not be possible if not for Ibu Robin Lim’s conviction that she, “would not live for any other purpose except for love.”

Robin’s Inspiration

Robin’s support and inspiration is her family, husband Wil and their eight children and two grandchildren. Robin’s Filipino Grandmother, Vicenta Munar Lim, was a traditional birth attendant in the Baguio mountain region of Luzon, Philippine Islands. Before during and after WWII she served as a healer and baby catcher for her people.  “A lot of my values came from my grandmother and my mother,” she has said. “My grandmother taught me to be a peaceful warrior. She gave me permission at a very young age to always follow my heart. That’s been my life’s greatest gift.”

Wisdom Shared

Robin’s Filipino-Chinese mother would say, “If you’re down hearted, clean your house and do some gardening.  It’s hard to be depressed in a really clean lovely home and a growing garden.  If that doesn’t work go buy or make a gift for someone.  It’s cheaper than therapy and you make someone smile.”

Robins most simple and favorite ritual…“…is to always respond to every passage, small or large, birth to break-up, first moon, last breath, with the same word intention medicine…. “Thank You, I LOVE You.”  This sets the life-stage for anything… sometimes when we think-feel we are dying; it is just a painful rebirth. Just as a worm painfully breaks out of her cocoon to become a butterfly…as a woman faces the pangs of childbirth, to be reborn as a mother and to gaze into her newborn baby’s eyes at last.  I have now lived long enough to see that every “demon” in my life turned out to be an “Angel” in the long run.  It’s easy to say this when one is feeling good and safe… but I do believe that; “Things happen for us, not to us.”  And so, “Thank you, I LOVE you.” said silently or with words, is the most reasonable response to every choice and every challenge, every passage.  I use it ritually.”

Further Reading

Robin’s latest Field Report (PDF document 1.35 MB)

Vicinta (Robin’s grandmother’s birth story) by Robin Lim (chapter from her book Butterfly People)

The Lotus Angel by Robin Lim (chapter from her book Butterfly People)

You may also wish to visit the Bumi Sehat Bali Foundation website where you will find a great deal more information.

Further articles on Ibu Robin Lim and the Bumi Sehat Foundation will follow within Fishica’s STEPS Online Magazine in the upcoming months

How You Can Help

Please read Robin’s latest Field Report linked above and if you are able to donate please do. Financial assistance is vital in order to keep Robin’s valuable work and the clinics of Yayasan Bumi Sehat open and operating to their full potential.

Financial support is the top of Robin’s wish list in order to help sustain her work; however the following link is a list of physical items that Robin consistently needs in order to support the work of Yayasan Bumi Sehat.

Unfortunately, it is not practical to receive any of the listed items by postal mail because of the high customs fees which are involved.

If you would like to make a donation of any of the required items, then please bring the items with you if you are planning a visit to Bali or ask someone else to bring them on your behalf. Alternatively you could email Robin and she will try to connect you with someone from Robin’s support network organisation who is going to Bali.

Please help if you can and help spread the word about Robin’s valuable work.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has…

-Margaret Mead