Ibu Robin believes that love heals. Since 2003 she has volunteered to help mothers in Bali deliver babies (via the Bumi Sehat Foundation). It wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning. Lots of opposition from the existing medical profession. Very little money. Not many staff. No fancy clinic. Just big love. But things have become a bit easier after she was awarded the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year. She deserves it. Absolutely.
What is the message that you want to share with the universe?
I would like to share my deepest belief: That love heals.
Just a few weeks ago at Bumi Sehat ibu (mother) Rusmini was having her send Baby. Minutes before the birth the baby’s heart rate fell to 40 beats per minute. Normal is 120 to 160 beats per minute—as The Beat you know how important it is to “keep the beat”, so to speak. If a baby’s heart falls so low, it means he is dying, even before being born. We gave the mother oxygen, changed her position and told her she must push very very strong, so that the baby would come out quickly, and we could help him with CPR, but the baby was not being born fast enough. The mother needed more strength, and we needed a miracle to save this child. Bidan (midwife) Maria, from Timor Leste remembered our “secret recipe for miracles”, she said, “I love you!”, to the mother. And Ibu Rusmini smiled. And we all shouted, “I love you!”. We checked the baby’s heart beat, and it was up to 120. Normal! We gave the mother love, and she had the strength to push her baby out into the light. Love truly saved this baby boy’s life. Alas, he has a cleft palate and harelip, but in a few weeks, when he reached 5 kilos, he can have the operation he needs, for free, from John Fawcett Foundation. Baby Kadek’s mother and father bonded to him, with so much love, that they don’t see the deformities of his face, they only see the baby who was saved by the miracle of love.
Love, is gentle. And love, is strong (like the song says). I have seen the miracle of love day and night at Bumi Sehat.
How’s the public reaction so far, locally and globally? What kind of an impact has the prestigious “CNN Hero 2011” status had?
The people here in Indonesia are so proud. All over the world, people are so happy and supportive. All over the world, people cried. I had hundreds of e-mails. Bidans said they thought they were getting sick. But then they remembered that on the CNN Night, they were screaming with joy, so long and hard, that they hurt their throats! It is as if we Occupied Healthcare as a human right. We occupied love on CNN. I have usually two times per week, visits from bidans. 30 to 100 coming at one time, by airplane and by bus, from all over Indonesia. They come because they are excited that one of them, a midwife, is the hero. They come to learn all about the healing power of love. I share with them all I can about gentle childbirth, about living a life in peace. I love the fact that they are so excited.
What are you doing right now, work wise?
Yesterday, I was on my knees (although I have a broken foot) receiving a baby girl into the world. Ibu Ayuk and Wayan Wartawa are so in love with their tiny three kilo daughter, and so am I. Day and night, I still deliver babies. I still do what I can for the Bumi Sehat patients. I teach midwives about gentle peaceful birth more and more. We just released our newest book in Bahasa Indonesia: “Ibu Alami”. I just finished two new books: “Eat Pray Doula” and “The Natural Family Planning Workbook: a Lifestyle of Nonviolence.” I have a few books coming out this year in the Philippines in Tagalog, and in Italy in Italian.
Being popular means that twice this year pregnant unwed moms saw me on TV and took buses to Bali, from other islands to find me. We live here in a society that has no tolerance for single motherhood, so I dream of making a single mom’s home, a centre where they can live and learn and grow, with their babies. This I will not begin, until we have built the new clinic. Moving ahead in baby steps, steadily.
In May I spent International Day of the Midwife in the Philippines with 900 midwives, at the annual Philippine League of Midwives congress.
Two weeks ago I was with 1,500 midwifery students in Jakarta, they are amazing. They say I inspire them, but they inspire me!
I hear there’s also another Bumi Sehat Clinic in Aceh? What’s that story? Is it still going?
Oh, yes. Bumi Sehat Aceh is going strong. Last April, our area in Aceh suffered 33 Earthquakes in 24 hours—the largest of which were 8.1 & 8.6.! The panic was terrible, all over the region. We feel so blessed, as no lives were lost. Our team stayed on, and evacuated all three surrounding villages to higher ground, as we feared a Tsunami (the epicenter being just offshore from our Bumi Sehat site). There were no significant damages to our clinic. Thank Heaven. We have a new youth centre out there, and a big organic garden. Half my heart is in Aceh.
What music are you into at the moment?
Soul Doctors. They are awesome, not just for an old nenek (grandma) like me, but for everyone. Their new and only album of original tunes is about to be released.
Anything by Navicula. But Beautiful Rebel is the best.
Joan Baez did an album called Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time in 1968, which was sung poems, excellent, back when I was a kid, until now.
Name 3 of your favorite books?
The Love Poems of Kenneth Patchen by Kenneth Patchen, 1960.
“Have you ever wondered why all the windows in heaven were broken?
Have you even seen the homeless in the open grave of God’s hand?”
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, 1938.
An amazing anti-war novel.
The Buru Quartet by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
He caused so much trouble telling the simple sad story of a girl in changing times, in Indonesia.
Any last nagging words?
The CNN Award money, all $300.000 is in a special account set aside for the building of the new Bumi Sehat clinic in Bali. (The one we are in is leased, and the lease is finished in 3 years.) We do have the land, and we are working to make the very most earthquake safe and efficient, and beautiful plans possible. It’s a lot of work making a new clinic. $300.000 is not enough for the clinic we need to build, but it’s an amazing start, and our savings is growing. The CNN accolades have brought Bumi Sehat into the limelight, which really helps me keep the funding flowing toward us. The downside is that many people think that just because we won, we don’t need anymore funding. Quite the opposite, operational funds are rising, as our patient load increase, with our popularity.
…Oh My Gosh nagging words… Yes, keep helping Bumi Sehat provide free healthcare to the people in Bali and Aceh who need it the most.
*This interview was firstly published on The Beat (Bali) #316, Jul 20-Aug 02, 2012