Group at Bumi Sehat
25
May

Travel Tales: Bringing the travel program full circle

Life is a series of special connections and we never know where threads will lead you. Travel Program Director Patricia Andersson ties up the threads in this look at how the travel program and our October 2014 featured program Bumi Sehat are connected.

By Patricia Andersson

Some things in life just cannot be predicted. Coincidences occur, a chance meeting happens, a random thread is followed, and suddenly a whole cascade of events unfolds from seemingly nothing.

This is exactly how our meeting with Bumi Sehat came about. And from that meeting, Bumi Sehat, based in Bali, Indonesia, is now our featured program for October.

To unravel this story, some background is in order. About a year ago, our Travel Program visited Indonesia. Our trip was focused around visiting Health in Harmony, our featured program from September 2012, based in Borneo. Wanting our travelers to experience other parts of Indonesia, too, I planned the trip to also include time in Bali. Since we also want to introduce our travelers to other programs focusing on women and girls in the countries we visit, I put out some feelers to see what might be a good organization to check out in Bali. A friend of a friend – someone I’ve never met and only spoke to once by phone – told me about an NGO there called Bumi Sehat. Following this thread, I researched them and found that they were a pretty amazing program. I contacted their clinic and arranged for us to visit. On the day we arrived, we were lucky to find that Bumi Sehat’s founder, Robin Lim – recipient of the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year award – was at the clinic, her presence having been uncertain due to her heavy travel schedule.

Our group of 12 travelers were just walking in when Robin came out to meet us. Imagine our surprise as happy squeals of joy erupted, and we saw Robin and Susan Allman, one of our travelers, embraced in an exuberant bear hug! Susan, a chapter leader from Cedar City UT, was actually Robin’s high school teacher back in California some 30-odd years ago! Not only was she her teacher, but also a family friend, and they exchanged an animated run-down on what all the members of their respective families had been up to over the years as we eavesdropped in stupefied amazement at the unbelievable coincidence.

With that auspicious beginning, we were given a very in-depth tour of the Bumi Sehat facility, meeting numerous brand-new mothers and their infants, their husbands and the baby’s siblings hovering protectively nearby. We also learned about the various services that are offered on a donation basis to any Balinese woman who requests this gentle birthing support.

Robin spent nearly two hours with us, sharing her story and some of the turning–point experiences in her life. She also told us of her motivation for founding Bumi Sehat, a response to her grief over the loss of her beloved sister, who died during a childbirth experience gone horribly wrong. Witnessing the change she is determined to make to birthing practices, we watched a film of a baby being born at the clinic, and saw the peaceful and loving welcome that the newborn was given after emerging into the warm waters of a birthing tub. It’s as their tagline states, “Building Peace, one Baby, one Mom at a time.” (Gee, that sounds vaguely familiar…)

As our visit wound to a close, many of us purchased tie-died shirts with the Bumi Sehat logo on them to remind us of our inspiring time with Robin. And seeing the great fit with DFW’s mission, we encouraged her to apply for a grant for Bumi Sehat. I promised to stay in touch and keep her apprised of the next call for proposals, and emailed her when the announcement came up. She responded by staying up all night and writing in one big burst the initial grant application she sent in.  After going through the rigorous program selection process, Bumi Sehat passed with flying colors and was subsequently chosen as one of DFW’s sponsored programs!

When I saw on our website that Bumi Sehat had been selected to be funded in October, I couldn’t wait to tell my group of intrepid Indonesian travelers who had experienced this organization first-hand. Virtual high-fives and whoops sailed around our email chain, but no one was more proud and excited than the past high school teacher from California, seeing what her one-time student had accomplished, and closing a long loop of coincidences, chance meetings, and random threads.

View more photos on Flickr

Andersson0513About the author

Patricia Andersson is the director of DFW’s travel program. She’s run the program since its inception and has taken DFW groups to many countries including Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda and Nicaragua.