As a homebirth midwife, Katherine Bramhall has brought many babies into the world. But for her next delivery, she is asking for help.
In mid-May, Bramhall launched “A Million Mothers,” a $1 million campaign to fund construction of a new health clinic on the island of Bali. Bramhall’s goal is to collect one dollar from each of one million mothers before September, when she will return to Bali to buy land for an earthquake-proof building, a youth center, a community garden and housing for clinic staff.
“When I go back in September, I will have $1 million,” Bramhall said. “I don’t know how, but you’re not allowed to know the nature of miracles.”
“A Million Mothers” will benefit the Yayasan Bumi Sehat Free Birth Clinic, which was established in 1999 by Robin Lim, a midwife and author who lives in Bali. Lim opened the clinic in response to Indonesia’s high maternal mortality rate, estimated at 373 per 100,000 births in 2003.
In its first year, Bumi Sehat provided 50 women with prenatal care and a safe, clean place to give birth. Today, about 80 babies are delivered there every month. Bramhall says the new clinic would be three times the size of the current facility.
Bramhall has provided disaster relief for earthquake victims in Iran, trained Chechen mental-health workers in St. Petersburg, and helped thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. “A Million Mothers” has so far raised about $20,000, much of it through a worldwide email campaign. People as far away as Australia, Israel and France have sent donations to her Barre address.
“What ‘A Million Mothers’ does is, it shows people they’ve succeeded in helping,” Bramhall said. “They’re no bigger or smaller than Bill Gates. The call is for one dollar, not 80 billion.”
Even though donations arrive every day from around the world, Emily Padua, Bramhall’s assistant, says the majority has come from Vermonters.
“There’s been a lot of Vermont support,” Padua said. “From my experience, people in Vermont feel good about supporting other Vermonters’ work.”
All of the donations will go directly to supplying and building the clinic, as well as toward a new ambulance. New Chapter, a nutritional supplement company in Brattleboro, has donated vitamins for prenatal nutrition, and others, like Padua, have donated their time.
“When people send $25 to the Red Cross, they don’t know if that’s going towards toilet paper in the corporate offices or somewhere else,” Bramhall said. “But with this, they can say, ‘I gave a piece of a birth clinic to women in Bali, and I really mattered.’”
An aspiring midwife, Padua said she called Bramhall several days after “A Million Mothers” was launched, looking for ways to help. Now she is logging donations and making phone calls for the campaign. She hopes to visit Bumi Sehat with Bramhall in the fall.
“I want to help women who don’t have access to good health care during their pregnancy, and if I could actually go to Bali, I’d be able to see it in action,” Padua said.
Bramhall said one part of the campaign she treasures — even more than the dollar bills coming in from around the world — are the blessings and letters of gratitude she has received. She saves them all.
“I’m going to live and die with these letters,” she said. “Most of them say thank you for letting me help, and what they can feel is the brilliance of everybody’s heart saying ‘I can help.’ That’s what happens — it keeps the heart alive.”