Robin Lim, an American woman who has helped thousands of poor Indonesian women have a healthy pregnancy and birth, was named the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year on Sunday night.
Through herÂ Yayasan Bumi SehatÂ health clinics,Â “Mother Robin,” or “Ibu Robin”Â as she is called by the locals, offers free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid in Indonesia, where many families cannot afford care.
“Every baby’s first breath on Earth could be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth could be safe and loving. But our world is not there yet,” Lim said during “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” which took place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and recognized Lim and the otherÂ top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011.
Many women in the developing worldÂ do not have access to contraception or maternal care. According to the United Nations Population Fund, three out of five women giving birth in South Asia do so without a skilled birth attendant on hand.
In Indonesia, the average family earns the equivalent of $8 a day, according to the International Monetary Fund. But a baby delivery costs about $70 at a hospital, and a Caesarian section can cost as much as $700.
Lim believes Indonesia’s high maternal and infant mortality rates are caused in part by these costs, which many women cannot meet.
“The situation is bad … babies are unattended, deliveries have become commercialized, and mothers die from hemorrhage after childbirth because they can’t afford proper care,”Â Lim told CNN earlier this year.
The CNN Hero of the Year was chosen by the public after an 11-week vote on CNN.com. For being named Hero of the Year, Lim will receive $250,000 for her cause. That’s in addition to the $50,000 that she and the rest of the top 10 Heroes each received for making the top 10.
This is the fifth year that CNN, with the help of entertainers and other celebrities, have honored everyday people changing the world. Among this year’s presenters were comedians Jerry Seinfeld and George Lopez; actors J.R. Martinez and Chris Colfer; musical artists Ice Cube and will.i.am; model Christy Turlington Burns; former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner; and actresses Laura Dern, Mary-Louise Parker and Sofia Vergara. (Photos: Scenes from the night)
Turlington Burns introduced Lim’s video tribute during Sunday’s show, before the Hero of the Year announcement. As founder ofEvery Mother Counts, she is also a passionate advocate for maternal health around the world.
“Eight years ago, after giving birth to my first child Grace, I felt what could have been a life-threatening complication,” she told the audience of nearly 5,000. “It suddenly got very scary, very fast. If I hadn’t received the expert care in the hospital birthing center I was in, then I may have not been so fortunate.
“My wish is that every mother all over the world has the same chance surviving childbirth I had. My friend Robin Lim shares that wish and she spends her days and nights making it so.”
Turlington Burns recently made the trip to Indonesia to meet Lim and see her work firsthand.
Lim became a midwife after her sister — and her sister’s baby — died from complications during childbirth several years ago. She and her husband then sold their home in Hawaii and moved to Bali to “reinvent their lives,” she said.
“It was there she learned she could make a difference,” Turlington Burns said. “She opened a clinic, Bumi Sehat, so poor mothers can give birth safely and be treated with dignity and respect. She has delivered thousands of babies, and that is why they call her ‘Ibu’ — Mother.”
After being announced as the CNN Hero of the Year, a tearful Lim accepted the award from host Anderson Cooper and made an impassioned plea for help.
“Today on our Earth, 981 mothers in the prime of their life will die — and tomorrow again and yesterday,” she said. “And I’m asking you to help change that. We don’t even know how many babies are lost, but all of us can help change that.”
Here are the other top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011, in alphabetical order:
Eddie Canales’ son was paralyzed during a high school football game in 2001. Today, Canales’ nonprofit, Gridiron Heroes, provides emotional and financial support to high school football players who’ve sustained life-changing spinal cord injuries.
Taryn Davis was just 21 when her husband, an Army corporal, was killed in Iraq. In 2007, she created the American Widow Project. To date, her nonprofit has provided a community of support to more than 900 young military widows.
Sal Dimiceli has spent decades helping people get back on their feet. Through a local newspaper column and his nonprofit, The Time Is Now To Help, Dimiceli assists about 500 people a year with food, rent, utilities and other necessities.
Derreck Kayongo’s Global Soap Project collects partially used hotel soap and reprocesses it to save lives. Since 2009, the Atlanta-based nonprofit has provided about 150,000 bars of soap for communities in 10 countries.
Surrounded by gang violence in her Chicago neighborhood, Diane Latiker opened her home to area youth and started a community program called Kids Off the Block. Since 2003, her program has helped more than 1,500 young people.
After being stricken with cancer, Patrice Millet dedicated his life to helping children in his native Haiti. His nonprofit youth soccer program provides free equipment, coaching and food to hundreds of participants from the slums and teaches them to become responsible citizens.
Since 2005, chef Bruno Serato has been serving free pasta dinners to children, many of whom are poor and live in motels with their families. Today, Serato provides dinner seven days a week to more than 300 children at the Boys & Girls Club in Anaheim, California.
Richard St. Denis
Since 2008, Richard St. Denis and his organization, World Access Project, have provided hundreds of wheelchairs and mobility aids to people living with disabilities in rural Mexico.
Amy Stokes is redefining “family” for South African children affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty. Her organization, Infinite Family, has connected almost 500 teenage “Net Buddies” with nearly 300 volunteer mentors from all over the world via the Internet.