It is difficult to imagine giving birth to a baby in any setting other than a sterile hospital with a well-equipped labour ward.
This is far from the experience of most women in rural and remote Papua New Guinea (PNG). Often the best that pregnant women in these places can hope for is to be near a centre where a village midwife or nurse from Lutheran Health Services (LHS) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELC-PNG) is stationed.
- Download a printable colour or black – ideal for inserting in your congregation’s pew bulletin
- View more Stories of the Week
- View all the stories from 2017 in our online book
- View all the Stories of the Week on your LCA YouTube channel
Women who live in remote places are often not able to have their babies in hospital and maternal and child mortality is quite high. Births may take place in thatched houses, on dirt floors, or in a setting with dirty walls and floors, possibly on slat beds.
It is in these situations that birthing kits, lovingly prepared by Lutheran women around Australia, bring the gift of hope and life to newborns and their mothers.
Lutheran Women of Australia (LWA) has always supported women in PNG, especially in health. During the many years I was a nurse and nurse educator there, this support was evident, and continues today through the birthing kit program. The idea for the program was presented at the LWA convention in Sydney in 2003.
Village midwives had been trained in PNG for several years, but were given nothing to help deliver babies. Midwives and teachers at the Lutheran School of Nursing, where I taught, saw the need to help village midwives assist births. Since then thousands of kits have been sent. They are used to help give women a clean, safe delivery.
The kits are a small way in which Australian women can help the women of PNG and show they care for their sisters in a neighbouring country. They include plastic and linen squares to provide a clean delivery area, disposable gloves, a scalpel blade, cloth nappies and soap, along with a tract with Bible verses in Pidgin English.
Made by women’s fellowship groups across Australia, the kits are packed into cartons by Joan and Kevin Koster, then sent by LCA International Mission to Lae, PNG. Some kits made in Queensland are sent from Brisbane to Madang.