Answers to some frequently asked questions related to Bloggers for Birth Kits, including assembly and shipping requirements.
Can I still send birth kits?
Yes! We can receive them year-round. When our Medical Ship is in port in Australia we stock birth kits directly onto the ship, and while it is in PNG we store the kits here. (Well, at the moment they’re taking over my house – ha!) As medical staff run out of kits on the ship we are able to send more with volunteers who fly into PNG every few weeks.
I’ve found the plastic sheets to be a bit of a hassle. Do you know of any pre-cut plastic sheets?
I do not. (Let me know if you find some!) I know it’s not very convenient, but the most cost-effective route I’ve found is to buy the large sheets and cut them down to size. You can find these in the painting section. This is the most “difficult” (time-consuming) part of putting the kits together.
Does it matter if the blades are sterilized or individually packaged?
No. Birth kits can have utility blades or sterile medical blades. Our health workers teach the women and attendants to sterilize the blades using the boiling method. Often this works out better since the less “medical” the supplies appear, the more likely they are to use them and to be able to replicate them once they run out. Making the kits easily replicable is part of our strategy for being as developmental as possible with our assistance.
Am I allowed to mail blades through the mail?
As far as I know this is not a problem. I did have one woman contact me saying that her mail service advised they could not be mailed, but I’ve received packages of birth kits from several different nations (including hers) without any issues. If in doubt check with your local carrier or call in advance.
Shipping to Australia is expensive. Is there a US address I can ship to instead?
No there is not. At this point we can only receive kits at our headquarters in Australia where we then take them to PNG by ship and plane. (Note: if you know a US military family that is based in Townsville or North Queensland, please let me know. That is an option that we could explore if they would be willing to receive packages for me, as I understand it’s far less expensive to ship to a military APO address.)
What about PNG? Can I ship them directly to the medical ship?
In the future we are looking to secure warehouse in Papua New Guinea to store supplies like this, however shipping to PNG would be roughly the same cost as shipping to Australia. Because of customs and security concerns it is far more efficient for us to receive these into Australia and bring them into PNG ourselves.
Since shipping is so expensive, am I better off just making a donation?
That depends – it’s really your call. Yes, your money will stretch farther if you just make a donation for us to make the kits for you (so that you don’t have to factor in shipping costs). BUT, there is a ‘but’: I always feel it’s ideal when people can make the kits themselves. Why? Because when you physically put your hand to something it becomes more real to you. You take the issue into your heart just that little bit more. As much as I want to help combat maternal and infant mortality in the developing world, I also want to see women all over the developed world understand this issue so that we can advocate and mobilize our resources to save even more lives. So, you see, my heart is to see them helped AND to see you and I “changed” in the process. (Even if that just means being a little more grateful for our own children, care, and opportunity.) In saying all of that, yes, your financial donation probably stretches farther because you don’t have to factor in shipping costs. The decision is purely up to you, and we’re so grateful for your donations either way.
Can I include other items in the birth kits such as diapers, a blanket, or something nice for the mother?
No. We need to keep the birth kits as compact and lightweight as possible. Our current ship is not big enough to store anything other than “essentials” and we need to be very careful with our space. Kits need to be as small as possible so that we can pack several at a time into backpacks and canoes and send them into villages with health care workers, birth attendants, and midwives. In saying that, there is a huge need for good quality baby clothes and blankets so if you would like to send those separately please contact me and we can talk further. (We also accept used prescription eye glasses and unused toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bars of soap.) One group of women printed little notes on small (label-size) stickers that they put on kits with messages like “you are loved”, “you are beautiful”, “you are amazing”, and “you are special”. Now that is something extra that we can accommodate! (I loved it!!)
It doesn’t seem very sterile to have ordinary (non-medical) people assembling these birth kits. How do you ensure kits are packed carefully?
If you could see first-hand the conditions that many of these women currently give birth in (i.e. a dirty blanket on a mud floor or in a canoe while trying to get to a regional clinic), you would understand just what a vast leap of improvement in maternal care that these kits provide. In saying that, please make sure you are vigilant with hand-washing and wearing gloves when possible while packing the contents of kits. Also please make sure you aren’t packing soap next to gauze.
How are monetary donations used?
Funds donated to Bloggers for Birth Kits go toward the assembly and distribution of clean birth kits as well as maternal education in Papua New Guinea. Money is given through our YWAM Medical Ship and allocated for Bloggers for Birth Kits. I then purchase supplies and rally local volunteers to help me put together the kits. This year one group raised more funds than we needed for birth kits so I contacted them about helping to sponsor a midwife supply backpack and some birth education tools instead. They were thrilled to not only provide kits but also help reinforce our birth education efforts and further equip our midwives and local birth attendants.
What should I do with left-over supplies? Can you use them?
Yes, we can! Please feel free to include any left-over supplies with your box of birth kits and we will incorporate those into future kits as we assemble them.
I sent a package of birth kits, how will I know when they arrive?
Please include a note with your contact details—including your email address—in your package! I will contact you straight away and let you know your package has arrived safely. Packages can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks (on average) to arrive from North America and Europe.
Dear friends, please let me know if you have other questions that might be applicable for this FAQ list. I’ve been working on a wrap-up report for the 2012 Mothers Day Birth Kit Drive, so watch for that to post later this week. Again, I’m amazed at your response, and humbled to be a part of something so wonderful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!