Umi’s story and Project Baby Bilum

Meet baby Umi:

Baby Umi at 11 weeks old. Bamio village on the Bamu River, Western Province, Papua New Guinea.

When I met Umi she was eleven weeks old and weighed just under five pounds. At an age where babies are normally holding their heads up, beginning to roll over, smiling, and babbling, Umi had not yet reached my son’s birth weight and was barely able to grasp onto my finger.

Weighing Baby Umi. She weighed less than five pounds at 11 weeks old.

Umi’s case is extreme, but unfortunately it’s not isolated.

11-week-old Baby Umi from Bamio in the Western Province, Papua New Guinea.

In her village in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea it’s been the women’s responsibility to gather sago – a local food sourced from a tree root – for generations.

Because her mother was out gathering sago each day to provide food for herself, her husband, and their three children, Umi was only being breastfed two-to-three times a day.

Komi breastfeeding Baby Umi in Bamio, PNG.

“She sleeps all the time,” said Umi’s mother, Komi, through a translator, “so she is fed when she wakes up.”

Clearly Komi didn’t understand that newborn babies must eat around the clock or else they won’t even have the energy to be awake enough to cry for food.

YWAM Medical volunteer holding Baby Umi. PNG, Western Province.

As a foreigner it’s easy for me to say, “That’s crazy, just send the husband out to work so the mother can look after and feed the baby.”

But it’s not that simple.

You can’t elbow your way into an age-old culture and demand change because you think you can see a better way. History shows that many well-meaning people have brought a lot of offense by ill-thought-out “improvements” and “change”.

And yet obviously change needs to come.

A three-month-old baby should not look like a frail, starving premie.

Severely malnourished Baby Umi on the scales. Bamio, Western Province, Papua New Guinea.

So how do we help Umi? How do we help her mother, Komi, and others like them?

Umi’s father died of tuberculosis (TB) the week before I met them. Umi’s mother—Komi—appeared sick as well, but our clinic workers didn’t have the lab resources to test for TB so we’re unsure about the exact state of her health.

We left rice and flour, canned tuna and beans. We left baby clothes and a blanket to keep Umi warm. We left vitamin drops for the entire family and made sure they all had critical immunizations. We left a teddy bear for her big brother and sister to share.

We also tried to further explain to Komi the importance of feeding Umi several times a day, even if she needed to be woken to eat.

As much as I personally loathe filling in charts, I scratched out a hand-drawn chart in a notebook to leave with her, showing her how to fill in a box each time she feeds Umi until she reaches at least eight feeds each day.

Together with our doctor and midwife, we again reminded her that feeding Umi is a matter of life and death.

And then we prayed. We prayed… and left.

Praying for Baby Umi in the village of Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

Back to my “normal” reality.

Two weeks later I sit in the comfort of my four-bedroom home – closets bursting with clothes for every season, a kitchen packed full of fresh, healthy food, more clean water than my family could ever possibly drink, cook with, or bathe in – and I wonder…

How Umi is doing?

Is she gaining weight?

Has she fallen ill?

Is she alive?

And I wonder about Komi…

Is she using the feeding chart?

Is she waking Umi to eat?

Has she lost hope? Is she hanging on?

To lose your husband to disease and watch your baby lay listless in your arms, while your other two small children look on, their own tummies rumbling for food… That. can’t. be. easy.

How does Komi maintain hope? Or does she?

I believe that our connection to Umi’s village was no accident. Our workers visited her a total of four times over three weeks. As hard as it was to see her suffering and literally teetering on the edge of death, we were also encouraged to see she had gained 400 grams (0.8 pounds) during that time – that alone a small miracle.

Adriel and Komi and Umi in Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

What now?

How do we help to bring lasting change to this village? How do we ensure other babies don’t get left behind while their mothers are out harvesting the scare food that the area offers?

Before leaving Bamio I spent time interviewing several mothers (and one man) in Umi’s village, wondering why they didn’t wear their babies in slings or wraps and carry with them to the fields so that they can nurse when they’re hungry.

Adriel interviewing women in Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

“Can you wear your babies and take them with you to get the sago?” I asked, explaining again that newborns need to eat around-the-clock. “Instead of leaving them with their siblings or grandmother or father to look after them at home, is it possible for you to wear them and bring the babysitter with you to look after the babies near where you work? Then you’ll be able to pause and feed them several times through the day as they need it.”

“Ah, yes!” one villager piped up. “Like a baby bilum?” (A bilum is a woven satchel commonly worn throughout Papua New Guinea.)

“Exactly,” I responded. “What about using baby bilums?

At the mention of baby bilums they looked at me blankly while my interpreter said, “But we don’t have fabric.”

This was no joke.

I glanced at one of the women sitting next to me – the same one I sat behind in church the day before. She had a hole in her shirt, torn from shoulder to shoulder. It was obviously the only item of clothing she had – her “best” for Sunday church with the foreign visitors.

Woman of Bamio in church with a torn shirt. Western Province, PNG.

I knew immediately that if there was an extra sarong or piece of fabric it wouldn’t be used for babywearing, it would be used as a much-needed skirt or other article of clothing.

So here’s where we come in.

Umi’s village—Bamio—is a village of roughly 500. I don’t know exactly how many of those 500 are mothers – I know for certain that many of them are children… and those children definitely came from mamas. And nearly all of those mamas are responsible for harvesting food for their families.

Next year I would like to bring baby slings for the women of Bamio so they have an alternative to leaving their newborns behind while they work to provide food for their families.

Shell necklace. Women of Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

Although leaving a supply of baby slings will not “solve” the problems in Bamio, I believe it’s a practical, achievable part of the approach we can take in educating and equipping these dear women (and their husbands) in regards to the importance of maternal availability during the newborn and infant stages.

My hope is to leave them at the aid post with Josephine – the village’s “unofficial” birth attendant – to distribute among new mothers as needed.

Say hello to Josephine:

Josephine smiling. Women of Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

Isn’t she absolutely lovely? Perhaps I’ll tell you her story one day soon, too.

[Note, I’ve since shared Josephine’s story. It can be found here: A drink of water.]

Do you think something as simple as a piece of fabric can change a village?

Standing tall. Women of Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

Not entirely, but it’s a start – a part of the solution.

The gorgeous women of Bamio need a catalyst for change

Gorgeous mama. The women of Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

I want there to be no reason that an infant goes hungry while her mother is off supporting the family.

I want Umi to live… and I also want her story to count for something – for her suffering to get our attention so that collectively we can work to make her world a better place.

Certainly she is worth our attention.

Baby Umi - Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

Does there need to be development in Bamio in terms of sustainable food sources and clean water and microenterprise and education and healthcare? Yes and yes and yes-yes-yes.

There’s much work to be done in Bamio.

But friends, can we start with giving these babies the gift of their mothers back? Because in those early days, a mother’s milk is a baby’s life.

Mother nursing. Women of Bamio, Western Province, PNG.

How to contribute a ring sling:

If you would like to contribute a sling, please send it to me (address below) before March 2013 and I will ensure it gets to Bamio in the Western Province next year when our YWAM Medical Ship returns. It’s important that you send a ring sling.

Why a ring sling?

A few reasons:

1. A moby-type wrap can be used for something else (clothing, bedding, etc.) and I want to tackle this issue head-on, leaving no reason for babies to be separated from their mothers.

2. A circular hammock-type sling (with no rings) isn’t adjustable for different size babies and mothers/care-givers.

3. A few hundred backpack-type carriers (like my favorite – the Ergo) are far too bulky to pack and store on our ship where space is very, very precious and mostly reserved for medical supplies and food.

So it’s ring slings I’m after for Bamio.

You’re welcome to pass along a used one, but only if it’s in pristine condition. (They deserve our best, not our throw-aways.) You can also buy or make one. Feel free to embroider a personal message somewhere on the sling or personalize it in another way if you’d like to. Remember that this is going to help a woman – a mother – care for her most precious and vulnerable. Don’t just think of this as an act of charity, think of it as your personal gift to a sister in need.

Sister in need. The Women of Bamio. Western Province, Papua New Guinea.

If I receive more slings than we need for Bamio, I’ll then look at how to distribute them in other villages as well. But for now, we start with Bamio – Umi’s village, Komi’s village.

Dear friends, can you help us bring change in Bamio?


P.S. Many of you have asked about donating baby clothes, blankets, etc. Yes, we do have need for baby bundles to give to families in need. Useful items include: wash cloths, soap (bars), receiving blankets, folding cloth diapers and baby pins, onsies, newborn beanies, newborn footie pajamas, and baby clothes of all sizes up to 24 months. (All need to be free of stains, rips, and broken zippers/snaps/buttons.) We can also accept skirts (knee length or longer please) and loose-fitting shirts (no sleeveless) for the mothers, unopened toothbrushes and toothpaste, used prescription eyeglasses, and (new) school supplies. Please email me (or leave a question below in the comments) and let me know what you’re thinking so I can ensure we have space to include your donations during our next outreaches. If you are overseas, please also keep in mind that shipping costs to Australia are not cheap. (Then again, everything of worth costs something… right?)

Send ring slings to:

Project Baby Bilum
c/o Adriel Booker
PO Box 6221
Townsville, QLD 4810

*If you send a ring sling for Project Baby Bilum, please make sure to include your contact details (and an active email address!!) so I can let you know when your package has arrived.

More on the women of rural Papua New Guinea:

Bokoro’s Story: Giving birth in the mud
Josephine’s Story: A drink of water
Giving birth along the Bamu River: Stories from Papua New Guinea
Bloggers for Birth Kits: Helping to reduce maternal mortality in the developing world

About Author

Adriel Booker is an author, speaker, and advocate based in Sydney, Australia who believes storytelling, beauty, and the grace of God will change the world. Adriel has become a trusted voice in areas of motherhood and parenting, Christian spirituality, and global women's issues. She's also known for her work with the Love A Mama Collective—serving under-resourced women in developing nations through safe birth initiatives—as well as her years spent as a Bible teacher and leadership coach. Her latest book is Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss and she's made the companion grief journal available for free. Find Adriel across all social media platforms at @adrielbooker or sign up for LoveNotes, Adriel's 'secret posts' that aren't published anywhere else online. ✌️


  • Lori Schierer
    8 October 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I can already tell you’re gonna need help with this one too! 🙂 Let me know what I can do to help.

    • Adriel Booker
      8 October 2012 at 10:05 pm

      Oh, thank you Lori – I really appreciate your offer. And I love that you’re gifted where I am not!! Let’s meet up next week sometime once I’m finished teaching.
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  • Nicole Laws
    8 October 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Adriel I would love to help, I now we live miles upon miles apart but what can I do. I live in the US – NY to be exact. I would love to help with the slings and child birth kits. Please let me know how I can help you.
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  • Chelsea Bergman
    8 October 2012 at 11:49 pm

    I can’t help but cry as I read Umi’s story, remembering holding a five pound, ten week old baby Ben in Uganda. It seems so long ago, but the memory is so vibrant in my mind. How blessed I feel to have my own, healthy, thriving baby Ben. Thank you for sharing her story and for the beautiful pictures. I will try to get several slings made and sent your way!

  • LeiShell
    9 October 2012 at 2:09 am

    This touched my heart. I cannot imagine having to leave my newborn to collect food. I will be sending a sling. And sharing on my fb so others can help too. I love your compassion and am so grateful God is using you for his glory. God bless you!
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  • LeiShell
    9 October 2012 at 2:25 am

    Also, I am curious, are you back home to recieve this if I send now? And is 4810 the zip? I have never sent anything to Australia! haha

    • Adriel Booker
      9 October 2012 at 9:17 am

      yes, we’re home now! and yes, 4810 is the post code. 🙂
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  • Biggi
    9 October 2012 at 3:01 am

    Adriel, is there somewhere a pattern where people could make the ring sling off?
    as you give examples of what wouldn’t work, i’m wondering if you have an example on how the sling should be looking like…


  • Sarra
    9 October 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Per sempre slings will be sending two and hopefully with the help of my customers a few more.

    Biggi, try sleepingbaby website.

  • bernardeena
    9 October 2012 at 7:16 pm

    How incredibly sad. It is heart wrenching the lives some people have to live. I’ll share this on my blog, I hope you can make that difference to this village.

  • Debbie
    9 October 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Hi! I have 2 dozen folding cloth nappies and some pins (can get more) . They haven’t been used as nappies and have been prewashed. Would you like them? Ill talk to my friend who referred me to this about getting you a sling or two as well

    • Adriel Booker
      11 October 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Yes, thanks Debbie. We can definitely use those in our baby bundles. Most families would only have one diaper (if any) that they use over and over. We can certainly re-home those!! Thank you! x
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  • Helen
    9 October 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Hi there,

    I was really touched by your story, I cannot imagine having to leave a newborn to go and search for food for the family. I feel so lucky to have been able to spend the first year of my daughters life with her feeding on demand and to have had access to a variety of slings. I am going to try to co-ordinate a donation of slings from my local sling groups here in Devon in the UK.

    • Adriel Booker
      11 October 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks so much Helen, that would be wonderful. Yes, isn’t it hard to imagine? You can imagine how rough that is on a mother’s supply too – which only perpetuates the malnourishment of the baby. Not good. 🙁 Appreciate your help in gathering some slings. x
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  • Pez
    10 October 2012 at 6:57 am

    Hey Adriel,

    This is amazing…so hard to take in as I feed my baby in the comfort of my own home with no ‘work’ to have to go to…and such a good challenge as I whinge about feeding through the night!

    Just wondering if there’s an option for donating money specifically for ring slings? Thinking there might be quite a few people out there that want to do something like purchase the cost of one of two slings (even as a christmas present for someone kinda like what Compassion and TEAR do?) and whether its possible to set up something like an account specifically for the slings? I’m sure you have reasons for why this wouldn’t work but just thought I’d throw it in there as a suggestion? Then potentially a company who makes them could come on board as a partner and do bulk orders/free postage etc…

    Love all that you do and continue to follow YWAM with great excitement (say hi to Ken for me 🙂

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    • Adriel Booker
      11 October 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Pez. Yes, it’s confronting isn’t it?

      I don’t have an account set up for donations for this – namely because I’m not sure about how people would feel donating money to me personally and trusting me to buy a sling for them. You know? I’m already having several people ask about it though, so it’s worth consideration.

      I think it would be great to have a business partner with us in that way – especially a WAHM or something. People could donate to them and then maybe they could match the order with another sling (send us two!). How good would that be?! I don’t have the time to look into that at the moment, but if you know of anyone who might be interested, feel free to pursue them and share the opportunity to give! 🙂
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      • Pez
        17 October 2012 at 6:13 am

        Can we donate at all through the base to avoid donating to you? You know how people can donate directly to a student through the office? That way it would have accountability and I’m sure people would be happy to donate there, especially if there was a way to calculate costs and buy one, two or more slings as an option online? Sounds like you have help with a supplier etc from other readers but let me know if there’s anything specific I can do before next year for you guys.

  • rachel
    10 October 2012 at 2:47 pm

    What a touching story. As I live in the states, is there a way to make a financial donation instead? Have you considered setting up a paypal account? Your pictures are heartbreaking and beautiful. I would also love to contribute.
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    • Adriel Booker
      11 October 2012 at 8:22 pm

      Hi Rachel. You’re not the first person to ask that question. Hmmm…

      I don’t have an account set up for donations for this – namely because I’m not sure about how people would feel donating money to me personally and trusting me to buy a sling for them, you know? I’m already having several people ask about it though, so it’s worth consideration.

      I do have a paypal account if you’d like to donate to me personally and have me buy one for you. Let me know if you’re comfortable with that option and I’ll see what I can find. Not sure how much they cost here in Australia but I have some baby-wearing fanatic friends that I can ask and see if they know of a good company we might be able to partner with locally.

      Thanks for letting your heart be impacted and for wanting to get involved. xx
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  • Chloe Mathers
    10 October 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Hi, this story has touched so many people! I run a social enterprise teaching Mums to make their own ring slings in the UK. I want to organise a day where we can make loads up for you and send you a lovely big package over! Please could you get in touch with me to discuss x

    • Adriel Booker
      11 October 2012 at 8:34 pm

      That sounds wonderful Chloe! Thanks so much. My email is themommyhoodmemos at

      Appreciate your willingness to get involved!! x
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  • Lindsey Whitney
    13 October 2012 at 1:38 pm

    What a great idea. I love baby-wearing already and this really takes the cake. I think it would be more cost effective for me to make a donation and you buy the slings in Australia rather than ship them. What do you think? What’s shipping from the US to Australia these days?
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    • Adriel Booker
      14 October 2012 at 9:27 am

      Yeah, I’m happy to do that Lindsey. Several people have been asking/emailing me about that. I’m looking into finding a good local WAHM or family business to source them from.
      Adriel Booker recently posted..bokoro’s story | giving birth in the mudMy Profile

  • […] Because her mother was out gathering sago each day to provide food for herself, her husband, and their three children, Umi was only being breastfed two-to-three times a day… continue reading. […]

  • Leah
    14 October 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I am in! I have been looking for a charity and I believe this has come at the perfect time.

  • Abi Hector-Taylor
    14 October 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Adriel
    My didymos ring sling has only been used a handful of times and is in perfect condition. I’ll put it in the post this week along with some other items of clothing that will be useful. My first midwife Maree Treloar does a lot of work delivering babies in remote areas of PNG so it is serendipity that I stumbled across your story as I feel a connection through the birth of my son. It’s amazing work you’re doing. I believe that enabling these mothers to carry their babies during the day will make a big difference too. It’s a wonderful initiative…all the very best to you!!!
    Abi x
    PS if I could sew I’d make a bunch to send but my skills there leave a lot to be desired 🙁

  • Barbara
    14 October 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Adriel,
    Firstly, I love that you are focussing on helping these families with something that can actually be achieved! Secondly, I have a preloved sling in excellent condition that I’d love to donate for more mothers to wear their babies. My only concern is you have specifically asked for ‘ring slings’. Mine is a ‘mini monkey’ brand (there is a website) and doesn’t have ‘rings’ attached, however is fully adjustable via a clip system.. Do you think this would still be suitable?
    Thanks, Barb

    • Adriel Booker
      15 October 2012 at 4:48 pm

      Hi Barb, that sounds great. As long as it’s fully adjustable and not too bulky. (Is it padded?) We need to be able to fold it up as small as possible. I’m sure it will be fine though. Thank you so much!! x
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  • Kim
    15 October 2012 at 7:56 am

    Dear Adriel,

    I read your post (via Documenting Delight) last night and spent my late night breastfeeds thinking about Umi.  My second baby, Tom, is 12 weeks old and is extremely chubby thanks to round the clock breastfeeds, and spending most of his day in his ring sling – so your story really resonated with me.

    I was keen to contribute some slings and have tracked down a ring supplier, and I am going to get some fabric donations from a friend with a massive fabric stash.  For those people who want to make one, can you recommend any particular designs or material prints that would be culturally associated with infants in PNG?  As my husband pointed out when I told him what I was reading, a ring sling is only a knife away from being a piece of material again – so I was keen to see if there is anything that we can do to make them very identifiable as baby items and avoid them being repurposed.

    The other thing I was thinking last night was if there was a way to make the slings self-instructing for women who receive them and may need reminders at home.  One idea I had was to make a small screen printed fabric panel to attach to each donated sling, with quick line drawings on the ways to use it e.g. front torso, breastfeeding, back carry (esp important while chopping).  An existing ring sling maker e.g. Hug a Bub in Byron Bay, may be able to contribute diagrams to use as a basis for this.



    • Adriel Booker
      15 October 2012 at 4:59 pm

      I know, we have so much to be thankful for, huh?

      As for prints associated with infants, no, not really. They don’t have “nurseries” there or anything like that so you wouldn’t see anything decorated babyish or kiddish. (Making up words now! 😉 Even if they did it wouldn’t deter people from using it for other purposes. Style in the sense that you and I know isn’t very relevant in the rural areas.

      And yeah, your husband is right – they could just take a knife and cut off the ring/clip part. There’s nothing we can really do to absolutely prevent that, but we have to trust the mothers that they will use these for what’s most important, which I really believe they will. By and large, I DO think they’ll use them for their babies, but there will probably be the exception here and there. The biggest thing will be the education that we deliver alongside the slings. That’s what will make the difference between these things be used or not, and the difference between the “real” changes that need to come. We need to educate about the importance of maternal availability, infant feeding, milk supply, etc.

      Ok, now onto your last idea. LOVE. I had already thought about what we might put on laminated cards that we can distribute with them (diagrams/drawings for how to use them and safety issues), but I love the idea of some sort of a screen printed panel right on the sling. If that is doable, that is genius. Is that something you’d be able to look into developing for me? I’d be very keen for help if so. Let me know. We have some time as I won’t need them until March 2013 (our ship sails again in April).

      Thanks for all your thoughts and willingness to help! I’m very grateful!

      adriel x
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      • Kim
        15 October 2012 at 5:51 pm

        More than happy to co-ordinate this. I have a friend with access to screen printing materials and contacts to get screen printing templates made. I am assuming you will have standard education graphics etc so perhaps we can catch up via email (address above) and pull together a plan and some timelines.

        Looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Nat Mardon
    15 October 2012 at 10:49 am

    Hi Adriel, what a beautiful idea this is for those wonderful Mamas that are just doing so much over there and trying to juggle it all! It breaks my heart that Komi has to choose between the work and feeding her baby more often, a sling would be a wonderful way she can take Umi with her!
    I am new to babywearing, so I don’t have spare slings I can send, but I am a seasoned sewer and would love to make some to send. Do they need to be made from woven fabrics, or can I pick up some strong 100% cottons to make them with?
    Thanks, Nat xx

  • Bek {Just For Daisy}
    15 October 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Hello Adriel – I saw this shared on FB and have since shared it in a babywearing buy/swap/sell group I’m in. There are many ladies who wish to contribute in different ways. Thanks for calling on us to help you!
    I’m planning to sew a few RS’s and also saw your need for eyeglasses cases. I will also contribute some of those. Thanks again for your love and passion for these people. God Bless x
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  • Kerri-Anne
    16 October 2012 at 8:34 am

    Hi, What a wonderful idea – such an inspiring & heart-warming story.
    I’ll be happy to help out.
    I have a RS I made a few years back that I would be happy to donate. I hardly used it as I preferred my hugabub…it’s it excellent condition but made of a blue drill – would that be too heavy a weight (too hot) for PNG? I’ll also make up another RS as well.
    What about a Mei Tai? It’s really easy to use and due to the construction you wouldn’t really be able to use it as anything else other than carrying a baby/toddler…similar to a Ergo but not taking up as much space…anyway, just an idea – let me know if you’d like me to make up a couple 🙂
    Thanks again for the opportunity to help and for sharing the story
    Kerri-Anne 🙂

  • hi guys, it's me. « The Mommyhood Memos
    16 October 2012 at 11:40 pm

    […] the women I met there daily. I think about their struggles, their strength, their resilience, their precious babies… and I want to continue writing about them, sharing their stories, being an […]

  • Sharon
    17 October 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I will be sending you some RSs from the UK and have published Umi’s story on a number of Babywearing forums so hopefully a few other Mamas will send you things too. Good luck 🙂

  • maria
    21 October 2012 at 2:53 am

    Dear Adriel!
    Thanks for such a touching story and beautiful initiative.

    Reminds me stories about peasant children in Russia 150 years ago. The babies were left with relatives, when women went to gather crops in the fields (especially summer and autumn). The babies were sometimes fed some cow milk, or bread wrapped in clothing. maybe 1 of 4 survived; nevertheless, the survived ones were very healthy and strong usually.

    I’m only wondering, how did these mothers and babies survive before? Before the modern times. Was this the same? Or did it change for worse somehow?

    • Adriel Booker
      4 November 2012 at 4:55 pm

      that’s a good question maria. from what i understand the maternal and infant mortality rate in png has been very high, though it’s improved significantly in the non-rural areas. it’s areas like this that are still very undeveloped and under-resourced where the most glaring problems remain.
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      • maria
        27 November 2012 at 4:42 am

        Dear Adriel
        thanks a lot for your answer. I would like to clarify my question a little.

        From what I’ve heard about old times in Russia, the mortality was high, but so was the number of children (up to 20). So, average number of survived children was moderate, and the children were often rather healthy (the survivals).

        If all the children survived, the parents would have died, because they couldn’t feed all those children. So, the high children mortality was a kind of protection.

        This means, that for old times, in peasant Russia, possibly there was some kind of balance.

        Was there any kind of balance in Papua New Guinea before the western people came? Did women take children with them because they had enough clothing, or did they stay at home with children… How did they protect from next pregnancy, or there was no need to? will there be need to in future, when children mortality becomes low, and what will be the means of it?

        if we change one tradition, we would often have to change another tradition, and another, because the whole balance is ruined.

  • Jessica R
    24 October 2012 at 10:56 am

    What an incredible post. When I think of my chunky little 11lb two month old DD, who wasn’t happy unless she was full, I hurt for this little one and others like her. My heart goes out to this sweet, beautiful baby and to her mama, who I’m sure would love to provide everything her baby needs.

    As far as ring slings, I’m ON IT. I have roped my Mom into this project, and she is excellent with a sewing machine (lest you doubt: she made my wedding dress!). I’m sourcing fabric and rings now, am emailing a company who makes rings for this purpose to ask for a discount (and am pointing them to this post), etc. We’ll see what we can whip up and get to you! Thank you for letting us be involved!

    • Adriel Booker
      4 November 2012 at 4:57 pm

      It is heartbreaking, Jessica, and very sobering. We so often take for granted just how easy and good we have it. Thanks for your willingness to get involved Jessica. And wow, your mom sounds amazing! 🙂
      Adriel Booker recently posted..romney and obama: thou shalt be niceMy Profile

  • Meredith
    2 November 2012 at 12:15 pm

    This is such an amazing project. Sending you an email with a few questions. Will spread the word!!

  • Kate Baltrotsky
    2 November 2012 at 12:34 pm

    This is an amazing project! I just learned how to make a ring sling myself, I’m sending one to you!!!!

  • […] a woman donating slings to extremely impoverished woman in Papua New Guinea.  Read the full story here (tissues required, you’re probably gonna […]

  • […] then I told you Umi’s story. You read about her with wide eyes and jaws dropped open. You let her pictures pierce your heart […]

  • Kristin Paulus
    14 November 2012 at 12:40 am

    Hello and greetings from the USA. My heart just breaks reading your stories of the beautiful children of God in PNG. My husband grew up in PNG and has a great love for the country. We hope to return to PNG someday (have been trying for 10 years)but the doors just don’t seem to open and we want to trust God’s perfect timing. I would love to send some slings if you are still in need!? Thank you for letting God use you and know that people are praying!

  • cheryl kindred
    14 November 2012 at 5:45 am

    you’ve greatly inspired a natural parenting community I am a part of all the way in florida! we’ll be having a sling drive and sewing event in early december and will be sending you a big box of slings! <3

  • Jehni
    16 November 2012 at 6:13 pm

    What an amazing story. I cried so much over my chubby 8 week old baby nursing as I read your words. I will definitely be sending some slings and other things up.
    Just a question, is there a way we can also donate to cover the cost of getting the items from Australia to PNG?
    Thanks so much for your great work and your inspiring words… So wonderful to see.

  • Rose Wilson
    28 November 2012 at 7:04 am

    Beautiful. Good work lovely lady. My only thought is would a carrier that the mums could back carry with be more useful maybe?? A back carry with a newborn is quite tricky, and I imagine they’d have to back carry to be able to do their work?? How does a baby bilum work??? 🙂 Don’t meant to sound argumentative at all, what you’re doing is amazing, it was just thought. xx

    • Adriel Booker
      29 November 2012 at 7:50 pm

      yeah, it would be pretty hard for them to do there work with a newborn in a sling – it’s actually VERY physical work (the harvesting of the sago). what we’ll be hoping to do it give them a way to bring their babies along with them, but then have the care-giver who would normally stay home with them (cousin, older sibling, etc.) come along and look after the baby on-site, where mum is still available for feeding as needed. we aren’t sure this will work, but right now it’s our best option to try and help. will trial it this next year and see how we go. change in these sorts of circumstances goes very, very slow… thanks for the suggestion though! i truly wish we could just send someone else out to the fields in their place (the men perhaps?!) until the babies are a bit older! if only it were that simple…
      Adriel Booker recently posted..De-clutter your entire house by Christmas in 50 little steps, just a few minutes a day.My Profile

  • Project Baby Bilum {Day 7} « Made For Real
    3 December 2012 at 2:23 am

    […] the slings she wishes to provide for these women need to be a specific style. Read more about that here (Scroll down to where it says “Why a ring […]

  • tam
    9 January 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Hi there, I stumbled across your story by accident. I have loads of cloth nappies, some new some used but in good condition. Also quite a few baby wraps of different sizes. And lots of good baby boys clothes. If you are interested I can bundle it all up and post to you from Victoria. We also have some beautiful brand new modern style cloth nappies that dont quite suit our little man so could send them too. Let me know if we can help with all of this.

  • Tori
    8 February 2013 at 10:52 am

    I don’t even know how I got here but I live in the US and would love to send you some cloth diapers we are no longer using and a sling. Is there still time if I order a sling today and get it next week? You mentioned in one of the comments you were hoping to collect items by March. I’m going to share a link to this page on my blog!
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    • Adriel
      28 April 2013 at 7:39 am

      Hi Tory. So sorry that I’m just now responding to this. Not sure how I missed it before. Yes, you can still send them! I’m sending the bulk of slings up on May 1st when our Medical Ship sails, but if more trickle in after that I can take them myself to PNG when we go in July.

  • Umi Ring Sling
    19 February 2013 at 12:40 pm

    […] her own ring sling. And then her friends wanted them. Inspiration struck when she read the story of Baby Umi and she wanted to do something to help. Umi Sling was born out of this […]

  • Kristi
    2 May 2013 at 11:08 am

    Adriel, are you still doing this? I would love to make a ring sling or two, and there is a group of babywearers in my city (Columbia, SC) who would probably love to contribute as well.
    Kristi recently posted..5 Places to Find Support For Pregnancy LossMy Profile

    • Adriel Booker
      6 May 2013 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Kristi. Well, we just sent a big load up to PNG and they will be trialled this year. If the project is successful and the mamas take to wearing them, then yes, we will take more! At this point we believe they will work really well (based on the feedback we had last year), but it’s still a “baby” project so time will tell. If you’d like to send some slings I have NO DOUBT I can find homes for them up there! 🙂
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  • MarshaMarshaMarsha
    4 May 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Hi Adriel- I just came across your Sunshine Project on facebook and couldn’t stop reading. Did you get enough slings for the village? Do you plan on continuing the collection for next year (or whenever the ship goes out again?). Please let me know if there is anything I can do! I currently live in Guam but our home church in Texas supports several missionary families in PNG and the people of PNG are dear to my heart!
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    • Adriel Booker
      6 May 2013 at 11:31 pm

      Hi Marsha! That’s really cool! We just sent a big load up to PNG last week and they will be trialled this year in Umi’s village (Bamio). If the project is successful and the mamas take to wearing them, then yes, we will take more! At this point we believe they will work really well (based on the feedback we had last year), but it’s still a “baby” project so time will tell. If you’d like to send some slings I have NO DOUBT I can find homes for them up there!
      Adriel Booker recently posted..The Sunshine Project: Bringing light into delivery rooms (in honor of Mothers Day)My Profile

  • Lori
    5 May 2013 at 12:34 am

    Adriel, I’m curious – has the younger generation not been taught to make bilums? In the 80s, early 90s, where I lived in the Highlands (Chimbu), women constantly created bilums and their babies were carried everywhere & breastfed on demand. The bilums were created from the fibers of a plant, or for the fortunate, string from a store.
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    • Adriel Booker
      6 May 2013 at 11:34 pm

      Great question Lori! Yes, in many (if not most) parts of PNG there are bilums everywhere!! That’s why it was such a big shock to us to see them lacking in this region. I suppose there is a lot of variation culturally even between different areas. Even in the Bamu River region (Western Province) where I was working last year, there was a huge variation among villages – and that’s within the same region. Some had bilums, some had baskets (like moses baskets), and others had absolutely nothing of the sort – like the village Bamio that I’m talking about in this story. Thanks for checking!
      Adriel Booker recently posted..The Sunshine Project: Bringing light into delivery rooms (in honor of Mothers Day)My Profile

  • […] in the developing world by getting involved with Bloggers for Birth Kits (clean birth kits) and Project Baby Bilum (providing ring slings to women in need). I hope you’ll now see the need and opportunity and get […]

  • Renae
    9 May 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Adriel,

    My daughters and I would love to make some ring slings as a family project if you still need them, as well as some birthing kits. I am a student midwife myself and one of the things I would love to do once I graduate would be to help overseas in areas such as PNG. Thankyou for the opportunity!

  • […] And because I was launching the Sunshine Project (and a new website – did ya notice?!) I haven’t yet been able to report on our other very important project – Project Baby Bilum. […]

  • […] looking over Adriel’s blog I came across this project … Umi’s story and Project Baby Bilum as well as the update on delivery of numerous baby slings. Take a look at ‘The Mama […]

  • luarna
    27 May 2013 at 11:21 am

    Hi adriel,

    Will you have room and use for some tiny baby clothes/beanies/onesies on your trip in July?


    • Adriel
      15 July 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Hello Laurna. Somehow I missed this comment before – I’m so sorry I didn’t respond sooner!

      We actually leave for PNG on Friday, but if you’d like to send anything I can assure you it makes it up there through one of our other volunteers. We have people going back and forth until September. 🙂
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  • […] Bokoro, and Josephine are from if you remember my stories from last year (Giving Birth in the Mud, Umi & Project Baby Bilum, the Sunshine Project, etc.). I’m desperately hoping we can […]

  • […] project baby bilum […]

  • […] project baby bilum […]

  • […] read a real story about why baby wearing is actually live saving, check out Project Baby Bilum, about poor women in Papua New […]

  • […] Megan’s friend, Adriel, works with women in a community development project in Papua New Guinea.  Adriel writes, “Athough leaving a supply of baby slings will not “solve” the problems in Bamio, it’s a practical, achievable part of the approach we can take in educating and equipping these dear women (and their husbands) in regards to the importance of maternal availability during the newborn and infant stages.” I love this honest approach to their work- aware that they may not be solving a long-term problem, but they can provide a short-term solution in the meantime. You can also read Adriel’s blog here. […]

  • […] looking over Adriel’s blog I came across this project … Umi’s story and Project Baby Bilum as well as the update on delivery of numerous baby slings. Take a look at ‘The Mama […]

  • […] umi’s story & project baby bilum […]

  • […] (probably the greatest thing) is that for every sling purchased one will also be made and given to Project Baby Bilum, helping mothers improve the health of their babies by providing closeness and access to the […]

  • Bernadette Yakopa
    2 March 2021 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Adriel,

    I am a PNG national working in North Part of Western as a development worker. Thank you for sharing heartfelt experiences that you saw and shared in the remote Bamu and Bamio villages. Our country is so rich in resources yet so poor with services to its’ citizens especially the very remotest parts and Western Province – mostly Middle Fly is the toughest.

    I wish to help these people but I don’t know how, are you able to provide me with information.

    Thank you and God bless your kind and loving heart always.


    • Adriel Booker
      9 March 2021 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind note, Bernadette. The most effective way I think you can get involved is to reach our to our friends at YWAM Medical Ships. (I am no longer personally working with them but they do wonderful work!) They have some amazing programs going on through the region in partnership with PNG Health Department. You can find out more here:


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