Meet two of the women behind Send Hope Not Flowers, a Canberra charity that is helping save the lives of mothers around the world.
Emma: I met Tara five years ago. She rang out of the blue and organised coffee in Parliament House where I was working as a newspaper journalist. She had heard that I was helping to set up a maternal health charity called Send Hope Not Flowers.
We were ready to launch. But frankly, we had absolutely no idea of how to do it. A mutual friend mentioned us to Tara and all of a sudden there she was, sitting in front of me offering to organise our launch, and help us in any way she could. For free.
Being the skeptical journalist I am, I asked her what was in it for her. She explained that she had always quarantined a part of her time from running her corporate advisory business CMAX Advisory to do pro bono work for charities. She had experienced a difficult birth herself and the idea of helping a charity that supported women to give birth safely in countries such as PNG and Indonesia just spoke to her. Every two minutes a woman dies from complications in childbirth, with 98 per cent of deaths occurring in the developing world.
Meanwhile, Tara’s enormous smile, infectious energy and organisational prowess hooked us in. I remember Professor Steve Robson, who came up with the idea behind Send Hope, looking at me after the meeting and saying “is she too good to be true?”
It was a day that changed the future of our charity, and of my life.
Tara ensured our launch at the National Press Club back in 2011 was a spectacular success, and within a few weeks Steve and our other board director Alex Fahey realised we could not do without her. I rang to ask her onto our board. We both cried a little.
The most beautiful part of all of this has been the growth of our friendship. We came together over the charity, but Tara is now my dearest friend. I could not live without her. We share a passion to help more women survive childbirth but we also are two mums, working in high-pressure jobs in Canberra while raising our young families.
I strongly suspect that Tara doesn’t sleep at all. She works incredibly hard at her own company, and then gets home to roll up her sleeves and tuck into Send Hope work. I am always a little in awe of her work ethic and her ambition. The four of us want to want to make Send Hope a global maternal health charity. I have complete and utter faith that with Tara pushing us forward we will get there.
Tara: I was sitting in Aussies cafe in Parliament House when I saw a six foot tall blonde glamazon walking towards me. I was more than a little intimidated by Emma’s reputation as a fierce press gallery journalist. But from the moment she starting speaking, her warmth and kindness immediately put me at ease.
I was overwhelmed by Emma and Professor Steve Robson’s passion to help mums survive childbirth in developing countries and knew I had to make time in my overscheduled life to help them.
I had no idea back then how much a 30-minute conversation would affect me. It was a meeting that changed my life and changed the path that I wanted to take.
It wasn’t just Send Hope that changed me… it was Emma. She is so passionate about making a difference through her words and through her actions. So am I. And we are now a pretty formidable team!
Over Mother’s Day we had the extraordinary opportunity to travel to PNG. It was a seminal moment for our charity – we were awarded an $80,000 Direct Aid Program grant by the Australian Government for our targeted interventions save mothers from dying in childbirth. We travelled to the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby for a gifting ceremony and were joined by some of the midwives that we support. We then spent a few days with mothers giving birth at the Port Moresby General Hospital – an experience I will never forget.
It was hard to be away from my own daughters during this time but I also see how the work we are doing is helping more children to grow up with their mums. So we have to keep going and growing.
My next challenge is to run the New York Marathon in support of our partner organization Every Mother Counts – the largest maternal health not-for-profit in the world – started by Christy Turlington. (Post Script: Tara ran and completed the marathon, raising almost $10,000 for Every Mother Counts)
And in a beautiful turn of events, Emma has moved to HerCanberra next door to me at the Realm. Now I can’t imagine my life without her.
What is Send Hope Not Flowers?
Did you know that every two minutes a mother loses her life to complications from childbirth? Send Hope is a Canberra-based charity which funds safe birth programs across the developing world – operating across PNG, Indonesia, The Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and, recently, Africa.
How does it work?
When someone gives birth in Australia, instead of sending flowers to hospital to celebrate the birth, friends and family can make a donation online at www.sendhope.org
The new mother gets a card with a personal message telling her that money has gone towards helping another mother give birth safely. Send Hope also offers cards to celebrate Mother’s Day, birthdays, and Christmas as well as sympathy, thank you and get well cards.
Where does the money go?
Send Hope funds small, targeted, and practical programs such as midwife and village birth attendant training, emergency obstetric training, mother and baby gift bundles to encourage supervised deliveries and provides obstetric supplies to health centres and hospitals in some of the most remote regions of the developing world.
How much of each donations goes to projects?
Currently 100 per cent of donations go directly to safe birth projects. Even the stamps for each card posted out are covered by the board and not donors. Send Hope is run entirely by volunteers.
Who is behind it?
Send Hope was the brainchild of Obstetrician Professor Steve Robson, who was distressed at the toll of maternal mortality around the world and was also tired of seeing expensive flowers left behind in hospitals when mothers left with their new babies. He gathered a small team together, journalist Emma Macdonald, internet entrepreneur Alex Fahey and communications consultant Tara Taubenschlag to get Send Hope up and running.
Milestones reached: Since it started, Send Hope has been funding mother and baby gift bundles – an idea thought up by Dr Barry Kirby to encourage mothers in remote PNG to leave their village for a supervised birth. In 2015, a peer reviewed medical study found the simple intervention had reduced the death rate in Milne Bay Province by 78 per cent.
In 2016 Send Hope was awarded two Australian Government Direct Aid Program grants worth $80,000 to continue their work across PNG.
First published in Little National Post, Canberra.