Stories

In 2016, ChildFund Australia ambassador Danielle Cormack travelled to remote villages in Cambodia to see the impact Gifts for Good made in the lives of children. Over the last decade, ChildFund’s Gifts for Good donors have helped provide more than 2,660 solar lights for children in Cambodia.

This year’s Gifts for Good catalogue is filled to the brim with gifts that can make a difference in the life of a child this Christmas. Whether you choose a goat or a bike, you are giving children and their families the practical resources they need for a healthier, safer and stronger future.

Visit this year’s Gifts for Good to find the perfect gift.

In  a country like Australia, it is all too easy to take electricity for granted. It is interwoven with the fabric of our daily life. Not only does it make everyday living less of a chore – enabling us to cook, to wash, to light our way – but it gives us access to the world from our living rooms, through television, radio and technology. If fire is counted as the greatest invention of humankind, then electricity must be our second.

But really, it was not until I found myself sitting in a small, remote Cambodian village at nightfall that I realised its intrinsic value. As the sun dropped, I was suddenly in darkness. Absolute, impenetrable darkness – the kind where you can barely see what’s in front of you, where there are no street lamps, no reflected light from nearby buildings, no roads with passing traffic. Literally, no light.

Right now, around 70 per cent of people in Cambodia have no access to electricity. This not only puts children and families at risk, but acts as a major obstacle to their future development. Hearing Tharin’s story made this all too evident. At age 13, living with electricity has already had such a terrifying impact on her family.

Like most of the community here, Tharin’s family rely on kerosene lamps at nightfall – while toxic and dangerous, they are much cheaper to run than torches, as batteries are expensive to replace or difficult to recharge. When the family is unable to afford fuel, they use fire sticks – literally, a branch with a flame, and even more dangerous, particularly for children.

In the evening, Tharin and her brother would sit as close as possible to the lamp to do their homework. Unfortunately, the inevitable happened – one night, her homework book caught fire, spreading quickly to the rest of her bamboo home. Another evening, the family forgot to extinguish the lamp before retiring to bed and woke up to a house in flames. Tharin’s father sustained a severe, and permanent, disability from burns to his leg but ultimately her family were lucky – no one lost their life. This isn’t always the case.

Fortunately, those dangers have now been removed. When I visited Tharin, we sat outside her rebuilt thatched home to talk. The sun had set. But we could see each other’s faces, because between us sat her new solar lamp which Tharin had just switched on, with no fumes, no need for fuel, and no danger.

 

Giving birth is a very personal experience. For many women it is both challenging and emotional.

While homebirths are increasing in popularity in Australia, fewer than 1 per cent of Australian women will give birth without the care of qualified health professionals, compared to more than half of women in PNG.

Australia is only 160kms away from PNG, that’s closer than Sydney is to Newcastle. Melbourne and Sydney are six times further apart than Australia and PNG. We tend to forget what close neighbours we are in distance, yet we are so far apart in basic healthcare.

Giving birth is often a life-changing experience for Australian women, but for our closest neighbors in Papua New Guinea, giving birth all too often ends in death.

There is an extreme shortage of hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses in PNG (The Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital has 410 doctors. This is one of many hospitals servicing the city of Brisbane. The whole of PNG has fewer than 400 doctors).

The rates of maternal mortality in PNG are simply unacceptable. As Australia’s closest neighbour, we cannot continue to allow PNG’s mums to lose their lives in situations that would be unthinkable here in Australia.

We can help.

ChildFund Australia is making sure that women in remote communities have better care at the time when they need it most, by training village health volunteers and upskilling rural clinic staff.

ChildFund provides delivery kits which contain a plastic ground sheet to give birth on, soap to wash hands, gauze to wipe a newborn babies’ eyes, and a sterilised blade to cut the umbilical cord. These reduce the risks of infection and possible death for both mother and child.

ChildFund also distributes lighting kits so that health workers can see what they’re doing. With proper lighting, it is possible to determine whether the whole of the placenta has been delivered and, if not, ensure a woman is referred to hospital. Retained placentas are leading cause of infection and hemorrhaging and can result in death.

These are simple things, but in PNG, simple things save lives.