Working for Free, Full Lives: Our Family is Moving to Asia

On New Year’s Eve, 2014, our daughter Hazel was born at Wellington Hospital, by emergency caesarean section.

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Gosh, we were lucky.

‘You must be disappointed,’ a healthcare assistant commiserated with me the next day, assuming I would be sad that what started as a straightforward, natural labour had ended in the most dramatic of all birth interventions: surgery.

What? No way! The best outcome for childbirth, as far as I can judge, is when the mother and baby both come out of the experience alive and unharmed.

This does happen, most of the time (and I love this new photographic project reassuring mothers-to-be that for most women, the experience of childbirth is just fine), but in some parts of the world, having a baby is a pretty risky business.

Without skilled midwifery or medical care during pregnancy, a lot of simple things can turn into harmful complications. Without surgical options as a back-up, complications can turn into deaths.

If Hazel and I had been living, as millions of people do, in an ethnic minority state of Myanmar/Burma, where there is no skilled healthcare available, we would both have died, probably.

Because of her acrobatics during labour, Hazel got stuck in the wrong place and could not get herself down the birth canal. She was ready to come out, but just couldn’t. Without surgery, that’s a fatal combination.

We were lucky. Millions aren’t.

In rural Myanmar, the lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is one in 27. (In New Zealand it’s one in 6,600.)

Do you know more than 27 women? More than 270? Count the deaths in childbirth you’d be grieving if you were a member of the Shan, or Karen, or Aen ethnic groups, and living in a state regularly under attack by the Myanmar government military, living in a country where that military has ten times the funding of the healthcare system.

Somebody needs to do something about this horrific situation.

I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that. THEN I REALIzED  I WAS SOMEBODY. Lily Tomlin | Sacraparental.comThe good news? Somebody is.

Among other excellent organisations, Partners Relief & Development, a small and nimble international charity, is active in Myanmar, working with local people to build sustainable community solutions to the problems of oppression and deprivation.

The Partners medical training clinic in featured in this short video is bringing healthcare to remote villages. Local citizens of an oppressed state trek through the jungle (the journey might be days or weeks) to train as community medics, and then return to their homes to serve their people.

When my husband and I married, we dedicated our life together to making the world a better place. We said we would go wherever God called us, to do whatever we could.

So now my family and I are moving to South East Asia.

There’s a need we can help fill, to bring hope and healthcare to those who have neither.

We’ll be based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where Partners has its headquarters.

My husband, Matt, will be working with Partners as a Clinical Advisor, figuring out what’s needed in Myanmar, and among the large, vulnerable refugee and migrant communities in neighbouring Thailand, and how Partners can help provide it, in a sustainable, making-ourselves-dispensable kind of way.

I feel kind of spoilt rotten, to be attached to someone with such practical, helpful skills. He’s my ticket to making a difference for some of the most oppressed people in the world. I can’t wait.

I am only one, but I AM ONE |

I want to share this experience with you guys, so I’m keen to know what you want to know. I could take this in a few different directions, both now, and once we’re there, and I’ll be guided by your comments as to what you’re interested to explore.

For some basic facts about the situation in Myanmar, and what Partners does there, you can head to my earlier post from when we visited last year, or, of course, to the excellent Partners website.

If you’ve got questions about, well, anything, I’d love you to ask them in the comments. I could, for instance, talk further about:

  • How we decided to go
  • What Partners does in Myanmar and Thailand
  • What we’ll be doing there
  • What our kids’ experience may be like
  • The process of relocating our family
  • What life is like in Myanmar
  • What life is like for refugees and migrants in Thailand
  • What daily life might be like for me and the kids
  • What people can do from afar to make a difference in Myanmar

One last thing, following from that last bullet point: our positions with Partners are unpaid. The idea is that we cover all our expenses of relocating and living in Thailand by gathering a team of people who care about Myanmar (and us!) and can make regular donations to Partners to keep us in Asia.

So you, too, can make a difference to people in this very troubled part of the world by joining our team and supporting the work we do over there, from wherever in the world you live.

If you might be one of those people you can click through to make a one-off donation at our Givealittle crowdfunding page (from anywhere in the world), or email accountant [at] to set up an ongoing automatic payment arrangement (that’s primarily for New Zealanders – we’re hoping to set up an equivalent system in the United Kingdom soon, too).

But just as important as having donors on our team will be knowing that people like you guys are interested in what we’re doing, so please do leave a comment if you are keen to be an encourager. We will need cheerleaders: wanna be one?

If you’d like to keep in touch with our plans and move, beyond the kind of stuff I’ll be posting here, I’d be more than happy to add you to our supporters’ mailing list. Just contact me at sacraparental [at] and let me know.

Thanks, team! We can’t do this alone.

Karen medical training, Partners Relief & Development.

Another lucky woman, participating in Karen medic training with Partners Relief & Development.

Please consider this a warm invitation to follow me on Facebook for daily links, resources and Sacraparentalish tidbits, on Pinterest for link-plantations (including this Change the World board) and on Twitter for a range of ranting.

And some related posts you might be interested in:

6 ways kids can change the world – because family life can be a great place to start making a difference

Free, full lives for children – an introduction to the work of Partners in Myanmar and Thailand

Other people’s grandkids – a guest post on changing the world as a grandparent


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12 comments on “Working for Free, Full Lives: Our Family is Moving to Asia”

  1. Tim Bulkeley Reply

    I don’t think we can support you with money, we have recently added two new people we support to replace one who no longer needs it. But we’ll be keen to hear more and pray.

  2. sanjaywa Reply

    Wow, that sounds like an amazing opportunity for you all, I would love to hear ALL of your bullet points 🙂 My husband and I do Live Below the Line each year to raise money for Partners to support the fantastic work they do. I’m sure you and your family will richly bless the Partners team.

  3. bexpowell Reply

    Man, you guys are awesome. I will be following your work through Sacraparental and I can’t wait to hear about how Hazel and (particularly) James enjoy this new adventure. It’s a remarkable faith to put your lives in God’s hands so absolutely – I admire and look up to you. Go well! xx

  4. thaliakr Reply

    Thanks, heaps, Kimberly and Harriet! Lovely to have your encouragement 🙂

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