Recently we had the opportunity to chat with long time Birthing Kit Foundation Australia supporter Olivia Sarah-Le Lacheur. Olivia is the Chief Customer Operations and Claims Officer for AIA Australia, Charter President and Past District Governor of Zonta International, and the Secretary of the Inner Sydney High School P&C.
She has participated in 23 Birthing Kit Assembly days and has been accompanied by her 15-year-old daughter for many of these events. Based in Sydney, Olivia has worked in financial services for 25 years, while actively giving to the community through her 30-year membership of Zonta. Olivia shares with us why the BKFA cause is so important.
Tell us how you first became involved and passionate about the work of BKFA?
“Like many people I know, I was first connected to BKFA through my relationship with Zonta. I remember when BKFA Director Julie Monis-Ivett spoke at the Zonta District Conference. She spoke on the BKFA journey and the enormous difference the kits can make to the life of a woman and her baby. Julie spoke with such passion, and I heard her plea for help. Since that day my Zonta Club of Sydney Breakfast (Sydney CBD) has hosted 23 Assembly Days, of which I have been involved in everyone.”
As well as being passionate about the work BKFA does, you also have a close connection to BKFA, with your mother Val Sarah AM very much involved with BKFA, and many other causes around the world. How has your mother’s journey had an impact on you?
“Val Sarah – my mother, chartered the Zonta Club of Ballarat the same year I was born in the 70s. I grew up in a household where women’s empowerment was a positive and open conversation. From early childhood, I was surrounded by members of Zonta Clubs, and my father was an active Rotarian. Growing up being surrounded by such people in life engendered the importance of giving back to the community which is a value that I still hold dear.
As I have grown up, I have realised that some people don’t know how to get involved in community causes and there are no natural opportunities presented to them to participate in. However, when you share stories and generate their curiosity to make a difference, all you need to do is ask them to help and you will confirm their desire to get involved.”
Olivia enjoys being able to support her mother’s advocacy for involvement. In her Zonta Club – Sydney Breakfast, they partner with a different group for every Kit Assembly Day- students from midwifery schools, banking and finance professionals, high school students – with the aim of deliberately targeting groups who want to give back and then can share the concept on with their networks. “This is a skill I learnt from my mother. She knows the power of planting an idea in someone’s mind, and from there it will blossom.”
What is the best part of motherhood for you?
“I am a mother to 15-year-old Chloe, who has been involved in 8-9 Kit Assembly Days alongside me. The mort rewarding part of motherhood is seeing the best version of yourself reflected in your child. I believe that through your child, you can continue to influence positivity throughout the world.
It is also when you have your child, you start to think about the women we are making kits for and the lack of access they have to a clean and safe birth. Kits can be the difference between life and death.”
When promoting the work of BKFA among your networks and rallying involvement in the cause, what do you tell individuals to secure their support?
“If they are parents themselves, I ask where they gave birth and what the experience was like. I then share the experience of the recipients of our kits. When people understand a little more about the who and the why, they show interest in supporting the BKFA cause.
I was recently at a kit packing day for young adults aged 15-years-old as part of their school community program. When they arrived, they were more keen on looking at their iPhones than getting involved in making kits. I requested they put their phones aside and asked them to think about not having a phone or transport, and walking up to 50km to get medical assistance. They were shocked at the question…..and even more shocked to learn that this is what pregnant women in remote communities in developing parts of the world are subject to when they give birth.
I then talked about the driver behind the kits, which made them realise the gap between themselves and others. It was after this they started to show enthusiasm and understood the importance of clean birth kits. Making it real, helping them to understand the life changing importance of the kit, gave them the motivation to make all the kits they could that day.
BKFA doesn’t need much from people, so the best way to get someone on board is to make the personal connection real!
Finally, I would have to say the highlight of my journey is knowing where the kits have gone and how many lives they have touched.”