Five years ago, a father and his two young sons were walking down the street by the Brisbane River on an August morning when they saw a sign for the annual birthing kit assembly event organized by the Zonta Club of Brisbane Breakfast Inc, Australia. His boys were born in a hospital, but the father knew that not everyone has access to skilled doctors and sanitary conditions. The three donated their time and efforts putting together birthing kits that day that would go on to save the lives of mothers and children in countries like Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Vietnam and Ethiopia. The event has become an annual tradition for the family every year since.
2016 marks the Zonta Club of Brisbane Breakfast Inc’s 11th birthing kit assembly event, and its size and impact has grown with every year. It started with 88 volunteers making 1,600 kits and has expanded to a two morning event with more than 500 volunteers and 12,000 kits made. While each kit from the Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia) costs only $3, the large scale of the project has made the cost of purchasing the volume of materials needed a challenge. Funds raised from the community would cover less than 10 percent of the cost of the items in the birthing kits.
To address this funding challenge, the Zonta Club of Brisbane Breakfast Inc has started working with corporate partners. “We approach companies that have a corporate social responsibility within the area in which we are working,” says Judi Hutchison, member of the Zonta Club of Brisbane Breakfast Inc who also organizes the kit assembly. “We get the bulk of our funding from corporate funds.” One of the companies involved works with mining, which leads the economy in Papua New Guinea where some of the kits go. Other groups work with obstetrics. There are also local businesses that donate their products and services every year, such as a warehouse for storing materials and a local tea shop that brings refreshments. In return, the companies have their corporate banners displayed at the event. Corporate involvement, however, doesn’t stop at funding. “A number of them treat it as a bonding session so that they can all do something together for the greater good as a corporation outside of their work.” Judi says. “They’re happy to show up.”
They are happy to learn more about being involved with Zonta, too. When people register to participate, they have the option to be emailed materials about Zonta International and their local club. Clubs have had members join because of this event in this past. This year, 20 people opted to learn more about Zonta, and more people approached Judi after the event. One of these women will be attending the next Zonta Club of Brisbane Breakfast Inc meeting. “We don’t have to do a hard sell,” Judi says, “because people can see what we’re about.”