Birth in South Africa The Travelling Midwife

The Travelling Midwife: Busfare Babies

My next destination was Hamburg in the Eastern Cape about two hours north of Port Elizabeth. Karen Clark, a long time midwifery colleague and co-pioneer started ‘Busfare Babies’, a grass roots midwifery project to bring

quality midwifery care to rural South Africans. I turned off at the small Hamburg signpost next to the highway and travelled on gravel rd towards the sea. The rural homes appeared to nestle in the gently undulating hills, and I passed a donkey and cart on the way.

Gawie's garden coffee shop in Hamburg

Karen and Gawie her husband welcomed me into their home. While Karen runs the midwifery practice, Gawie, who is a skilled handyman, a computer boffin as well as a heavenly coffee maker, welcomes Hamburg residents who wander into his garden ‘coffee shop’ after breakfast for the regular pick-me-up.



Gawie and Karen preparing coffee in Hamburg

Karen started ‘Busfare Babies’ approximately two years ago to serve the community of the village of Bodium situated in the area around Hamburg village, and the project was launched in October 2010. Karen’ s generosity of spirit and hospitality to everyone who crosses her path is becoming legendary and while I was there, many people came past the house to ask her advice about medicines and ailments or just to chat. Nomzamo is the Xhosa name given to her by the community with the meaning of “Woman who helps us” . Supper and an early night preceded a sunrise walk on the beach and past the lagoon back to the house.


Karen at the door of Busfare Babies Clinic

After packing and freshening up, Karen showed me the Busfare Babies clinic. I was delighted at what she has managed to achieve with minimal funding and assistance. The building has been repaired and painted and when I walked inside, I was amazed at how warm and ideal it is for giving birth.

The Birthing Room at Busfare Babies in Hamburg, South Africa

The main bedroom is simply and tastefully furnished with a persian carpet and double bed with a soft duvet. There are no visible medical trappings, no stirrups(Ugh!), no waist level delivery bed, no pipes or metal trolleys. Karen stores her medical requirements in a wooden cupboard and only brings them out when needed. There is running water in the kitchen and an ample bathroom with toilet and shower. Women choose their positions for labour and birth, and there are no rules as to how they should behave! karen encourages them with a loving touch, the right words and a soft hand in the back, and after the birth, the mother and baby spend the night in the ‘clinic’ with a mothering ‘doula’ from the area. Karen visits them in the following days and they know where to find her when they need help.


The picture board of mothers and babies who have thus far birthed at Busfare Babies

I left Hamburg excited and encouraged by the efforts of this courageous family to follow their hearts and give their care and skills to a poverty stricken rural community in South Africa.


More pictures may be found here:

1 thought on “The Travelling Midwife: Busfare Babies”

  1. Your trip sounds amazing. And I love the concept of Busfare Babies – what a wonderful gift toshare with the community and what a super way to celebrate the act of giving birth and welcoming the babies. Thank you for sharing. Happy travels and see you in KZN

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