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'Mother Robin' wins CNN Hero of the Year

By Kyle Almond, CNN
December 27, 2011 -- Updated 1924 GMT (0324 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Robin Lim was named the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year on Sunday night
  • She has helped thousands of poor Indonesian women have a healthy pregnancy and birth
  • The annual show honors the Top 10 CNN Heroes and names one of them Hero of the Year

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Robin Lim, an American woman who has helped thousands of poor Indonesian women have a healthy pregnancy and birth, was named the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year on Sunday night.

Through her Bumi Sehat health clinics, "Mother Robin," or "Ibu Robin" as she is called by the locals, offers free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid in Indonesia, where many families cannot afford care.

"Every baby's first breath on Earth could be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth could be safe and loving. But our world is not there yet," Lim said during "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," which took place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and recognized Lim and the other top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011.

Many women in the developing world do not have access to contraception or maternal care. According to the United Nations Population Fund, three out of five women giving birth in South Asia do so without a skilled birth attendant on hand.

CNN Hero: Robin Lim
Portrait of a Hero: Robin Lim
Celebs, 'Heroes' hit red carpet
CNN Heroes: Top 10

In Indonesia, the average family earns the equivalent of $8 a day, according to the International Monetary Fund. But a baby delivery costs about $70 at a hospital, and a Caesarian section can cost as much as $700.

Lim believes Indonesia's high maternal and infant mortality rates are caused in part by these costs, which many women cannot meet.

"The situation is bad ... babies are unattended, deliveries have become commercialized, and mothers die from hemorrhage after childbirth because they can't afford proper care," Lim told CNN earlier this year.

The CNN Hero of the Year was chosen by the public after an 11-week vote on CNN.com. For being named Hero of the Year, Lim will receive $250,000 for her cause. That's in addition to the $50,000 that she and the rest of the top 10 Heroes each received for making the top 10.

This is the fifth year that CNN, with the help of entertainers and other celebrities, have honored everyday people changing the world. Among this year's presenters were comedians Jerry Seinfeld and George Lopez; actors J.R. Martinez and Chris Colfer; musical artists Ice Cube and will.i.am; model Christy Turlington Burns; former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner; and actresses Laura Dern, Mary-Louise Parker and Sofia Vergara. (Photos: Scenes from the night)

Kid Rock performed the song "Care" from his platinum-selling album "Born Free," while Miley Cyrus sang her triple-platinum hit "The Climb."

Turlington Burns introduced Lim's video tribute during Sunday's show, before the Hero of the Year announcement. As founder of Every Mother Counts, she is also a passionate advocate for maternal health around the world.

"Eight years ago, after giving birth to my first child, Grace, I felt what could have been a life-threatening complication," she told the audience of nearly 5,000. "It suddenly got very scary, very fast. If I hadn't received the expert care in the hospital birthing center I was in, then I may have not been so fortunate.

Robin Lim: What's next?
Heroes honored for changing the world
Gupta backstage at 'Heroes'
CNN honors top Heroes of the year

"My wish is that every mother all over the world has the same chance surviving childbirth I had. My friend Robin Lim shares that wish and she spends her days and nights making it so."

Photos: See how Lim helps thousands of women

Turlington Burns recently made the trip to Indonesia to meet Lim and see her work firsthand.

Lim became a midwife after her sister -- and her sister's baby -- died from complications during pregnancy several years ago. She and her husband then sold their home in Hawaii and moved to Bali to "reinvent their lives," she said.

"It was there she learned she could make a difference," Turlington Burns said. "She opened a clinic, Bumi Sehat, so poor mothers can give birth safely and be treated with dignity and respect. She has delivered thousands of babies, and that is why they call her 'Ibu' -- Mother."

After being announced as the CNN Hero of the Year, a tearful Lim accepted the award from host Anderson Cooper and made an impassioned plea for help.

"Today on our Earth, 981 mothers in the prime of their life will die -- and tomorrow again and yesterday," she said. "And I'm asking you to help change that. We don't even know how many babies are lost, but all of us can help change that."

Replay times
Miss the show? Don't worry, you can catch it later this month.

CNN
Dec. 17, 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET
Dec. 24, 5 p.m. ET
Dec. 25, 5 p.m. ET

CNN INT'L
Dec. 12, Noon and 8 p.m. GMT/London

Here are the other top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011, in alphabetical order:

Eddie Canales
Eddie Canales' son was paralyzed during a high school football game in 2001. Today, Canales' nonprofit, Gridiron Heroes, provides emotional and financial support to high school football players who've sustained life-changing spinal cord injuries.

Taryn Davis
Taryn Davis was just 21 when her husband, an Army corporal, was killed in Iraq. In 2007, she created the American Widow Project. To date, her nonprofit has provided a community of support to more than 900 young military widows.

Sal Dimiceli
Sal Dimiceli has spent decades helping people get back on their feet. Through a local newspaper column and his nonprofit, The Time Is Now To Help, Dimiceli assists about 500 people a year with food, rent, utilities and other necessities.

Actress Sofia Vergara and CNN Hero Richard St. Denis of the World Access Project.
Actress Sofia Vergara and CNN Hero Richard St. Denis of the World Access Project.
2011 CNN Heroes
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Derreck Kayongo
Derreck Kayongo's Global Soap Project collects partially used hotel soap and reprocesses it to save lives. Since 2009, the Atlanta-based nonprofit has provided about 150,000 bars of soap for communities in 10 countries.

Diane Latiker
Surrounded by gang violence in her Chicago neighborhood, Diane Latiker opened her home to area youth and started a community program called Kids Off the Block. Since 2003, her program has helped more than 1,500 young people.

Patrice Millet
After being stricken with cancer, Patrice Millet dedicated his life to helping children in his native Haiti. His nonprofit youth soccer program provides free equipment, coaching and food to hundreds of participants from the slums and teaches them to become responsible citizens.

Bruno Serato
Since 2005, chef Bruno Serato has been serving free pasta dinners to children, many of whom are poor and live in motels with their families. Today, Serato provides dinner seven days a week to more than 300 children at the Boys & Girls Club in Anaheim, California.

Richard St. Denis
Since 2008, Richard St. Denis and his organization, World Access Project, have provided hundreds of wheelchairs and mobility aids to people living with disabilities in rural Mexico.

Amy Stokes
Amy Stokes is redefining "family" for South African children affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty. Her organization, Infinite Family, has connected almost 500 teenage "Net Buddies" with nearly 300 volunteer mentors from all over the world via the Internet.

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Part of complete coverage on
Robin Lim, who has helped thousands of poor Indonesians have healthy pregnancies and births, was named the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year.
Tears, inspiration, songs and laughter -- all in a night's work for Sunday's "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute."
See the remarkable everyday people who were honored this year at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute."
Who did you vote for CNN Hero of the Year? How do you define a hero? See what everyone had to say and share your thoughts.
Donate to one or more of this year's top 10 CNN Heroes, and they'll receive 100% of the funds. Thanks to Google, all transaction fees will be waived with your donation.
The Top 10 CNN Heroes and celebrities turn out on the red carpet ahead of the big awards show.
This year's Heroes passionately describe their cause and why it is so important to them.
Celebrities are giving back, too, and singing the praises of CNN Heroes.
Everyday people changing the world: Bios, issues in the world -- and how you can nominate someone for 2012!
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