Jo Crowley's trek up Kilimanjaro

Imagine if having a child was still a case of life and death.

This is the reality in Africa, and Bowral’s Jo Crowley wants this to change.

“Here in Australia, when someone is pregnant, everyone is so excited and expects the family to come home with a beautiful baby,” she said.

“In African countries, it’s still a matter of life and death. There’s a misconception they have large families in Africa, but that’s not true.

“They have many pregnancies, but do not birth many live children.”

Jo will climb Mt Kilimanjaro to support maternal health and the work of a Highlands family in Africa.

The Barbara May Foundation was founded by Highlands GP Dr David Browning to support the work of his sister Valerie Browning AM and his son Andrew.

“Valerie went to Africa in the 1970s and fell in love with the country. Andrew, who went to Chevalier College, went over to help Valerie with maternal health, and is now a leading obstetric fistula surgeon,” Jo said.

About 800 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications every day, half of which is in Africa. This does not occur in the First World because of c-sections, but fistula complications are still common in the Third World.

Fistula injuries arise when the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal and dies, and is unable to be removed. This can lead to the vagina or rectum of the woman to collapse and become infected, open wounds which never heal.

A message from Dr Andrew Browning

In many African villages, the women with an obstetric fistula will have to move to the outskirts of the village because of the smell, which could attract wild animals, and to protect their families from infection.

“I can’t imagine as a woman to lie on the earth to give birth, with no dignity or safety,” Jo said.

“I believe angels work on this planet, and the Browning family are some of them.”

Through BMF, doctors and nurses with Valerie and Andrew visit villages and reach women who may have had their injuries for several years. They recontruct their vaginas and rectums, and work to prevent pregnant women from having complications.

In 2016, their work helped more than 10,500 women.

Jo Crowley will walk up Mt Kilimanjaro with two BMF board members, Maryanne Ayres and Dr Samantha Hargreaves, to raise money for a new hospital. She will hold a fundraising evening in Bowral to support the cause.

The Barbara May Maternity Hospital in Millee, Horn of Africa, treats remote village people, and was largely funded by the South West Sydney Local Healrth District. The second hospital in Barhirdar, Ethiopia, is the Vision Maternity Care Hospital. A large amount of funds for this hospital were raised in the Highlands.

In 2011, Andrew was offered the maternity ward of the Selian Lutheran Hospital in Arusha, Tanzania, by local health authorities to upgrade, following similar and successful program completed by Andrew and his team in Ethiopia.

Jo’s trek and fundraising night will support the third hospital in Tanzania, which will have 48 beds.

“They have First World figures at their hospitals, they have not lost a single mother,” Jo said.

“They work incredibly hard for nothing, it’s so selfless that they do all these operations for free.”

The ‘Jo Crowley’s Trek for Maternal Health’ fundraiser will be held in Bowral on May 12 from 6.00pm to 9.00pm.

The cost is $50 per person, including food and drink on arrival, plus there will be a cash bar and silent auction.

Details: Jo on 0412 446 969 or visit

For more information about the Barbara May Foundation, visit


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