A Lasting Legacy
By Stacey Carrick
The Cairns community lost a beautiful soul in Melissa Nielsen just over a year ago. Melissa was a loving wife, a mother to three children, a friend, a prominent lawyer, a valued member of the Cairns community and a passionate advocate and fundraiser for the Send Hope Not Flowers maternal health charity. Melissa sadly found out she was dying of terminal brain cancer in May last year. She had just a few weeks to say goodbye to her family, friends and co-workers before passing away in June 2020.
The Send Hope Not Flowers charity decided to honour her memory in a way that symbolised how much her hard work and passion for motherhood had impacted on the women and babies of Papua New Guinea. They organised a special funding pool where friends, relatives and admirers could donate in the wake of her untimely death at just 38. Charity co-founder Emma Macdonald said an incredible $25,000 was generated. This money is now going towards building ‘Melissa House’, a labour ward and waiting house in Walagi, PNG, (replacing a very basic one-delivery bed facility in dire need of upgrading to deal with demand).
“What an incredible result for her friends and family to know that she was so loved and her story touched so many people that even complete strangers felt compelled to donate,” she said. The doctor behind this project is Barry Kirby, who Melissa adored. “We know this is what she would have wanted and her parents Ken and Robyn, husband Rudy, and children Harrison, Jasmine and Edison are thrilled to see this project go ahead,” Emma said. “Thank you to all those who donated, to Melissa’s wonderful team at Miller Harris Lawyers Cairns and Mareeba and to the incredible Cairns community who continue to feel her loss every day. When I first met Melissa a couple of years ago I was struck by her sunny smile and complete unflappability. What I do know is everyone loved Melissa and respected her for her huge heart and prodigious work ethic. Melissa came to Send Hope with the purest of intentions. That she would cry every year giving her thank you speech showed very clearly she connected to our desire to help more mothers survive childbirth. Because ultimately, while Melissa was brilliant at being a lawyer and a fundraiser, her proudest role in life was being a mum. That was what it was all about for her. I hope her children carry with them pride in their mother’s good work and understand that in the unthinkable loss of someone so vibrant and filled with life and love, a tiny glimmer of hope will grow for other mothers through the construction of Melissa House in PNG.”
The Send Hope Not Flowers website allows you to make a donation to life-saving maternal health programs in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The website encourages donations to safe birth programs instead of sending flowers to the maternity ward when a mother has a baby. “New mothers will receive a beautiful card with a message from you,” Emma said. “They’ll know that you’ve made a donation in their honour which will help save the life of another mother. For the cost of a bunch of flowers, you can help save the life of another mother in the developing world. Because flowers die. Women giving birth shouldn’t.”
For further information or to make a donation, visit www.sendhope.org. Please consider making a donation at Christmas, Mother’s Day, or any time a mother has a baby.