Another three months have passed by, and it is time to update you on the progress of the MAMA+ project in St. Petersburg. Thanks to your support, Doctors to Children has been able to provide 33 HIV-positive mothers and their babies with milk formula, child care supplies, psychosocial counseling and access to public services over the past quarter. Since the beginning of 2012, we have provided services to a total of 57 women with HIV and their children to prevent child abandonment and mother-to-child transmission of HIV. We would like to share with you some of their stories.
The mother of three children, Alyona learned about her HIV status four years ago before a kidney surgery. She was hard hit by this news, but was able to cope with it successfully. Shortly before she enrolled into MAMA+ in February, Alyona had given birth to a beautiful baby girl.
Since childhood, life was not easy for Alyona. When she was young, Alyona was abused by her father and, receiving no protection or support from her mother, she ran away from home. Alyona spent some time on the street, and she currently has very little recollection of that experience. Alyona does not like talking about whom she met with during that time, or what she had to do to survive. When she finally met her future husband, Alyona moved in with him.
Alyona and her husband have always tried the best to provide for their children. The emotional climate in the family, however, has not been very healthy. Alyona is frequently exposed to violence again, and this time it is psychological violence on the part of her husband, which adversely affects her and their children. Presently, the family is facing another problem: Alyona’s husband is suffering from a severe form of TB, while Alyona’s HIV makes her particularly vulnerable to the disease. Their large family is occupying two rooms in a communal apartment.
Together with MAMA+ staff, Alyona is working to improve the family’s living conditions. The MAMA+ psychologist is helping her raise self-esteem and improve relationships with her husband. Alyona regularly visits the MAMA+ Center to take part in peer support sessions and workshops, while her little daughter receives health exams and participates in development activities.
Alyona says she’s very grateful to the MAMA+ specialists, thanks to their support she overcame a very difficult period in her life.
Darya grew up in a large family. She had been in good relationships with her relatives until they learned about her HIV status. Since then, Darya has had nobody to rely on. Daria is raising two sons on her own. Her older son is five, and her younger son is just several months old. Their father abuses drugs and does not care for his children. Before giving birth to her second child, Darya had a job and rented a room in St. Petersburg. After she had had the baby, Darya lost her job and housing. She currently lives in the suburbs of St. Petersburg with her relatives who are not happy with her HIV.
Darya was referred to MAMA+ by the City AIDS Center as she needed emotional support and counseling. Together with MAMA+ staff, Darya has made a lot of progress: she has accepted her own HIV status and began to care both for her boys’ and her own health. The boys attend daycare at the MAMA+ Center, where they participate in development activities together with a child psychologist. When the children are in daycare, Darya has a chance to file for children’s allowances, visit the AIDS Center, apply for government daycare, and look for a job.
Darya says, “At the MAMA+ Center, I received what my family refused to provide: warm-heartedness of the staff, their emotional support and care. This helped me believe in myself. Now I am doing my best raising my sons. The MAMA+ psychologist is helping improve our relationships with my mother. Thinking for the future, I am sure all of my dreams will come true!”
Over the summer, MAMA+ clients also participated in two exciting events organized by DTC’s corporate partners: a vocation orientation workshop by Radisson Royal Hotel St. Petersburg, and a beauty session by M•A•C Cosmetics make-up artists.
Vocational Orientation Workshop by Radisson Royal Hotel St. Petersburg
On June 28, Radisson Royal Hotel St. Petersburg organized a vocational orientation workshop for five MAMA+ clients. The women received a tour around the hotel, while Radisson staff described the jobs in the hospitality business, and Radisson’s corporate culture. Under the supervision of hotel staff, the workshop participants had an opportunity to try themselves in the roles of housemaids making a bed, cleaning a room and preparing coffee. The housekeeping staff described their responsibilities, challenges and advantages of working at Radisson.
At the end of the workshop, participants met with the hotel’s General Manager John Lozasso. Mr. Lozasso invited the women to apply for open positions at Radisson when they become available, and expressed his support to continuing collaboration with Doctors to Children.
Beauty Session by M•A•C Cosmetics Make-Up Artists
On July 4, four make-up artists from M•A•C Cosmetics paid their traditional visit to MAMA+. This time they visited with 12 clients at the MAMA+ Center. The beauticians advised the women on make-up and skin care for different skin types during pregnancy and after delivery, and shared secrets of effective home-made facial masks. Then M•A•C staff conducted a professional make-up session meeting individual women’s needs, from an evening party to casual everyday make-up. The day finished with a tea party and fruit, which are also essential for healthy-looking skin. MAMA+ participants were very glad to receive little presents of professional M•A•C products.
M•A•C Cosmetics, which is part of Estee Lauder Companies, has been a long-time supporter of DTC projects for women and children affected by HIV. In addition to the financial support through the M•A•C AIDS Fund, M•A•C staff have been regularly volunteering their time to provide beauty sessions to clients at the MAMA+ Halfway House and Daycare center.
On behalf of MAMA+ clients and their babies, I thank you again for your generous support. Doctors to Children looks forward to sharing more news from MAMA+.
Roman Yorick, MD, MPH
Dear Friends and Supporters,
In April, a new MAMA+ Center in St. Petersburg opened its doors for HIV-positive women, their young children and family members.The new facility provides daily care for 15 children under three years of age. It also hosts group and individual counseling sessions for women, their partners and parents on HIV, child development, parenting, child nutrition and other issues. While their children are in daycare, the women are able to work or study, visit government offices, or receive medical services. With the increased birthrate in Russia in recent years, daycare placements for children over 18 months of age are in short supply, and for those under 18 months and born to HIV-positive mothers such placements are not available. Therefore, the new MAMA+ Center provide crucial assistance to HIV-affected families in caring for their babies.
The Center hosts regular peer support sessions to encourage women, build their self-esteem, help them accept their HIV status and develop adherence to anti-retroviral treatment. Former clients serve as peer counselors sharing their experience in overcoming challenges.
Support through GlobalGiving from donors like you help DTC run the MAMA+ Center. The children here are supplied with milk formula and diapers; families in need receive food packages, in addition to psychosocial counseling, vocational orientation and referral. Your assistance enabled us to provide support to 40 HIV-positive women with young children since the beginning of the year. Many of them have made remarkable progress as witnessed by the following client story.
Born in a small village of Novgorod region near St. Petersburg, Xenia came to the City several years ago to work. In St. Petersburg, she initially lived with her mother and aunt. Despite her efforts, Xenia was unable to find a job. In a short while, Xenia met Andrey, and moved in with him. Though not married officially, they now have two children – a six-year old, and a two-month old.
During her second pregnancy, Xenia was tested HIV-positive. Having no information about the disease, she was too scared to tell her family. As her mother and aunt eventually found out about her diagnosis, they insisted on Xenia abandoning her second child and stopped any contact with her. By that time Andrey relapsed to the use drugs, lost his job, and the family was left without any sources of income. Besides, he was no support to Xenia in taking care of their children.
With neither family support nor material assistance to pay for housing and milk formula for the baby, Xenia thought the only way out was abandoning her child. In this crisis situation, she contacted the MAMA+ Project she had learned about from a social worker while at the maternity hospital.
MAMA+ provided Xenia with material support, including milk formula and child care supplies, and helped her register the baby with a children’s clinic and the AIDS Center. Thanks to the assistance from the MAMA+ psychologist, Xenia was enabled to improve her self-esteem, accept the diagnosis, and manage the conflict with her family. The project support encouraged her to keep her baby in the family.
Presently, Xenia continues to attend peer support group sessions at the MAMA+ Center, as well as specialized sessions devoted to parenting and development of children born to HIV-positive mothers.
This is the third such center that DTC has helped establish in St. Petersburg since the start of the MAMA+ project in 2004; another three centers were opened with DTC support in 2012 in the cities of Yekaterinburg and Orenburg. All MAMA+ Centers are joint government-NGO operations built on the model established by DTC and HealthRight International.
On behalf of our clients and their babies, I would like to thank you for your generous contribution to improving their lives.
Dear friends and supporters,
Thanks to your generous donations, in winter months of 2011-2012 we have been able to provide 26 HIV-positive mothers and their babies in St. Petersburg with milk formula, child care supplies, shelter and access to public services. We can already see positive changes in the lives of these women and their children! We would like to update you on the stories of two women and their children, which have become success stories since our last newsletter in December 2011 thanks to your invaluable support.
Sofia (The names of clients and their children have been changed for confidentiality reasons) is a native of Kushva, a small town in Sverdlovsk Region of Russia. Her parents had died leaving her with a house completely in shambles. At eighteen, she came to St. Petersburg looking for a job. Sofia lived with her drug-addicted partner who had repeatedly beaten her and eventually kicked her out when she was five months pregnant.
Sofia lost her job as soon as the boss learned about her pregnancy. She found herself with neither income nor housing. Another piece of bad news was that she had been diagnosed with HIV. After learning she was HIV-positive, Sofia’s older brother who lived in the suburbs of St. Petersburg turned his back on her.
When Sofia arrived to the MAMA+ Halfway House in March 2011, she had already been registered with the AIDS Center and was receiving prophylactic treatment to prevent HIV transmission to the baby. In August her son Kolya was born ten weeks early and placed into an ICU for a month. Upon discharge, the baby still required a lot of medical attention, but he is much better now. MAMA+ staff helped Sofia receive all the lacking documents for herself and for the child. MAMA+ supported Sofia in caring for Kolya, provided them with appropriate nutrition, medication, child care supplies and clothes. “MAMA+ instilled me with a hope for the better”, Sofia says.
MAMA+ psychologists helped Sofia improve her relationship with her brother. In January 2012, she moved out of the halfway house to live with her brother and his family. Now she also has a job at a local supermarket.
Sofia is still in contact with MAMA+ staff and her friends from the Halfway House, who have supported her all this time. These women have experienced similar problems and shared the support that enabled them and their babies to survive.
Nadya (The names of clients and their children have been changed for confidentiality reasons) is an orphan: the parents abandoned her at birth, and Nadya has grown up in an orphanage together with her eight brothers and sisters. Since then, she kept in contact only with one brother.
Upon coming of age, Nadya and her brother as orphans were provided by the government with a place in a communal apartment. As often happens with orphanage graduates, they fell victims of fraud and found themselves on the street. They became addicted to substances, and Nadya’s brother soon died, while she learned she was HIV-positive.
At 27, Nadya got pregnant. Her partner died before their son was born. She found herself on the street again, now with a newborn child. When Nadya enrolled into the MAMA+ Halfway house in September 2011, she did not have any documents either for herself or for her little son Yegor. MAMA+ staff helped her obtain the necessary documents and get access to healthcare and social services. Yegor received a comprehensive medical examination that showed developmental delays requiring physical therapy. MAMA+ provided Nadya and Yegor with the most necessary things, such as medications, milk formula, clothes, child care supplies, and others.
At the halfway house, Nadya also received the life skills that she was never able to learn at the orphanage. MAMA+ staff helped Nadya establish a good connection with her child, the kind she has never had with her own mother.
Nadya and Yegor are still residents of the MAMA+ halfway house, although Nadya already feels empowered to handle various issues on her own.
“MAMA+ provided me with both emotional and material assistance. They gave me hope that my son and I have a future”, says Nadya.
On behalf of our clients and their children, I thank you all for your generous support. Doctors to Children looks forward to sharing more successes from MAMA+ with the GlobalGiving community.
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