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May 3, 2012

mothers2mothers Quarterly Report (Jan - March 2012)

The new year has been full of exciting developments for mothers2mothers (m2m) as we continue to provide peer education and support to HIV-positive women across sub-Saharan Africa. In the past three months, m2m’s Mentor Mothers have been celebrated by the South Africa High Commission in London and international news outlets including The Guardian, Huffington Post, and British Medical Journal. mothers2mothers has also been recognized as a leader in the nonprofit sector.

 In March 2011, Mpho Mbhele, a m2m Site Coordinator at the Ikhwezi Clinic in Somerset West, South Africa, traveled to London to speak at the South African High Commission. For Mpho, the trip was her first time out of the country, traveling on an airplane, and addressing such a large audience. Mpho drew on the skills she learned at m2m’s Spokespersons Training to share her journey as an HIV-positive woman with a crowd of over 90 people. While in London, Mpho was also featured by The Guardian in a story on m2m. Mpho felt empowered by the opportunity to share her story and the impact m2m has made on her life in a variety of public forums.

 m2m was also recently selected as one of two recipients of the prestigious Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership, which recognizes extraordinary accomplishment and bold leadership in the nonprofit sector. m2m was recognized for our unique, scalable grassroots model that is designed to work within existing health infrastructure. m2m’s co-founders, Gene Falk and Robin Smalley, accepted the award on behalf of m2m at an awards ceremony held at the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College in March.

 mothers2mothers has reached thousands of pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Our Mentor Mothers are critical to eliminating new HIV infections among children. A Mentor Mother is a mother living with HIV who is trained and employed as part of a medical team to support and educate pregnant women and new mothers on how to prevent mother-to-child transmission and make healthy choices for themselves and their babies.

 As of January 2012, m2m had 1457 Mentor Mothers working in 589 sites in 7 African countries, reaching nearly 25,000 new clients every month. 

 Through our work:

  • Clients (pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV) receive support and education from Mentor Mothers and are able to discuss issues they face on a daily basis;
  • Clients are offered a safe space that contributes to overcoming stigma and discrimination they face as people living with HIV;
  • Positive working relations are established between m2m staff and the facility staff contributing to client retention in the PMTCT cascade

 Mbali’s Story of Hope

The Story of Mbali Mkhatjwa, a Mentor Mother in Swaziland

 Mbali Mkhatjwa is a 23 year old mother of two children. Mbali lives with her mother in the city of Manzini, in a township called Two Sticks. She had her first baby when she was 18 years old. After she completed her high school education, she fell pregnant with her second child. She began losing weight, and she was confused as to what might be wrong with her. Realizing that not seeking medical care would not help her, she went to RFM Hospital. She was advised to take an HIV test, which came back positive. This is when she made her first contact with m2m, where she received support and encouragement, but she could not come to terms with being HIV-positive.

 The nurses had given her two pieces of life-changing news. The first, that she was HIV-positive, and second, that she was pregnant. Out of shock and anger, she decided that she was not going back to the facility, or to any hospital for further care or support.  On her return from the facility, she disclosed her HIV status to her younger sister, who assured her that it could not be true. On her mother’s return from work that evening, she also disclosed to her, but also assured her that the nurses had made a mistake. Everyone in the family was in denial. Out of curiosity, Mbali decided to go to KS2 Clinic, where the same result was confirmed.

 Mbali decided to confront her boyfriend, who accepted the situation and offered her support, and encouraged her to go to RFM again for a thorough medical checkup. This made her angrier, because as far as she was concerned, she blamed him for all her troubles.  She was contemplating committing suicide, or having an abortion, because she knew she could do this in South Africa. On her second visit to RFM, she came into contact with m2m again, and she mentioned what she thought her options were. She was taken by surprise when the Mentor Mother talking to her disclosed her status, and walked her through what she went through as a positive pregnant woman. Mbali could not believe that PMTCT worked, as she had thought that it was better for her to die than to bring a baby into the world who would be sick, or alternatively, abort the baby and die alone. Through gentle and warm support from m2m, she agreed to take her CD4, which came back reflecting that it stood at 97 and that she had to be initiated on ART. Mbali was reluctant to begin treatment, but again she was referred to m2m for further psychosocial support.

 Mbali’s baby is 18 months old today, and Mbali is now employed as a Mentor Mother after she applied for a position she saw advertised by m2m. Her mission is to help other young women who find themselves in similar situations. She is so grateful to m2m for not only saving her baby, but also for the opportunity to be an ambassador for PMTCT through being employed by m2m. Mbali works with some of the women that guided her through her PMTCT journey.

 Your financial support will enable us to continue to provide services to pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV and their babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

 We are counting on your financial support, will you join us?

 



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Jan 26, 2012

m2m Quarterly Report (Oct - Dec 2011)

The past year was full of opportunity and hope for mothers2mothers (m2m), and these last three months were no exception.  m2m received significant international attention as the work of our organization and Mentor Mothers was recognized by a United States Congressional Delegation and international news outlets including ABC News, USA Today, The Financial Times, and Huffington Post. In December 2011, six United States Senators spent a morning at the Site B Clinic in Khayelitsha. The Senators chatted with Mentor Mothers, listened to the stories of m2m clients, and held the clients’ babies. “This is very important work,” said Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, after listening to clients describe the support they received from the Mentor Mothers and their efforts to prevent transmission to their children.

 

In November 2011, m2m celebrated the launch of our Europe office with a live performance by singer, song writer, and AIDS activist Annie Lennox. Over 100 people attended the event to celebrate the launch of m2m in Europe and recognize the impact m2m has had on the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa since it was founded in 2001.  

 

ABC News aired a story on m2m’s work on Good Morning America at the end of October. The piece chronicled the relationship of a m2m client and her Mentor Mother over the course of the client’s pregnancy and birth of her HIV-negative baby. The feature concluded with an interview with Dr. Mitch Besser, m2m’s Founder and Medical Director, and his brother Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor.

 

mothers2mothers has reached thousands of pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Our Mentor Mothers are critical to eliminating new HIV infections among children. A Mentor Mother is a mother living with HIV who is trained and employed as part of a medical team to support and educate pregnant women and new mothers on how to prevent mother-to-child transmission and make healthy choices for themselves and their babies.

 

At the end of 2011, m2m had 1475 Mentor Mothers working in 592 sites in 7 African countries, reaching nearly 25,000 new clients every month. 

 

Through our work:

  • Clients (pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV) receive support and education from Mentor Mothers and are able to discuss issues they face on a daily basis;
  • Clients are offered a safe space that contributes to overcoming stigma and discrimination they face as people living with HIV;
  • Positive working relations are established between m2m staff and the facility staff contributing to client retention in the PMTCT cascade

 

Maureen’s Story of Hope

The Story of Maureen Olaka, a Mentor Mother in Kenya

 

After the birth of her twin sons, Maureen Olaka was like any new mother. Her life was busy caring for two newborns, searching for work in Kariobangi, Kenya, and dreaming big dreams for the future of herself and her family.

But when one of her sons fell ill, and she took her family to the clinic for testing, her bright dreams spiraled into darkness. Maureen and her sick son tested HIV-positive. 'Everything turned black, my life, my family, my future, and a severe denial followed,' Maureen says. Although her husband, who tested negative along with their other son, remained supportive, Maureen felt isolated and depressed.

 

It was not until Maureen encountered mothers2mothers that her attitude about her life changed. When mothers2mothers launched in Kenya in 2008 Maureen was hired as a Mentor Mother because educating and supporting other women was a role she cherished. After searching aimlessly, Maureen finally found the place and the role that brought her solace. 'm2m has given me the feeling of being home,' she says, 'it has given me that comfort that one needs.'

Maureen’s involvement with mothers2mothers completely turned her life around. 'mothers2mothers has given me encouragement and empowerment,' Maureen says. She has been promoted to Site Coordinator and she uses her salary to pay her four children’s school fees, put food on the table and pay her rent. 'The list is countless,' she says.

 

Many women do not have the support that Maureen had from her partner. Many women feel the isolation that Maureen felt and they regard their HIV status as a death sentence. Without proper explanations and counseling, many of these women go home to die. It is one of the sad realities of AIDS, and it makes Maureen’s work at mothers2mothers so vital.

 

Maureen’s role has had a significant impact on her clients and has also allowed Maureen to realize her own potential. With her twin boys now 10 and a half, healthy, and in school, Maureen now dreams of returning to school herself. 'I always felt I had the brain of a leader, but I could never realize this because of my status,' she says, 'since I joined m2m I tell you things have changed.'

 

Maureen’s personal transformation is one example of the many ways mothers2mothers continues to transform women’s roles in the greater community. Maureen acknowledges the powerful change mothers2mothers is making in empowering women and improving gender equality.

 

Your financial support will enable us to continue to provide services to pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV and their babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

We are counting on your financial support, will you join us?

 



Sep 24, 2011

mothers2mothers Quarterly Report (Jul - Sept 2011)

This year continues to be an exciting and busy time for mothers2mothers (m2m). We are making progress with the Government of Kenya to develop the country’s own Mentor Mother program, to be known as the Kenya Mentor Mother Program (KMMP). The KMMP is the first national commitment to the adoption of the m2m model and is an important first step as m2m’s work evolves from the direct delivery of services to providing technical assistance to countries administering their own Mentor Mother program. This new model will allow m2m to reach as many women living with HIV as possible in a sustainable manner. m2m’s work in Kenya has received high-level recognition, most recently when the United States Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration and his wife Judy visited a m2m site in Kisumu, Kenya. Ambassador Gration spent an afternoon talking with the Mentor Mothers and listening to their stories. He left pleased, and shared his enthusiasm for the national scale-up of the Mentor Mother model.

In September, m2m and Management Sciences for Health held bipartisan briefings in the Senate and House of Representatives entitled, “The Elimination of New HIV Infections in Children by 2015 and Keeping Mothers Alive: A Call to Action.” Representatives from the non-profit, government and corporate communities in the U.S. and Africa discussed how a world without pediatric HIV is within reach. Robin Smalley, m2m’s Co-Founder and International Director, moderated the panel and Nozi Samela, a former Mentor Mother and current Communications Associate for m2m, spoke on the panel and shared her story with the audience which was comprised of Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and members of the NGO, advocacy and global health sectors.

mothers2mothers has reached thousands of pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV in 9 sub-Saharan African countries including: South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Our Mentor Mothers (MMs) are critical to eliminating new HIV infections among children. A Mentor Mother is a mother living with HIV who is trained and employed as part of a medical team to support and educate pregnant women and new mothers on how to prevent mother-to-child transmission and make healthy choices for themselves and their babies

In 2010, m2m had 1757 Mentor Mothers working in 714 sites in 9 African countries, reaching nearly 25,000 new clients every month.  We reached about 275,000 HIV-positive women and new mothers – that is 1 in 5 of every pregnant women living with HIV in the world.

Through our work:

  • Clients (pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV) receive support and education from MM and are able to discuss issues they face on a daily basis;
  • Clients are offered a safe space that contributes to overcoming stigma and discrimination they face as people living with HIV.
  • Positive working relations established between m2m staff and the facility staff contribute to client retention in the PMTCT cascade.

 

My Story of Hope by Elizabeth Ayoti A kanga

“My name is Elizabeth Ayoti A kanga; I am 29 years old, a mother of three prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) compliant children aged 2yrs, 8yrs and 13 years old. I am privileged to share my experience at mothers2mothers (m2m) as a client and currently a Mentor Mother at Riruta Health Centre, Nairobi - Kenya.

My experience in PMTCT began in 2008, when I visited Riruta health centre for my first antenatal visit during my third pregnancy. After pretest counseling, I was tested and the worst of my worries was confirmed – I was HIV positive! The PMTCT nurse, saw the sorrow in me and referred me to the m2m room where I was introduced to m2m site staff. I was given a warm welcome, and then one of them offered me a cup of tea, pulled a seat and sat close to me. She went ahead to introduce herself as Anastasia, and providing me with a brief of the work they were doing at the facility. I was just silent still in shock and just staring blankly at as she talked. However when she went ahead to disclose her status as being HIV positive, I could not believe it –something that triggered a lot of questions in my mind. She further narrated her experience as a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) including how she disclosed to her partner and how she successfully underwent PMTCT giving birth to a HIV negative 2-year old baby. I did not believe this and I thought she was lying. She encouraged, advised me on the best way to break this news to my partner.  I felt relieved and went back home. I briefed my husband about my clinic visit including the fact that I was not allowed to access services as the facility staff wanted him at the hospital. Surprise was written all over his face and asked “Since when was this requirement at the clinics?” Nevertheless, he agreed to accompany me to the facility the following day. We went back to the same Mentor Mother who educated us on importance of protecting our baby from HIV.  My husband agreed both of us were tested and turned out to be positive. He was shocked, almost collapsed but the Mentor Mother gave us support and guidance on positive living.

We were started on ART therapy, and went back home, the Mentor Mother assured us that all would be well if I followed the doctors instructions. She encouraged us to join the m2m support group for ongoing psychosocial support. During my third trimester, l developed pregnancy complications which triggered premature labor.  I successfully underwent cesarean section and got my baby who was put in the incubator. I decided to exclusively breast feed because of the education I received from Mentor Mothers.

We later joined m2m support group at Riruta health centre and my husband supported me to ensure that my baby gets the best care. At six weeks I took my baby for PCR testing and you know what? It was negative!! II had never been this happy for a long time. It actually a turning point in my life. From now onwards I did not take any chances as I strictly followed m2m advice and guidance to the letter and at 9 and 18 months, both tests were negative. And that was my  turning point, indeed it was a great joy to me and my husband, I then decided to bring in my other children for the test and  they all tested negative.

The m2m program has really opened my eyes, it has enabled me to have a negative baby,  mothers are giving birth to negative babies too, I have  gained courage to disclose my status to my family members  which was a challenge  before,  educated me on income generating activities, my  family is now living a better life with no fear of us dying soon, male involvement has increased in the facility, I also have a saving account,  currently saving  to  purchase a motorbike for business in reserve,  I have also gained respect in the community so this has made my work even easier in helping them have negative babies.

I have never regretted being a Mentor Mother.  The m2m program has descended on our mothers, I feel privileged to congratulate it for its good work, our women are gaining a lot of information on HIV/AIDS. This has improved their lives and they have also have HIV negative babies. May God bless mothers2mothers. I think m2m deserves a special mention, with its symbol of good psychosocial support to our mothers.”

Your financial support will enable us to continue to provide services to pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV and their babies in sub-Saharan Africa.

We are counting on your financial support, will you join us?

 

 
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