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