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?