Meet four powerful HIV+ Mothers who are working to end pediatric AIDS.
“Helping people helped me heal inside.” – Viwe, Mentor Mother and Khayelitsha site coordinator
My first weeks working with mothers2mothers (m2m) have been exciting, challenging, and completely inspirational. Cape Town, South Africa is a tale of two cities; 20 miles from dramatic mountains that slide into the turquoise Atlantic waves lined with restaurants full of beachy-tourists, wine lovers, and honeymooners, lies the third largest township in South Africa, Khayelitsha, with one of the highest rates of HIV in the country.
On a site visit to a mothers2mothers clinic in Khayelitsha, I met four mothers employed by m2m, and heard their harrowing stories of living with HIV. All of these amazing “Mentor Mothers” as they are called, work for the same purpose; to ensure babies are HIV-negative.
Fezeka, a Mentor Mother, struck me the most deeply with her story of how m2m changed her as a person. Fezeka looks so timid, she spoke about how she used to not be able to stand in front of people and talk, made only worse when she felt the shame of being diagnosed HIV-positive. mothers2mothers gave her the knowledge and encouragement she needed to disclose her status as HIV-positive and change her life to become a Mentor Mother working to save and improve the lives of others. Today, Fezeka is an employed Mentor Mother speaking in front of crowds and educating them on HIV prevention and treatment. She has women and men who seek her advice and follow it. She said that now she “walks proudly wearing her mothers2mothers shirt.” Her words and confidence rolled out of her timid face like thunder, she really showed me the power of the Mentor Mother peer model to empower women and create a generation free of HIV.
She said that now she “walks proudly wearing her mothers2mothers shirt.” Her words and confidence rolled out of her timid face like thunder, she really showed me the power of the Mentor Mother peer model to empower women and create a generation free of HIV.
All four of the Mentor Mothers I met had been through the mothers2mothers program themselves and all of them safely delivered and are raising HIV-negative children. The programme had a profound impact on their children, their health, and their desire to help other women overcome the same challenges. For me, witnessing their testimonies of how mothers2mothers changed their lives and seeing how strong and caring they are was an inspirational experience I will never forget.
My takeaway: It doesn’t matter how much has been taken from you and how little you have, you still have enough to give. I feel very rewarded to work with the team at m2m who work daily to make a huge difference in the health and livelihood of so many.
About mothers2mothers (m2m):
m2m trains, employs, and empowers mothers living with HIV to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies and improve the health of women, their partners, and families. Working alongside doctors and nurses in understaffed health centres as members of the healthcare team, these “Mentor Mothers,” as they are called, provide essential health education and psychosocial support to other HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers. Psychosocial support addresses ongoing emotional, psychological, social, and cultural concerns, helping HIV-positive pregnant women, new mothers, and their families cope more effectively with each stage of the infection and enhancing their quality of life.
For more information please visit www.m2m.org
Colleen Ebbitt is a 2015 LGT Venture Philanthropy ICats (impact catalyst) Fellow. Colleen is working with mothers2mothers Business Development and Corporate Strategy teams in both London and Cape Town over the next year. Colleen is currently a Vice President at J.P. Morgan on sabbatical.
Mary, Viwe, Asanda, Fezeka, Nozi, Nontando, and Colleen at one of the mothers2mothers clinics in Khayelitsha township.