March 17th, 2008

Mothers Mentoring Mothers

By Shaun

I was excited to hear that one of our community-based partners, mothers2mothers (m2m), is among the recipients of the prestigious Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship . This annual award recognizes and supports innovative programs that address social and economic challenges around the world.

m2m offers a unique model to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). The program provides education and care for HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the disease. Once their babies are born, mothers have the opportunity to earn a small salary by becoming mentors to other HIV-positive pregnant women in the program.

It is moving to see how “Mentor Mothers” embrace HIV-positive pregnant women to help prevent transmission of the disease to their newborns. The mothers-to-be see firsthand that, with proper medical treatment and care, it is possible for their babies to be born free of HIV—and for mother and child to live full, healthy lives.

Anyone who has ever read about or has had the opportunity to meet the m2m staff cannot help but be inspired by and completely endeared to them. Led by founder Dr. Mitchell Besser, the entire m2m staff and Mentor Mothers exhibit a devoted passion for their work.

We began our partnership with m2m in 2005 in East London, headquarters for Johnson & Johnson South Africa. Today, we sponsor 16 sites in South Africa. I visited one of these sites – the Chris Hani Clinic at Beacon Bay Squatter Camp in East London – 18 months ago. I was impressed and awestruck by the work and the compassion of the Mentor Mothers – true angels on earth looking to teach and inspire others.

Over the past few years we’ve watched m2m grow from a small, grassroots organization into a well-respected, multinational NGO that has expanded throughout South Africa and four other African countries. The organization is now recognized throughout the world – even Bono has visited m2m!

Here are a few snaps:


Sharon D’Agostino, Vice President, Worldwide Corporate Contributions & Community Relations,
participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Chris Hani Clinic in Beacon Bay Squatter Camp.


Dressed in traditional Xhosa clothing and adorned with Xhosa jewelry and make-up, Mentor Mothers from m2m participate in health-themed song and dance to educate pregnant women about HIV, the importance of counseling, testing, and knowing one’s status, and the ability to give birth to a healthy child regardless of one’s HIV status through interventions that prevent mother-to-child-transmission.


This 18 year-old mother pictured here with her son shared how her life
experiences impacted her decision to become a MM. She in fact refused testing for HIV during her pregnancy. When her son was born, he was very ill and doctors requested an HIV test from both him and her. She then learned she was HIV+. To prevent further exposure
to her son, she switched from breastfeeding to formula feeding and now her son is HIV-. She
applied to be a MM to share her story with pregnant women in the hopes of encouraging them to test as early as possible and not wait until the baby is delivered. She has
disclosed to her family and her sister provides child care support
while she is working at the Chris Hani Clinic. She has also been to the treatment clinic to keep herself healthy.


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