Allison Mitchell is the co-founder of Vild – House of Little (a luxury children’s clothing brand). She recently joined the mothers2mothers (m2m) Global Giving Circle (GGC) after taking part in the Immersive Experience and spending three days visiting m2m sites in Cape Town, South Africa.
This past February, I had the privilege of joining the m2m Immersive Experience. Words cannot truly describe what I witnessed during the three days that I spent experiencing the front line with everyday heroes. From the moment that I arrived, I was welcomed by members of the GGC and m2m staff, who instantly re-confirmed why I have supported m2m over the last four years, and why I would pledge to continue.
Over the next few days, I had the incredible opportunity to visit the sites and homes where m2m’s Mentor Mothers work. I do not think you can prepare yourself for the overwhelming experience of walking into a South African township, or into a client’s home.
From the moment that I entered the first clinic, I felt overcome by the sheer number of people in medical need. Room after room, hallway after hallway was filled with men, women and children waiting for treatment and medication. And then, quite literally, my impression turned a corner when we were welcomed by Mpho, an m2m Mentor Mother, into another room. Mpho told us that when she first started working in the clinic in 2009, there were around 140 babies delivered HIV-positive, every year. Since 2011 and under her watch, only one baby has been born HIV-positive in that clinic.
To witness the support that these trained HIV-positive women provide to their peers and community was awe-inspiring. Every woman appeared to be at a different point of their journey, but they were all bound by an unconditional sisterhood that reflected love and a hope for a brighter future for themselves, their children and their families. It was not a passive hope, but a proactive hope that demonstrated an action for change.
One of the initial sparks that led me to supporting m2m is my own hope to contribute in any way I can to a change that creates a healthier and happier future generation. As a mother myself, it is a hope that is rooted deep in my heart. On the last day of my experience, I had the opportunity to sit in on an m2m support group, and to speak to expecting mothers. What inspired me was how one of the younger Mentor Mother’s boyfriends sat side by side with her saying that he was HIV-negative, but that he supported her and their baby 100%, because he loved her, believed in her, and cared about the health of her and their unborn child. Her HIV-positive status did not turn him away – on the contrary, he was proud that she was part of the m2m programme.
Change is happening, and I departed South Africa knowing that m2m is helping to transform lives and the future of the world for the next generations. It was a humbling and inspiring experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life – words cannot do it justice, and I thank m2m for the unique opportunity.