mothers2mothers (m2m) took the East Coast of the US by storm at a number of events earlier this month—sharing the transformational impact that our peer mentor approach is having on the lives of women, children, and adolescents in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa, while also celebrating the opening of our first office in NYC.
The first stop…Boston, Massachusetts, for an intimate gathering hosted by US Board Member Leslie Brunner and her husband Ryan Wise to grow the m2m family there. “Mentor Mothers are remarkable. They are the strongest people I’ve ever met in my entire life,” said Leslie when introducing Irene Nkosi, an m2m Mentor Mother and Spokeswoman from South Africa, and m2m Co-founder Robin Smalley.
In the conversation that followed between the Robin and Irene, Robin talked about how it was these strong African women who inspired the creation of m2m back in 2001. “We knew from very early on that the greatest asset of any community are the women themselves,” she said. There could be no denying that statement after the audience heard Irene describe the challenges she had to overcome after testing HIV-positive, and how she is now using her experience and knowledge to support other women and families to stay healthy and thrive in her work as a Mentor Mother. “If we empower women, we empower the nation,” she said.
Later that week, m2m celebrated the opening of our NYC office at a wonderful reception hosted by luxury retail entrepreneur Marigay McKee and Bill Ford at their Manhattan home. Joining them was m2m Patron Annie Lennox OBE as well as many of their friends, including Kris Jenner and Tommy and Dee Hilfiger. “As a couple, we are passionate about giving back and doing the right thing where possible. It’s hard as there’s often so many causes and so many great charities that all need urgent help, but this one stands out by its humanity and focusing on what women can affect by helping each other as a positive network for change,” said Marigay and Bill.
Irene captivated the crowd once again with her personal story, telling them how she was discriminated against by her family when she tested HIV-positive at age 22, banned from even sleeping inside her family home. She said that changed when she started working at m2m: “Sharing what I have learned at mothers2mothers about HIV with my family has played a massive role in removing the stigma they had placed on me,” Irene explained. Irene’s talk was followed by a fascinating conversation between Annie Lennox and m2m President and CEO Frank Beadle de Palomo on evolution of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the current imperative to engage young women (who make up a disporoprtionate amount of new infections) in developing solutions.
Our east coast tour was capped off with a special evening gathering at the Cartier Fifth Avenue Mansion in New York City to celebrate Cartier Philanthropy’s 5th year anniversary and our partnership with them. Through Cartier Philanthropy’s generous support, we are equipping women in Uganda with the skills to live healthy and productive lives, including economic empowerment training to help women develop their own independence and resilience. “We want to work with organisations that are driven by social impact and organisations that measure it,” Cartier Philanthropy’s Executive Director Pascale de la Frégonnière told the audience.
Pascale then engaged Frank in a conversation about what makes m2m’s peer mentor approach effective and the impact it is having. “Our Mentor Mothers share knowledge and wisdom in a way that you can trust… they are trained, they are educated, but most importantly, they are employed,” Frank said.
After Irene shared her story, m2m’s Global Development and Strategic Engagement Director Emma France concluded the event by talking about one of the most important goals of m2m’s work—achieving gender equality through the empowerment of HIV-positive women. “We are working to create a world in which gender equality isn’t even something we have to talk about,” she said.
The following day, Irene and the m2m team had the opportunity to share more about our programmes and partnership with Cartier Philanthropy in Uganda with Cartier’s staff. These three informational sessions allowed Cartier employees to ask engaging questions about m2m’s work and gain an understanding of Cartier Philanthropy.
We are so grateful for everyone’s generosity and support. It was wonderful to see so many long-time supporters and meet new friends, and we are looking forward to continuing our work together to achieve an HIV-free generation and create empowerment opportunities for more women across Africa.
If you would like to learn more about our impact in sub-Saharan Africa and the activities of our US team, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. To get in touch with the US team—whether you work at a corporate that is interested in partnering with us, or you’re an individual who wants to learn about ways to support m2m, please email them:
Delia Burnett, Institutional, Individual, and Corporate Partnerships, and Government Support: Delia.Burnett@m2m.org
Melissa Marrocco, Institutional Giving: Melissa.Marrocco@m2m.org
Kate Miller, Development Office Coordinator: Kate.Miller@m2m.org