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A British Airways visit with a Flying Start

mothers2mothers (m2m) was delighted to welcome our partners British Airways and UK grant-making charity Comic Relief at two of our sites in Pretoria, South Africa, last month. Both Comic Relief and British Airways have been long-time supporters of m2m, a partnership that culminated last year in m2m featuring in the British Airways’ Flying Start onboard film.

Mentor Mother Irene Nkosi leading a support group session.

The British Airways colleagues who joined m2m in South Africa—including cabin crew, engineers, and customer service agents —are Flying Start champions; part of a global network of volunteers who drive fundraising efforts for Flying Start,  British Airways’ global charity partnership with Comic Relief, which aims to give children the chance of a brighter future.

A mothers2mothers baby club session.

With much of m2m’s work focused on ensuring that young children thrive, not just survive, the visits were an opportunity to showcase the impact that Flying Start is having on the lives of children and mothers in the Gauteng region.

Champions were given a tour of the health clinics by staff, who talked about the impact of Mentor Mothers—women living with HIV employed by m2m as community health workers to provide health education and support in clinics and the wider community. With health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa facing a significant shortage of doctors and nurses, Mentor Mothers play a vital bridging role, delivering life-saving health services and education for clients and freeing up clinical staff to attend to patients.

The visitors also had an opportunity to see m2m Mentor Mothers in action. The first one was during a weekly support group for expecting or new mothers newly diagnosed with HIV, which provides them with a safe space and a support system to get the health advice and medication they need and to support them on their treatment journey. The second was a club for young mothers to provide sexual and reproductive health education, as well as information on how they can best nurture their little ones.

We caught up with some of the British Airways staff members to find out more about their experience:

1. What is your main take away from this trip?

Sophie Fox, Mixed Fleet World Class Cabin Crew, said: “The information I learned from this visit was incredible. I knew HIV had a huge impact on those who have it but I don’t think I realised quite how much. The stories the mothers shared about how upset they were and how they overcame their fears were just incredible. And seeing how happy they are now thanks to mothers2mothers just goes to show what a great job they are doing.”

British Airways members hearing from m2m clients.

Craig McClintock, Customer Service Manager, added that: “It really was a life-changing experience for me – From being able to have the time and space to connect with them, to hear their stories which they bravely and generously shared with us, to be able to connect on a human to human level with those benefitting from work we have played a small part in helping to fund.” 

2. How are you going to take what you learned and apply it in your work or in your everyday life?

Anne Napthine, Inflight Business Manager, explained: “It is an experience I will never forget, but will share with many. I have already told friends and family of the work being done by mothers2mothers, and was able to assure them that every penny gets used wisely to ensure maximum effect. I will also be sharing my experience with my team, and wider crew community, and will take all opportunities to support Comic Relief and the work it does.”

Angela Large, Cabin Service Director, said: “As a cabin crew member in British Airways flights, I’ve seen the Flying Start video which features mothers2mothers—I can’t wait now to share what I’ve seen and learned with our customers who are interested in finding out more about the organisation!”

3. What was the highlight of your visit?

British Airways Champions flying the flag!

Sophie Fox told us: “My favourite part of the visit was interacting with the children and the mothers, seeing how happy everyone was and how healthy and playful the children were. mothers2mothers to me felt like one big family supporting each other through thick and thin and it’s something I’ll remember forever.”

Anne Napthine added: “It was wonderful to note that it was these very women, who had been affected by HIV themselves, who were now taking action to help others by running the sessions and working for mothers2mothers.”   

Thank you British Airways and Comic Relief for all the support you’ve shown m2m over the years! If you too are interested in finding out how you can make a real difference with m2m, email getinvolved@m2m.org.

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