On International Day of Families—which the United Nations observes every 15th of May—we want to shine a light on mothers2mothers (m2m) commitment to ensure that entire families stay healthy and thrive.
Celebrating the International Day of Families 2021
Focusing on the health of all family members—in particular women, children, and adolescents who are highly vulnerable to HIV and other health issues—is critical to reaching the global goals of achieving good health and well-being for all and an end of HIV/AIDS.
The 1,700 women employed by m2m as frontline health workers, called Mentor Mothers—like Dorothy Kachere in Mulanje, Malawi—not only focus on their client’s health, but also ensure that everyone in their client’s family is accessing the vital health services they need.
This was the case with Dorothy’s client, Mary (not her real name), who came to the health centre as a pregnant teenager. Mary was scared of being judged and reprimanded so she sought out an ‘’approachable person’’ at the clinic to talk with, and along came Dorothy.
When Dorothy followed up with Mary at her home, she noticed a young boy of school age who was sitting and not doing anything. He never talked, did not playing or stand, and seemed unresponsive or unaware of his surroundings. Mary told Dorothy that the boy was her seven-year-old brother, Dalitso, who was born disabled and couldn’t walk or talk. With their parents separated, the only people in the home were Mary, her brother, and mother, so Mary said if someone has to run an errand, Dalitso would remain locked inside the house by himself.
Dorothy talked to the family about how they could provide more support to Dalitso. She introduced Dalitso and the family to play therapy and encouraged his mother and Mary to communicate with him at all times and sing for him. She also organised play sessions with other mothers of disabled children at the health centre, and referred him for physiotherapy and early childhood development (ECD) services. Watching Dalitso’s improvement from the first time she met him to the lively 8-year-old boy he is today is one of Dorothy’s proudest moments.
‘’He can now communicate with some non-verbal cues and signs, he can express his emotions with smiles and little murmurs, and is even showing some independence with wanting to feed himself even though he can’t do that yet. Even though Mary was my reason for visiting the home, all the family members are now my clients. Mary has a healthy HIV-negative baby girl and Dalitso’s mom understands the importance of ECD and how to care for a disabled child,” Dorothy said.
It is success stories like Dalitso’s that highlight the importance of m2m’s work to improve the health and well-being of all members of a family. To that end, m2m has evolved our tried and tested peer-based model to encompass a family-centred approach that tackles a range of health-related challenges at all stages of life, from pregnancy, birth, childhood, adolescents, and beyond. We provide support and services to prevent new HIV infections and ensure people living with HIV access treatment and remain healthy. We also focus on related health challenges—including TB, maternal and child mortality, and early childhood development—while delivering women’s social and economic empowerment. We want to make healthy, thriving families communities the new normal. In this way, we are creating an HIV-free generation.