mothers2mothers (m2m) was delighted to participate in an exciting fellowship with long-term partner MSD, a premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company that is at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases. Starting in August, m2m hosted three MSD employees as part of the MSD Richard T. Clark (RTC) Fellowship for Global Health. This is a three-month pro bono programme designed to harness the skills and talents of MSD employees worldwide. The RTC Fellows—from China, Slovakia, and the United States—were deployed to develop a new digital marketing strategy to help us raise greater awareness for our work as a primary health care organisation as outlined by our five-year strategic plan that launched last year.
The RTC Fellows recently spent two weeks at the m2m’s head office in Cape Town, South Africa, where they collaborated with various departments to gain a deeper understanding of m2m’s work. Among the highlights, they visited the Ikhwezi Community Health Centre in Lwandle township, where they had the opportunity to meet with Mentor Mothers and witness first-hand the significant impact of m2m’s integrated primary health care services on the lives of women, children, and their families.
They also had an opportunity to visit the MSD Foundation-funded Project Amplify sites in Khayelitsha to find out how this innovative programme is making a difference in the lives of men who have sex with men (MSM) living in the township of Khayelitsha and surrounding areas. This four-year initiative is aimed at enhancing the health, psychosocial well-being, and mental health of MSM, who are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic.
According to UNAIDS, worldwide, MSM are 19 times more likely to have HIV compared to the general population. In South Africa, several significant factors are contributing to the spread of HIV among MSM. These factors include engaging in high-risk behaviours, having limited knowledge about HIV, facing barriers to accessing HIV prevention and treatment services, low condom usage rates, high levels of alcohol consumption, experiencing human rights abuses, engaging in sexual relationships with multiple partners, and facing ongoing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
With the generous support of MSD Foundation, m2m has adapted its peer-based model, and trained and deployed nine Life Mentors in Cape Town and Johannesburg. These Mentors are dedicated to ensuring that MSM clients and their families have access to psychosocial support, particularly those grappling with issues related to coming out, disclosure, acceptance, and family dynamics.
Reflecting on the site visit experiences, the RTC Fellows shared the following insights:
“The site visit was so inspiring and memorable. Despite the limited resources and cultural and societal challenges, all m2m staff are trying their best to engage with their clients and clients’ families, to make sure the communities they serve are healthy and equitable.” – Wei Jia.
“It has been such an amazing opportunity to get to see the positive impact that m2m is having on communities in sub-Saharan Africa. During our field visit we had the opportunity to meet Mentor Mothers and Life Mentors who are incredible human beings, that leverage their experiences and overall expertise to go above and beyond to deliver health care services to their communities. Every individual we met had the same drive and passion to create healthy and equitable communities for all.” – Sydney Pridgen
“It has been a privilege to get to work with the incredibly talented and dedicated people at m2m. Listening to the amazing stories from the Mentor Mothers and their transformation into confident role models for their clients, who face similar life challenges, is deeply touching.” – Martina Bosjakova
Our Mentor Mother Model is built on the principle of partnership and collaboration, working with corporations, governments, multilateral organisations, individuals, and other entities to maximise resources and expertise for greater impact. The partnership between m2m, the MSD Richard T. Clark Fellowship for Global Health, and the MSD Foundation is a great example of this, highlighting the profound importance of corporate support in achieving health for all. m2m always welcomes new partners and innovative approaches.
For more information on how to partner with us, click here.