Last week I went on my first “site visit” (sites are the clinics where the women from m2m work) with mothers2mothers after hearing so much about it. One thing is to work in an office were I have daily meetings in virtual rooms mapping out workflows for processes that have been dictated by program and support staff, but it is a completely different reality to drive 30 minutes outside the city to see where they will be implemented. When I arrive to the clinic, I notice the queue of women sitting patiently with their babies waiting for a visit with the m2m staff who works diligently at attending to their concerns and needs, helping make them feel confortable. The m2m clinic is tidy and organized and located next to the main health clinic in the informal township called Khayelitsha. The township is in dire need of health care education/HIV prevention with m2m helping to fill the gaps where it has a population of around 450,000 and over 40% are below the age of 19. Around 70% of residents still live in shacks and one in three people has to walk 200 meters or further to access water with an HIV prevalence rate of around 30%.
However dire the circumstances, in small, tight communities interesting things happen including such innovations as the Community Exchange Program where people can register to work and then earn credit, which eventually leads to obtaining goods and other services. A social network by which no legal tender is associated but people are able to purchase and redeem credit for hours worked. Another great inspiration is the Khayelistsha football for hope center built by steetfootballworld, which are supported by LGT VP and fellow iCats. Alongside those innovative social projects the mentor mothers from m2m work to control the spread of HIV to newborn babies silently under the cover of the tin roofed houses that make up the town.
As I drove out of Khayelitsha running over extension cables crossing the road that are used for power between the sectors of the villages, I realized the real value of my work and the challenges that lie ahead.
Pictures from Khayelitsha: