This Volunteers’ Week, we’re celebrating the incredible people who devote their time to support EMMS International's projects. As well as our lovely volunteers in the UK who run, abseil and cycle to raise money for healthcare in some of the poorest parts of the world, we are incredibly fortunate to have the assistance of volunteer Mother Buddies in Malawi.
Mother Buddies are women living with HIV who have given birth to babies without the disease. They are committed to helping other HIV positive women to do the same. They travel long distances by bike along dirt roads to befriend expectant mums in rural villages without access to the most basic maternal health education. Through the friendship of Mother Buddies, expectant mums are encouraged to take a HIV test. If the results are positive, Mother Buddies connect mums with counselling and explain the importance of accessing treatment for the health of themselves and their unborn baby. This peer support is absolutely essential in a country where an estimated 10% of the population are HIV positive (UN Aids, 2017). Mphatso Nguluwe, Director of the Livingstonia Synod Aids Programme in Malawi commented that:
“Without an intervention this disease will grow. We are looking at wiping out a whole community if there is no intervention.”
Mother Buddies are leading the fight against this disease, ensuring that it does not pass to the next generation by saying “Look, this is what I did. You can do it too!” Volunteer Mother Buddy Enisa (left) provided invaluable friendship and support to expectant mum Memory (right) when she was diagnosed with HIV during her pregnancy. Memory said:
“I needed someone to confide in, but with the stigma and discrimination in our society, I could not tell my relatives. When Mother Buddy Enisa came, I told myself that she was the friend I needed. I explained everything to her and received a great prize in return.
Enisa has been like a mother to me, more than a friend!
She used her own experience to emphasise how important it is to always be on antiretroviral therapy to keep myself healthy and to protect my baby. The thought of having a HIV-free baby like hers excited me and made me determined to take responsibility. Enisa has been like a mother to me, more than a friend!”
Beyond encouraging HIV testing, Mother Buddies also have a wealth of advice to give expectant mums about maternal nutrition, the importance of going to hospital when labour starts and how to prepare for the baby’s arrival. Volunteer Mother Buddy Iness Moyo (right) helped expectant mum Leah Phiri (left) to understand the importance of attending antenatal clinics. Leah had heard that attending clinics and taking iron tablets would make her sick, so she avoided seeing the doctor. Iness helped to dispel this misconception and at five months pregnant, Leah attended an antenatal clinic for the first time. Leah later said:
“Thank you to Mother Buddy Iness who explained why regular antenatal care check-ups and iron tablets are important for the health of my baby. Iness also helped me to change my diet so that I can give my baby more nutrients. I thank her for being an eye-opener.”
You can help support the work of our incredible volunteer Mother Buddies who are protecting a new generation from HIV. Gifting a bicycle helps Mother Buddies to reach pregnant mums in even the most hard-to-reach parts of Malawi. Give a bike and save a baby!