Change Tomorrow Today

In celebration of our 15th birthday, m2m has kicked off what we hope will be the world’s biggest birthday party as part of a year-long global initiative – Change Tomorrow Today. Anyone can join the party by pledging a birthday to m2m to help HIV-positive mothers and their children stay healthy and celebrate many more birthdays. Mothers like Veliswa Nkantini in Cape Town, South Africa, whose adorable son, Phawoluhle, just turned three.

Read her story:

In a few days, I will celebrate my son’s third birthday, and I cannot wait for the celebrations to begin. Of course our family is excited, but for me it’s especially emotional, because of where I came from with him, and how difficult the journey was in the beginning.

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In 2013, I was overjoyed to be pregnant. But everything changed when, one morning, I went to a local clinic for prenatal care. Like all pregnant women in South Africa, I was tested for HIV. To this day, I do not have words to describe the feeling I had when the nurse told me I tested HIV positive. I was devastated, confused, and wanted to cry.

I was so angry. When I got home I confronted my husband and forced him to go to the clinic to get tested. His results came back negative. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. I seriously do not know how I got infected, but I suspect that it happened before I was aware of how to protect myself from HIV.

I was convinced that my baby would not live long. I thought of giving him up for adoption because I was scared how I would care for a sick baby. Then I had a one-on-one session with a Mentor Mother from m2m. She told me that she too was HIV positive, and that her children were HIV free.

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To be honest, at first I didn’t believe her; I thought she only wanted to make me feel better. But the Mentor Mothers educated me about HIV, told me if I adhere to treatment my child will be HIV negative, and gave me strength to disclose my HIV status to my family. That was difficult. My in-laws blamed me for bringing this into the family, and said that I had cheated on their son. With the empowerment I received from the Mentor Mothers I managed to educate them about HIV. I don’t want to think about what my family’s life would have become had I not met these amazingly supportive Mentor Mothers.

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Today, I am a m2m Mentor Mother. I help others who are in the same position I was. I am now financially independent and can put food on the table for my children. I will forever be grateful to m2m.

I am also the proud mother of a healthy boy who is HIV negative. We named him Phawoluhle, meaning a ‘beautiful sign,’ because he united my husband and me after going through this difficult period in our lives.

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Phawoluhle is everything to me, and I will do everything in my power to make sure he grows to become a responsible adult. I want him to become a doctor, to help educate people in our township about diseases, and how to stay healthy. But I think he wants to become a singer, because I often find him singing loudly in the house!

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This year, I have dedicated his birthday celebration to m2m. I hope m2m continues working in our communities for a bright future and healthy lives of our children and families. I would like to appeal to other mothers and families to support the important work of m2m Mentor Mothers by pledging a birthday and keeping more children, like my little boy, HIV free and giving them a chance for a healthy future.

Veliswa’s blog was first published on BabyCenter’s Mission Motherhood channel. A campaign partner, BabyCenter is the #1 pregnancy and parenting digital destination globally, reaching more than 45 million parents a month. BabyCenter is dedicated to providing women around the world the information and support they need to have healthy pregnancies, babies, and lives, and its partnership with m2m is an example of this commitment.

For more information on pledging your birthday in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, please visit the Every Child Deserves a Birthday CrowdRise campaign page. If you are in the U.K. or Europe, please visit the Brighter Birthdays Just Giving campaign page.

Our campaign partners have some wonderful offers for those who pledge their birthdays. YOXO (pronounced “yock-so”), a sustainable toy company based in the U.S., has joined the party by offering a 20% discount to anyone who pledges their birthday. And TV’s most beloved pig, Peppa Pig, will send a basket full of Peppa Pig goodies to the first children to raise more than $500 for m2m.