How are other people providing such support and what is the impact of what they are doing?

How the Cape Town Embrace “Connectors” are doing it

Cape Town Embrace is a direct response to the startling fact that of the approximately 75 000 children born in the city each year, only half will be born into an environment that ensures that their developmental potential is fulfilled.

Upon conception each child is equal to the next. Each child has the same potential to be somebody with the inherent power to be an agent of change and growth. Each one could influence this country’s future, and as a group they could be a powerful force in our future society. Cape Town EMBRACE aims to ensure all children born in Cape Town have the best chance to fulfil their developmental potential.

How have they been doing it? They connect parents or caregivers of young children in Cape Town, who find themselves in vulnerable contexts, with a fellow citizen (called a “connector”) and empower both parties to journey together to maximise the child’s development during the crucial First 1 000 Days.

Watch Kathryn and Tomisha’s story for an example of one of the relationships that have started in this way and what it has meant to those involved.


How the Philani Mentor Mothers are doing it

philani mothersAnother great programme which provides support to pregnant mothers is the Philani Mentor Mother Programme started in 2002 in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. It has now been expanded to the Eastern Cape as well as to Swaziland and Ethiopia. Initially Philani was providing clinic-based nutrition rehabilitation programmes but found that a number of the mothers just didn’t have the energy (or means) to come to the clinic. Mothers also struggled to recognise the symptoms of malnutrition and to understand the short and long-term consequences for their affected children. Subsequently, Philani established the home-based Mentor Mother Programme where Mentor Mothers go from house to house looking for children who are at the greatest risk of malnutrition.

This model is based on two international child health models – the ‘Positive Deviant Model’ implemented in Vietnam and the ‘Nurse Home Visiting Program’ from the United States.

Mentor Mothers are identified as women who, despite poverty, have succeeded in rearing healthy children. These women are known as ‘positive deviants’.
The principles that contribute to the strength and sustainability of the Mentor Mother Programme are ones that can be replicated in other contexts and situations, where projects are being set up to support pregnant women:

  • Work in communities where you have been invited in – this is a really important first principle that Philani always adheres to.
  • Identify what people are doing well, build on this and share it with others – Philani looks for ways in which they can further develop the skills and coping. mechanisms that the women already have and then helps them to share this with others. They have found that the most effective mentorship comes from people who have faced the same challenges in the same context as those in need of support.
  • Support people to find their own solutions – a Mentor Mother’s task is not to take on and solve the problems of a family she visits, but to guide the family in finding their own solutions, sometimes by sharing knowledge and skills.

Simple but powerful principles – whether we apply them to one-on-one relationships or to setting up projects aimed at community-level interventions.