The Philani Mentor Mother Programme began in the early 2000 in the informal settlements surrounding Cape Town. Over the years the programme has grown and now employs an average of 100 Mentor Mothers operating in as many communities.
Philani works closely with the Western Cape Department of Health not only offering mothers support, advice and guidance on a range of health issues but also referring mothers to clinics or hospitals in order to ensure that pregnant mothers are provided with the appropriate antenatal care or that children are receiving routine immunisations. In turn, mothers or children who are identified as high risk at a clinic level are referred to a Mentor Mother in their area for follow-up home visits.
The Mentor Mother’s intervention is holistic in its approach, with a child or pregnant mother as a point of entry into a home. Once she has developed a relationship with a mother she is equipped to support the family with the myriad of issues they may face including supporting breastfeeding and correct introduction of solids, guiding a HIV positive mother through the special care she needs to take during her pregnancy, assisting in applying for support grants, counselling against alcohol and drug abuse, counselling mothers that may be suffering from depression or advising a mother on how to use ordinary household items, such as colourful milk bottle tops, to stimulate their child and assist in their development.
As part of this holistic approach the Programme also includes a care programme for bed-ridden adults and those on treatment programmes for chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and diabetes. Mentor Mothers are trained to manage minor health problems such as wound care and mobility issues.