ONE MOTHER's Personal Story
It seemed like a miracle to this devastated mother. In 2001, my daughter, Abbey, was diagnosed with the most common form of childhood cancer, but after 2 ½ years of chemotherapy and thanks to the best pediatric oncology doctors in the U.S., Abbey was cured.
On the same day we celebrated her life with a party, in developing countries, children were dying from diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. I began to ask myself how can one child be cured of cancer and another die from dehydration? How can a mother accept this good fortune and not do something to help others? In my heart, I know these mothers because I know what it feels like to fear for my child’s life. This empathy for a mother beside her child’s hospital bed without medical equipment is what drove me to do something. Something inside me leapt to their aid.
I was motivated to educate myself about poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS and women’s empowerment. In 2006, I visited India with a group doing workshops for teachers addressing the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS.
We visited the Tambaram Hospital, the largest HIV/AIDS hospital in India. The hospital has separate wards for men and women. The women’s wards were strikingly empty of visitors. In India, a woman with HIV is often kicked out of her husband’s family’s house and blamed for bringing the infection to her husband and children. Children may be thrown out of the house with their mothers, or, the husband’s family could make it impossible for the children to see their moms. Widows with HIV are frequently denied property rights. Often they end up in a hospital like Tambaram to die alone.
The next day we visited an NGO that helps women with HIV. Most of the women were widows with children and made about one dollar a day. A large group of ladies, children in their laps, greeted us and showed us products they hoped to sell to support themselves. Unfortunately, the cost to ship the items they made was prohibitive. My mind churned with ideas for a product that would empower these women to sustain themselves in dignity. That’s when ONE MOTHER was birthed. www.onemother.org
Now ten ladies make beautiful quilts and scarves from recycled saris using a traditional Indian kantha stitch. This is a central part of our program, however I believe ONE MOTHER’s most valuable assets are the women’s stories of triumph over stigma, discrimination and abuse. Lakshmi, Sasi and Karpagam offer amazing inspiration to women thousands of miles away in Denver, Berlin or Capetown. My vision empowered by this experience is to tell their stories more effectively and create opportunities for connections that help change our world.