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Global Healthcare: Moms Helping Moms

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Have you ever wondered why all the focus on global healthcare issues when there is so much suffering right in our own communities and sometimes as close as in the next bedroom?

My little brother, Mark, was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 16 years old. But his struggles began shortly after birth when he nearly died from a rare disease and later suffered from ADHD and learning disabilities all throughout school. I watched as my mom, a mother of six, fought for information, diagnoses, solutions, and later, for Mark's rights. She became educated, advocated on Mark's behalf—and on the behalf of countless others suffering from mental illness. She then educated other parents on how to have hope, how to fight, and how to parent. At a time when she couldn't even discuss his illness with her neighbors due to the stigma associated with it, my mom was relentless in doing everything she could to be the best parent possible and to help other parents in similar situations have hope, gain information, and be the best parents they could be to their mentally ill children.

When I visited Africa a year and a half ago, I saw this same desire in mothers there as I saw in my own mom—the desire to have access to information and to have the healthcare options available to raise healthy children. I also recognized the desire to help other parents who have been through similar circumstances.

Africa-Global Health-Polio-Motherhood

I learned of one such example recently—Toma Mamout—a mother of seven from Chad, Africa.

Four of Toma’s children died young, one from Polio. Her loss became her calling. Not wanting others to experience similar loss, she worked to encourage mothers in Chad to vaccinate their children. Working in both a hospital and at the West Mongo health centre, she runs the day-to-day work of the program—from vaccinating children to holding education sessions with mothers.

According to Toma, on her rounds to the more distant villages, the semi-nomadic local communities “refused until recently to allow their children to be vaccinated, out of ignorance and fear.”

Meeting regularly with authorities and health organizations that cooperate in setting up Polio campaigns and routine vaccination drives seems to have made huge inroads in helping raise awareness and help the people there to resolve their concerns.

Similarly for my mom, a little information made a lot of difference. My brother, now in his mid 30s, isn't out of the woods. His will be a lifelong battle with ups and downs. But awareness, access to information and medication, and help from organizations like the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill have made a huge difference.

Global Healthcare: How You Can Help Make a Difference

Mothers in Africa need the same kind of resources, but unlike my mom who had access to ample resources here in the U.S., African mothers need our help. Awareness is one step. Having access to the vaccines is a critical next step. The impact of vaccines on the lives of children around the world is incredible, especially when we consider that 25 years ago, 125 countries were Polio endemic and today, thanks to awareness and vaccines, we are only three countries shy of worldwide eradication. This is just one disease children in Africa face, but a positive example of how, with the help of vaccines, a disease can be eradicated.

Now, you can help sustain the impact by sending an email to your member of congress. Welcome your members to the 113th Congress and ask them to make sure that global healthcare and vaccines are a priority in the new Congress. Take action and make an impact!


This story comes from UNICEF and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss Ilina Ewen's post on Dirt and Noise! Go to to learn more.  

Photo courtesy of UNICEF.
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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


14 responses to “Global Healthcare: Moms Helping Moms”

  1. […] This story comes from The GAVI Alliance and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss  Jyl Pattee’s post! […]

  2. Elena says:

    You are so right Jyl about the fact that we all just want to do what is best for our children-whether we live on one side of the ocean or another. Thank you for sharing your story, and your mom and brother’s story with us.

  3. ~j. says:

    Very nice, Jyl! Thank you for sharing your family’s story.

  4. Adrian says:

    Awesome post Jyl. I look forward to learning more at the Shot@Life Champions Summit next week.

  5. What a beautiful story and amazing mom who turned tragedy into good. Thank you for sharing!

  6. GCarroll says:

    I am so moved by mothers who are able to go beyond their own VERY challenging circumstances to help others similarly situated. These are truly heroic feats of maternal devotion and courage. Thank you for sharing your mother’s and Ms. Mamout’s inspiring stories, Jyl.

  7. Thank you for sharing your brother’s story. God bless women like Toma who are moved beyond their circumstances to help others.

  8. MelodyRN says:

    Thank you Mom It Forward for participating in Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact.’ It’s inspiring to read about how different bloggers (such as yourself) feel connected to the mothers and children whom health advocates are desperately trying to help around the world. I’m glad you had an opportunity to meet these strong woman, who are determined to give their children everything possible to help them grow and lead productive lives, Keep up the good work!

  9. Jyl, your post is just beautiful. Your Mom sounds like she was an incredible force for good in your life and in your brother’s – and Toma is an inspiration to us all. Thank you for posting!

  10. Julie Marsh says:

    It really does blow my mind that we’re THISCLOSE to eradicating polio. One of my favorite series of books as a kid was All of a Kind Family, in which they told stories of consumption and infantile paralysis. It made a stark impact on me, realizing I’d been vaccinated for polio and would never have to bear such worries. Now, a century after the setting of these books, practically no one in the entire world has to worry about polio anymore either. It’s astounding to think about.

  11. Jill Greenlaw says:

    What a beautiful post, Jyl. I love how you have dedicated your life to helping others, including your family. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  12. Ana Flores says:

    Thank you for putting thsi into perspective. We can’t allow stories like Toma seem so remote to us that we forget how interconnected we all are. You story remids us all that a mother is a mother no matter where or the circumstances, but that our fate is not all the same.

  13. […] a cause you are passionate about? Want to take action, but don’t know where to begin? Communicating with your local senators and members of […]

  14. Jyl,

    One of six? Wow! I love the example of your mother fighting for the health of her child and how that in turn motivates you to work on such fantastic global health initiatives. Awesome!

    Jen 🙂

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