Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mama Hope

by Tanya Egan Gibson

On Mother's Day a stranger might hand you a rose. "We honor you today..." the card attached to it will read, "...because mothers are a scarce resource." Across the United States (and especially in the San Francisco Bay Area), volunteers from Mama Hope, a non-profit organization founded by San Francisco resident Nyla Rodgers, in memory of her mother--writer and teacher Stephanie Moore--will gather to hand out free roses to women in honor of mothers around the world, especially Kenya. The card asks only that you check out the foundation's web site:

Stephanie was my writing teacher and friend. I first met her at a California Writers Club meeting at Book Passage, where her presentation was so dynamic that knew I had to take classes from her. She was funny as hell, and kind but tough--traits Nyla inherited from her. Nyla was only in her twenties when she lost Stephanie to ovarian cancer, but instead of, say, curling up in a ball, Nyla started a foundation to save other people's lives in her mother's memory. Mama Hope has built an entire clinic in Kenya serving 120,000 who otherwise wouldn't have health care.

The goal of the Roses of Hope Campaign is not only to spread love to mothers in local communities--women like Stephanie who "mothered" every writer who came to her classes saying, "I suck. I can't do this," and left wanting to write again-- but also to raise awareness for Mama Hope's health clinic project in Kenya's impoverished Isiolo Region. The Mama Tumaini health clinic is the only community-run clinic within 500 miles. All donations raised as a result of campaign efforts will fund continued health care services, and specifically the vaccine that prevents mothers infected with HIV from passing on the disease to their unborn children. It costs less than $25,000 to run the busy Mama Tumaini clinic for an entire year.

San Francisco Bay Area participants, including a number of mother and daughter teams, will meet in front of the historic Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco to spread the message of Mama Hope through gifts of fair trade roses to passersby. Additional volunteer groups in Marin and Sonoma Counties will congregate to hand out Roses of Hope in their towns. Rose recipients will be encouraged to pass along the flowers to their own mothers--or other mothers whom they respect--in honor of mothers in Kenya who routinely care for an average of 12 or more children, compensating for mothers lost to HIV and AIDS.

Nyla hopes this will be "an inspiring and uplifting community event, in which hope, joy, and motherhood will be celebrated. At the same time we hope to bring attention to the fact that an entire generation of mothers in Sub Saharan Africa are disappearing due to HIV/AIDS and that the 16 million orphans that have been left behind need our support."

For more information about the 2009 Roses of Hope Campaign, and about Mama Hope in general, please visit A happy and peaceful Mother's Day to all.

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