Like most women worldwide, I have a very ordinary mom. She is not famous, she is not spectacularly rich, she has never invented anything that she had to patent, and she's never saved anyone's life by performing emergency CPR or the Heimlich maneuver. So yes, she was ordinary. And yet she was -- and is, at the age of 73 -- a superhero.
But even now, 50 years later, she says that the time she spent in Africa "gave me a formation ... and left me with a sense of all the things you can do as one person." Of all her life experiences, she says, this one -- caring for families half a world away from her home country -- "probably marked me the most."
Watching my mother and grandmother taught me so much -- seeing them nurture people and animals showed me, through their actions, what mattered most. They made so many sacrifices for our family, and they set the standard. They inspired me from childhood to volunteer and advocate for those less fortunate.
I was born in South Africa, in Durban. My mother was a community health nurse, specializing in family planning. She understood that women's health is vital to the health of the entire society. She was determined to make a difference and express her opinion, and she was my first exposure to activism.
And that was how a tip from one mother, through another mother, to a third mother, about a drug used in villages and small towns in a developing country, along with state of the art medical technology and expertise, saved the life of my friend, in a top-level hospital in one of the world's most developed cities.