The two South Bay women didn't know each other, but they had something in common.
Both of their sons were dying of AIDS and both wished they had been able to confide in others like themselves.
Many months after the young men had died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the two--Barbara Cleaver of Torrance and Mary Jane Edwards of Rancho Palos Verdes--met and were instrumental in founding Mothers of Aids Patients Los Angeles (MAP), a self-help support group for women caught up in the agonies of AIDS or trying to get over the pain of their child's death. It is patterned after the first MAP group founded in San Diego.
Nearly 1 1/2 years after its founding, the Los Angeles group continues to be offering emotional support to women through confidential meetings where they can say anything they want to.
"Only another mother will understand the kind of thing a mother is going through," said Cecily Kahn, supervising social worker at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood, in an interview about MAP earlier this year. "They give help no one else can offer."
But, according to Cleaver, there have been some changes in the past nine months:
A few men are now coming to meetings.
Television exposure has brought letters from similarly suffering mothers who live around the country.
Requests for speaking engagements--from doctors, nurses, AIDS hospice groups and college health care classes--have increased.
The group has been opened to people whose children test positive for the AIDS virus and could develop AIDS or ARC (AIDS-related complex).
"We have gotten more political," Cleaver said, explaining that five MAP members will be at today's gay and lesbian civil rights March in Washington and, while in the capital, will lobby members of Congress for more money for AIDS research and education.
After months of meeting in homes, MAP now meets regularly at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles and Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance. The Torrance meetings, every third Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., are in the health education building.
The MAP story has been told in a video documentary entitled "Too Little, Too Late," which focuses on San Diego founder Barbara Peabody but also includes Cleaver, Edwards and some other Los Angeles MAP families.
"More and more people recognize we are needed and are doing good," Cleaver said. "Mothers can accomplish anything."
Floating Clinic Open for Viewing Before 2nd Trip
The Canvasback has completed its first medical mission to the Marshall Islands--36 spots of land in the South Pacific 6,000 miles away--and is back in San Pedro to take a bow before setting sail to do it again.
With a crew of eight, the 71-foot twin-hulled boat, billed as one of the world's largest catamarans, left on its maiden voyage late last year from San Pedro. About 20 volunteer health professionals later flew to the Marshalls, where there is high malnutrition and infant mortality, and a scarcity of medicine and medical personnel.
The boat was their floating clinic as they went from island to island, treating about 1,000 islanders--providing medical examinations, immunizations, diabetes screening and chalking up more than 900 tooth fillings and root canals.
A nine-member ophthalmology team also performed eye surgery on two teachers, using laser equipment that was in a government hospital, where no one knew how to use it.
The catamaran will be open to the public today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Berth 76, next to Ports O' Call restaurant. Visitors must wear soft-soled shoes or go aboard in stocking feet. There will be a jar for donations, and a fund-raising dinner will be held at 7 p.m. at the restaurant. The Canvasback will sail Monday to Corona del Mar and San Diego, heading for the Marshalls on Oct. 19.
Supported through donations of money and supplies, the Canvasback project is headed by Jamie and Jaque Spence, who once sailed the Pacific for pleasure but now feel they should combine their sailing with helping the islanders.
Jamie Spence last year said the Marshalls--a former U.S. trust territory that became a republic a year ago--are "desolate (places) where it is difficult to keep your health and where communicable diseases are rampant."
The couple spent five years building the $500,000, medically equipped Canvasback, at the same time raising money and enlisting the help of volunteers. The boat's name was taken from a bird that migrates from north to south every year.
That's what the Canvasback is doing as it helps bring health to the Marshalls.