Wednesday, 02 November 2011 15:02

Grandmothers will help grandmothers Nov. 19

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By Jessi Gowan — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On Nov. 19, a local grandmothers’ group will be holding a fundraiser in Swift Current, where handcrafted jewelry from women’s co-operatives in Kenya will be available for sale.

Proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which offers support to grassroots organizations in Africa.

The group was organized as part of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, a network of Canadian grandmothers who work to raise awareness and money to assist African grandmothers who are raising children orphaned by the devastating AIDS pandemic. Funds from the Campaign are sent directly to community level, to grassroots organizations that provide grandmothers and the children in their care with supports that include food, educational supplies, uniforms and school fees, medical care, HIV counselling and testing, adequate housing and bedding, counselling and support groups, home visits, and much more.

“It’s quite a powerful story,” explained Colleen MacBean, one of the founding members of the group. “What’s happening over there is just horrific. These are not young women, and some of them are raising two, four, 10, or 12 kids. They are still facing the grief of losing their own children, and are taking on the responsibility of raising these little ones who have lost their parents.”

In 2006, MacBean attended a gathering in Toronto, where Canadian grandmothers were given an opportunity to meet face-to-face with some of the African grandmothers in need of assistance. After her experience in Toronto, MacBean set out to start up a grandmothers’ group in Swift Current.

“Being a grandmother myself, and having the opportunity to hear those stories and see the courage and strength in those women from Africa, I felt really moved,” MacBean said.

“These grandmothers are carrying sub-saharan African on their backs. It’s truly heroic, what they are doing.”

In many countries throughout Southern Africa, it is estimated between 40 to 60 per cent of the 14.8 million orphaned children are living in grandmother-headed households. In just five short years, Canadians have raised an astonishing $12 million for these African grandmothers through the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

“I think when we Canadian grandmothers look at all our children have here — health care, food, a safety network if something goes wrong — none of which are available in Africa,” MacBean noted. “The work that these grandmothers are doing to make a living and provide for their families is just incredible. It’s touching and very courageous. I think that’s what really appealed to me and the other women involved in the group.”

To help support the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the local grandmothers will be holding a jewelry sale at the Welcome Centre in Swift Current Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The grandmothers have done well with this fundraiser for the last several years, and last year managed to raise more than $1,500 in one day to donate to the foundation.

“We were very pleased with that, for a day’s effort,” MacBean said. “We hope that by doing the fundraiser, we can let people know about the foundation and how important this is to the grandmothers in Africa. This jewelry is attractive, makes a great Christmas gift, and is being sold to benefit a worthy cause.”

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