Posted on 08 August 2012 by Mathew White
They’re called the Grandmothers for Africa, and much like the name suggests, they’re here to lend a helping hand to the grandmothers of Africa who are struggling to raise their families.
“I think the pandemic in Africa has been devastating in so many countries,” said Marion Boyd, publicity co-ordinator of the Grandmothers for Africa Oliver branch. “AIDS have just wiped out entire populations, and unless somebody looks after the surviving kids, there’s going to be trouble down the road. Big trouble.”
The Grandmothers for Africa organization was started on March 7, 2006, by Stephen Lewis – a prominent Canadian politician and former special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
“It was his (Lewis’) idea, when he saw what was happening in Africa with AIDS, to connect at a grassroots level, grandmothers over there who are raising their grandchildren after their children have died of AIDS, with grandmothers over here,” said Boyd.
Boyd said that Lewis was so struck by what he saw in Africa that he decided to start an organization that would not only help people on a financial level, but an emotional one as well.
To date, the Grandmothers for Africa organization, which is run as an off-shoot of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, has more than 300 branches across Canada and has raised more than $9 million for African grandmothers in 15 sub-Saharan African countries.
And unlike a number of other organizations, this particular one only operates at a grassroots level.
“They are not giving out drugs, they’re not building buildings, they’re not doing all that big, big stuff,” said Leslie Marriott, treasurer of the Oliver Grandmothers for Africa. “What they do is connect with little groups in Africa and provide things like counselling and transportation.”
A few other examples of the many things provided through the organization include food, housing grants, school fees, uniforms and many others.
Boyd said the Oliver branch of the organization was formed in January 2011. She said after attending a number of meetings out of Penticton, she thought it would be a great idea to start a local branch.
“We went up to the Penticton meetings and thought it would be a good idea to start one here,” said Boyd.
Since their inception, Marriott said they’ve had one goal in mind: fundraising.
The group tries to put on five major fundraisers a year, with the goal of raising about $1,000 during each event, she said.
And while most organizations take the standard “sell this and donate the money” method, the Grandmothers for Africa have discovered a clever way to double their funds.
Instead of purchasing or creating items themselves, which Boyd says ends up creating more work than anything, the organization buys hand-made jewelry directly from Africa and has it shipped to Canada, where they sell it and send the profits right back to Africa.
“We’re able to raise funds at two levels: whatever we gain from the sale we send to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, but also the people who actually made the product, they of course get the money that way,” said Marriott.
The next big fundraising event for the Grandmothers for Africa is the Nk’Mip Canyon Course Ladies Night’s fundraiser on Monday, August 13.
Here, attendees will have the opportunity to play nine holes of golf, enjoy a lovely dinner and take part in a presentation by the group. And of course, hand-made beaded pins from South Africa will be available for purchase.
Currently there is no Osoyoos branch of the Grandmothers for Africa; however, there are a few ladies from Osoyoos who take part in the Oliver branch. Boyd is hoping, just as they did out of Penticton, that enough interest will be gained in Osoyoos to form its own branch.