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Grandmothers attract green thumbs and sweet tooths in Harrowmithby Julie Druker
Photo: Members of Grandmothers-by-the-Lake, the South and Central Frontenac chapter of the Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmother Campaign at their annual plant and bake sale in Harrowsmith on June 2.
Members of the four-year-old Grandmothers-by-the-Lake group, the South and Central Frontenac chapter of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, attracted a steady stream of shoppers on June 2 in Harrowsmith. The event, which took place at the Tiffany Gift Shoppe, was the group’s fourth annual plant and bake sale, an event that has been attracting an ever-increasing number of loyal shoppers happy to donate to the cause.
The group raises funds in support of the countless African grandmothers who have been supporting over 13.5 million African children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic there.
On May 17 the group hosted an information evening at Trinity United church in Verona, where Zahra Mohamed, director with the SLF's Grandmothers Campaign, spoke to grandmothers’ groups from Kingston, Belleville, Lanark and Westport. She spoke of the importance of Canadian grandmothers “staying the course”, citing how some of the usual funding resources relied on by the African grandmothers are drying up. She also spoke of the solidarity that has been created between African grandmothers (Bogogos) and their Canadian counterparts, and how that solidarity is inspiring African grandmothers to continue to “aggressively seek out opportunities for cooperative ventures in their home villages”. Those ventures are generating income to increase food supplies, education and improved home care for the sick.
Adele Colby, who is the current chair of Grandmothers-by-the-Lake, highlighted the reasons for the meeting, which included how to be re-energized when experiencing fund raising fatigue. She also updated guests on the various projects that the Canadian grandmothers are helping to support.
In an email following the event, Colby summed up what she felt was a very positive and encouraging meeting. “Meeting other chapter members and hearing how they are going about fundraising and staying motivated was very encouraging and it was felt overall that future information sessions like this one should be welcomed and encouraged.”
In Harrowsmith at the plant & bake sale, I spoke with Sylvia Powers, who's been a member of Grandmothers-by-the-Lake since it began. She reiterated Colby's remarks. “What is amazing is that we Canadian grandmothers are doing here exactly what the African grandmothers are doing over in Africa. They too are holding bake and plant sales and holding dinners to raise funds, which creates the feeling that this not about the rich giving to the poor but rather that we are all equals and partners working together to achieve the same goals.” Powers also spoke of her personal dedication to the group and their cause. “When I think of the grandmothers over there who are not only dealing with the grief from having to watch their children and grandchildren die but who also have the disease themselves and are at the same time are the only ones that these orphans can rely on, I know that the work we are doing is very important. The entire situation in Africa is chaotic enough but without the African grandmothers and the support they give, the situation would be far worse.”
One issue that the group feels very strongly about, though they are no longer directly attached to it through their campaign, is the importance of making HIV/AIDS medications available throughout Africa. Powers also touched briefly on this issue. “These medications have the ability to significantly decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS from mothers to their children and the fact that right now they are not being made available is a very great tragedy and something that definitely needs to change.”
The Grandmothers-by-the-Lake group, which now has close to 30 members, welcomes new members. For more information contact Adele Colby at 613-375-8845. For more information about the SLF Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign visit www.grandmotherscampaign.org