Local grannies turn summer trek into African aid

Members of the Glebe Grammas to Ambuyas, from left: Cindy Delage, Sheila Selley, Laura Tanner,
Anne Joyce, Carol MacLeod.   Photo: Diane Woods

By Barbara Coyle

Grandmothers from our region are once again springing into action to raise funds for the Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers Campaign (G2G) of the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF). The One World Challenge, led by Ottawa’s One World Grannies group, is an exciting summer fundraiser – participants from several local granny groups will embark on a virtual journey through sub-Saharan Africa. This is one of many virtual events planned in Canada this year to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the G2G.

Support for Africa’s grannies is more urgent than ever. They struggle to cope with the twin pandemics of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, as well as the growing threats of climate change.

The goal of the challenge is to raise $25,000 and to cover a distance of over 10,000 km. From May 1 to September 1, participants will trek through the 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the SLF has 325 community-based partners. Supporting donors are invited to make a one-time donation. Each participant tracks the number of hours they spend performing a chosen activity, whether it be walking, running, cycling, gardening or even tap-dancing. Any activity qualifies (except sleeping!), and each hour contributes 5 km to the trek. Donors and participants will receive regular bulletins on the trek’s progress, as well as news and stories about the work being done by the SLF partners in each country.

Knowing how COVID-19 has drastically changed our world, trekkers will discover how its challenges are being met in sub-Saharan Africa. People affected by HIV and AIDS are particularly at risk for infection, making the SLF’s healthcare partners a vital lifeline to vulnerable communities where access to food and medicine is so limited. With restrictions on movement, home-based care workers have become a crucial part of the COVID-19 response.

“Grandmothers depend on the healthcare workers to take the drugs for their grandchildren because we are not done with HIV and AIDS,” explains Idah Mukuka Nambeya, senior advisor to the G2G, from her home in Zambia.

One World Challenge participants will trek (virtually) more than 10,000 kilometres from Addis Ababa to Cape Town to raise funds for African grandmothers. Please join them! Map: Courtesy of Stephen Lewis Foundation

In South Africa, the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust has mobilized door-to-door COVID-19 screenings for vulnerable households. Cwengekile Nikiwe Myeni, the passionate founder of the trust, is an outstanding example of the resilient and determined spirit of Africa’s women in the face of adversity. The 77-year-old grandmother of nine grew up in a rural part of KwaZulu-Natal and worked for the department of health for 30 years. “It was a miracle that I got educated,” she says, “because my family was very poor, and it was during the apartheid era in South Africa.” When the time came for her to retire in 2003, the AIDS pandemic was still ravaging communities all over South Africa. Instead of hanging up her uniform and enjoying her well-earned retirement, she felt compelled to take action rather than watch members of her community suffer and die. “Working as a nurse made me realize that life is not about yourself, it is also about others.”

Care for others and solidarity with women like Myeni is at the heart of what motivates the members of One World Grannies and the other 160 grandmother groups across Canada to continue to raise funds with enthusiasm and boundless energy. Over the past 15 years, their combined efforts have raised more than $36 million for projects that support the courageous grandmothers of Africa and the vulnerable children in their care.

“I wouldn’t usually ask friends and family for donations like this,” says Diane Woods, leader of Glebe-based Grammas to Ambuyas, “but this cause is so close to my heart, and I think it could be a lot of fun. I know my group will donate generously to those of us who are trying online fundraising for the first time.”

The One World Challenge is open to all. Why not join us and make every hour of your physical activity count this summer? Signing up is easy – we’ll even help you do it! Contact Jenny Brooks at jbroo@sympatico.ca or visit oneworldgrannies.ca/.

Barbara Coyle is a founding member of Grammas to Ambuyas and a keen supporter of the Grandmothers Campaign.

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