This January, the Sunshine Coast Grandmothers and Grand Others group passed the $100,000 mark in funds raised to help grandmothers caring for their grandchildren, orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
This remarkable achievement was accomplished through the generous support of this community, a myriad of volunteers who made jams, pies and crafts, and organized bazaars, market stalls and garage sales, and the actions of four inspired women.
In 2006 Patt McGuire, Lynda Olsen, Chris Wynne and Pat Thompson joined together to inform other women on the Coast about the devastating effects of the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Having heard the fiery oratory of Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Thompson was open to hearing more.
McGuire had been at a gathering of 200 Canadian and 100 African grandmothers during the International AIDS conference in Toronto, in the summer of 2006. The African grandmothers told their stories about the heartbreak of losing their children to AIDS, and taking on the care of orphaned grandchildren.
Wynne and Olsen were also instantly engaged with the need in Africa and the desire to help. In the fall of 2006, Olsen organized the first fundraiser, a book sale, for the yet unnamed group, sending the money to the Stephen Lewis Foundation for the grandmothers in Africa. Over time, Wynne has baked pies by the dozens, whipped up 50 aprons or more and shown how re-using materials can serve this community and produce funds for Africa.
The inspiration of the four founders of Sunshine Coast Grandmothers and Grand Others has been and continues to be renewed and increased by members of the group.
The most recent event, organized by Gail Wilen, connected the Gibsons Public Art Gallery with the travelling art show focused on the African reality Celebrating African Grandmothers: Heroes of the Continent. The event was a huge success.
The Grandmothers corner of Mosaic Market provides on-going interest and sales.
"We cannot do this work without tears of compassion, but there's always laughter too, and our sisters and brothers in Africa would be pleased to know this, as they sing and dance at every opportunity," said Wynne. "Life is precious. We can dance and help at the same time."
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