Offering aid to Africa

Grandmothers Gathering

Gail Wilen from Sechelt will be one of 11 representatives from across Canada and Australia chosen by the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) to attend the first National South African Grandmothers Gathering in Durban in July 2016. They will be there to witness the deliberation of 1,000 grandmothers attending the conference and to visit a number of the community-based projects partnering with the SLF.

This will be the third gathering of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, the 15 countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. It’s an opportunity for the Gogos (African for Grandmothers) to assemble and share their challenges and accomplishments in the devastation of the pandemic. It gives them a stage for clarifying their needs and bringing attention to their human rights.

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Wilen is a member of the Sunshine Coast Grandmothers and GrandOthers (SCGG) group, founded in 2007 soon after Patt McGuire returned from an international AIDS conference in Toronto where 100 African grandmothers told their heartbreaking stories. In just 10 years, there are now 240 groups across Canada; collectively they’ve raised $25 million for grassroots organizations supporting African grandmothers and the orphaned children they care for. The SCGG have raised over $130,000 in funds on the Coast for the SLF’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

“Being a mother and grandmother, I understand the instinctive need of the African grandmothers to step up and take responsibility for the grandchildren and other orphans in the crisis,” Wilen said. “But it’s their continued strength, courage and resilience in such overwhelming circumstances that is astounding and is what keeps me going. In this campaign we are in solidarity with our African sisters, and we vow ‘we will not rest until they can rest!’”

On her return, Wilen will be an ambassador for the Gogos, and will give presentations to the public about her experiences at the gathering and visits to projects. The Grandmother to Grandmother Campaign is all about amplifying their voices by spreading awareness of the issues.

The representatives must pay for the flight and all travel costs. If you have unused Aeroplan miles, you can donate them to the Stephen Lewis Foundation on Wilen’s behalf. The deadline for this is April 22. To learn more and to donate miles, please see

A plant sale will be held at the Gibsons Library on May 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a garage sale on June 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 4474 Stalashen Dr. (off Mission Road), both events to benefit Wilen’s travel costs. If you can participate in these events, have suggestions or wish to donate, contact Gail Wilen at 604-885-5348 or email

To learn more, see

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