Cheryl Fraser has been a passionate supporter of the Grandmothers For Africa campaign for more than a decade.
The movement was started in March 2006 in response to a then emerging crisis faced by African grandmothers as they struggled to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS.
Fraser began her support of the initiative in 2006 and formed a Kelowna Grandmothers for Africa chapter in 2014.
The Kelowna chapter has since raised $100,000 for the campaign, largely through the participation support of the Stride To Turn The Tide walk/run, with the 5th annual event set for Mission Creek Regional Park on Saturday.
But the impact of her charitable efforts hit home when her eight-year-old granddaughter told her she had learned about the campaign at school.
“It was cross-generational in that my granddaughter was gaining some insight at school into what I had been spending my time doing,” Fraser said.
It also gave her pause to reaffirm how valuable her own children and eight grandchildren are to her own life. “It motivates you because you realize how much different your life would be if you didn’t have them.”
The recipients of the Grandmothers For Africa support are left to raise their grandkids often in severe poverty situations without any social or economic infrastructure in place to support them.
Fraser visited Uganda in 2015 to see for herself the impact of Canada’s efforts to support these grandmas.
From Oct. 5 to 7, 2015, hundreds of grandmothers from across Uganda made history. They came together for the country’s first National Grandmothers’ Gathering—an unprecedented opportunity for older women diversely affected by HIV and AIDS to voice their experiences, share their innovative strategies for responding to the pandemic, and collectively lay claim to constitutionally-protected rights too often denied.
The Ugandan grandmothers were joined by grandmother delegations from Kenya and South Africa, as well as by 22 Canadian grandmothers including Fraser.
“I was on that trip as an observer and it was a very moving an inspiring experience that caused me to come home and speak more widely about their plight,” she said.
Besides her granddaughter’s classroom acknowledgement, Fraser has also been recently heartened by two awards the campaign has received.
One is for an Atlantic Publishers award for a book entitled “Powered By Love—A Grandmothers’ Movement to End AIDS in Africa” launched by the Lewis Foundation about the movement last fall, and the other was an international health award presented to the Grandmothers for Grandmothers campaign at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
Fraser said the campaign goals are to give a voice to African grandmothers, that local African governments respond to the rights of those called upon to step up and raise their grandsons and granddaughters, and to help meet their basic sustenance needs.
“This all started with 200 people attending a conference in Toronto and today we have 10,000 members across Canada and the campaign has spread to Australia and the UK,” she said.
The campaign currently boasts more than 240 grandmothers groups across the country. Many of the groups have organized into regional and national networks in order to support each other’s efforts in solidarity with African grandmothers and the children in their care.
A chapter has also started in the U.S. and there is talk in The Netherlands of doing the same.
Canada’s supportive effort was launched by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Fraser said the Kelowna group has a core membership of 12 people, not all of them grandmothers.
“Grandmas across Canada are making a difference and so is our chapter in Kelowna because of the support we have received from our community,” she said.
The Kelowna Grandmothers For Africa Run/Walk takes place Saturday, June 2, at Mission Creek Regional Park, beginning at 9 a.m. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the event winds up at 11 a.m.
There will be a 5-10 km run route and five km walk option. Donations can be made online to www.kelownagrandmothersforafrica.com.
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