In Africa, HIV and AIDS has robbed millions of children of their parents. African grandmothers are key to survival for families and for communities, often in desperate conditions. Grandmothers to Grandmothers — also known as Grans to Grans — run by the Stephen Lewis Foundation, supports African grandmothers in a movement of solidarity and community.
Sharon Henderson of Nelson Grans to Grans was one of 20 grandmothers selected to travel to sub-Saharan Africa. She’ll share the stories of her experience and of the grandmothers she met in a presentation and slide show on Thursday, November 20 at 7 p.m. at the Nelson Public Library.
“It was a wonderful, exhausting and inspiring journey. Africa is a beautiful and complex continent. Against all odds, the African grandmothers we met showed amazing strength, determination, and resilience,” said Henderson. “We are very much a connection to some hope for them. Our financial support is critical.”
Henderson’s trip took place in March 2014. The intent was to deepen understanding by witnessing first-hand the resilience and ingenuity of these courageous women, and from there increase the ability to raise funds and awareness. Now, Henderson is busy speaking to grandmothers groups, community groups, churches, schools, and media.
What began in 2006 with a few committed Canadian grandmothers has evolved into a dynamic and responsive movement of more than 250 grandmothers groups across the country. More than $21 million has been raised — $170,000 from Nelson alone.
“The African grandmothers are asking us to use our collective voice and resources to support their work, and to turn the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa,” Henderson said. “We have promised that we will not forget them or let them down.”
It was a life-changing experience for Henderson and the 21 other grandmothers selected. Henderson visited projects in Ethiopia and South Africa. She ended her trip at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust in Durban, where she participated in the third annual Gogolympics—an opportunity for South African grandmothers to come together, raise awareness, as well as experience play, something rare for these women who have borne the brunt of the AIDS pandemic.
Donations collected during the evening will benefit the Stephen Lewis Foundation.