In the summer of 2010, UJAMAA GRANDMAS became a non-profit society, registered under the Societies Act of Alberta. A Board of Directors replaced the Steering Committee. This new structure came with job descriptions, by-laws, financial procedures, and official meetings. Since becoming a society, UJAMAA GRANDMAS has continued to formalize the governance structure while maintaining a welcoming and informal atmosphere at the gatherings. Monthly gatherings were for several years held in members’ homes, but as the number of members grew, the Board decided to hold gatherings at public venues; Sewing World in the south, and Foothills Lutheran Church in the north.
Committees were established for the two major fundraising events – FABRIC & YARN SALE and BAGS, BABIES & BEYOND – and the scope of fundraising expanded to include Kazuri Jewelry sales, a fashion show, and milestone celebrations. A Speakers’ Bureau was formed to provide presentations to groups, clubs, organizations and schools on the work of SLF in Africa and the need to support this work. Donations arising from these speaking events became a significant component of the overall contribution to the foundation.
UJAMAA GRANDMAS won a visit from Stephen Lewis; a result of participation of a small group who received the highest average score in the nation-wide Scrabble tournament for Grandmothers’ groups. A major school fundraising event, Turning the Tide, was organized, bringing together over 400 high school students to attend a social justice conference and compete to raise funds for SLF. At the last minute, Stephen Lewis was unable to attend the conference due to illness but visited Calgary later that year, when he gave a speech to a full house of about 400 people, and more funds were raised.
In the fall, SLF organized the Afri-grand Caravan, a cross-Canada tour by a group of African grandmothers and their grandchildren. These guests were brought to Canada by the SLF to give talks and raise awareness of the needs in Africa. UJAMAA GRANDMAS hosted a grandmother-granddaughter pair, grandmother Tsabele and granddaughter Thandeka, in Calgary for visits and presentations.
2010 was also the year of the Swaziland Gathering. SLF sent approximately 40 representatives from grandmothers’ groups across Canada to a first-ever coming together of African grandmothers to talk about the challenges they face and how they can strengthen their efforts to stem the tide of HIV /AIDS. UJAMAA GRANDMAS members, Ellen Monaghan and Yvonne Way, attended the gathering and brought back stories and pictures to share with our group and others.
In 2011, the website, www.ujamaagrandmas.com, was launched and proved to be an important enhancement to our communication with members, customers and the public, providing information about UJAMAA GRANDMAS, fundraising events, links to local and national groups and links and book reports for additional information on the issues facing African Grandmothers. It is the portal for registration for membership, workshops and volunteer opportunities.
UJAMAA GRANDMAS was approached by Dr. Morris Gibson School in Okotoks to participate in joint fundraising for SLF. Several members created and performed a skit for the schoolchildren, as part of what the SLF called the Red Shoelaces Campaign, designed to raise awareness of children about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and the needs of grandmothers and their orphan grandchildren.
In September 2012, the first Ujamaa Grandmas Fashion Show was held and another was to follow a year and a half later. 2012 also saw the first sponsorship from the Heritage Park Rotary Club of Calgary and was the beginning of a longer relationship with that organization.
In 2013, the board undertook to define a Mission and Vision for UJAMAA GRANDMAS. The Mission is “To raise funds and awareness for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, using the skills and talents of a vibrant volunteer community.” Our Vision is to be “an enduring and nurturing community that works to transform the lives of African grandmothers and children affected by HIV/AIDS.” This three-pronged platform – raising funds, raising awareness, and nurturing our own community of members – is the measure against which new projects are evaluated for consideration.
2013 saw the demise of the Canadian penny, which provided another avenue for fundraising. Pennies for Change raised over $1000. The Speaker’s Bureau connected with a variety of groups and, along with Kazuri Jewelry Sales, made a significant impact on the funds that are sent by us and in our name to the foundation. Milestone Celebrations, with donations to the Foundation in lieu of gifts, continued to be dynamic. Local individuals and organizations gave donations to defray the cost of sales and events enabling us to send more of our money to the Foundation.
In September, SLF sponsored the African Grandmothers’ Tribunal in Vancouver, and a UJAMAA GRANDMAS group participated, getting firsthand stories of our African Grandmothers. Hearing these poignant, real-life experiences humbled and inspired us to work even harder to help them make life better for the children in their care and themselves.
In the fall, UJAMAA GRANDMAS hosted the Provincial Gathering of 19 Alberta-based Grandmother groups under the theme Together We Can. Speakers included representatives from the Foundation, Leah Teklemariam and Tammy Ebuen. Ida Nambeya, an African Grandmother, was the key-note speaker. A traveling art exhibit from the Royal City Gogos of New Westminster, B.C., featuring works inspired by African grandmothers, was on view to participants and the public during the Gathering.
In 2014, SLF organized a second Africa visit and Alison Longson represented UJAMAA GRANDMAS, visiting projects in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa. Upon her return, Alison gave more than 20 presentations around Southern Alberta, raising awareness of the SLF’s work.
2014 was a challenging year as UJAMAA GRANDMAS crossed the good news/bad news earning threshold that required collection and payment of GST and income tax. This necessitated a significant change in financial operations. This is a testament to our success in fundraising. 2014 also saw the end of Kazuri Jewelry sales after many successful years and the breaking of the $30,000 mark for the FABRIC & YARN SALE and the $50,000 mark for BAGS, BABIES & BEYOND.
A new fundraiser started in 2014 – Walk in the Park. This is UJAMAA GRANDMAS’ version of the SLF annual Stride fundraising event. Instead of doing one annual walk, UJAMAA GRANDMAS members meet for a walk twice a week. Members donate $2 per walk and by December, 2016 had cumulatively walked 3,300 kms and raised over $1,900 for SLF.
In 2015, the FABRIC & YARN SALE saw a surprise visit from Stephen Lewis, who was in Calgary for a speaking engagement. Two new fundraisers were implemented: the first was participation in the distribution of convocation regalia at SAIT, in exchange for an honorarium and a small group of volunteers responded on short notice to make this a success (this fundraiser was repeated on two more occasions), the second was an evening speaking event by Barbara Coloroso, a well-known US parenting expert and former Board member of SLF. Barbara spoke on “Bullies, The Bullied, and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander”. The event was organized in record time by a small committee, Barbara generously donated her time and all profits went to the SLF.