In the last enews the history of the Stephen Lewis Foundation was covered from 2003-2006. Grassroots community groups from the most affected HIV / AIDS countries in Africa asked for assistance and were hard at work.
Many Canadians, especially women, had heard Stephen Lewis speak about the work of the Foundation and started to raise funds to help (including in Calgary).
Ilana Landsberg Lewis and her father hatched an ambitious plan to bring 100 of the African grandmothers from 11 of the project countries to Toronto to coincide with the 16th annual International AIDS conference. This was an audacious project; involving enormous logistical problems getting visas, passports and making travel arrangements for 100 women from 11 African countries; many living far from an airport.
But it happened – and lives and communities changed.
Also invited were 200 interested older women from across Canada; many were grandmothers; but certainly not all. This was the launch of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers SLF campaign. Over 3 days participants met in small groups and workshops; all designed, selected and run by and for African grandmothers. Topics ranged from grief and depression management to orphan care and fundraising. The goal was to hammer out models of program support and fundraising.
African grandmothers discovered there were many more women in their same situation than any of them could have imagined. They also were surprised and moved by the support of the Canadian grandmothers. The Canadian women began to realize they could never again see their African counterparts as victims or people to be pitied – they were anxious – but courageous and very determined.
Ideas and lessons were forged at the workshops and a new development model was forged. As the Canadians heard in depth the stories and challenges of the Africans, they were determined afresh to help – but how best to do it?
Usual western fundraising methods such as group twinning, pen palling, sponsorship or adoption were felt by the African delegates to be ineffective and inefficient. One of the important decisions to come from the sessions was that funds would be raised for general grandmother programming; not earmarked for specific groups or organizations. The goal was to be grandmother needs before donor needs or interests while still retaining accountability to the donors.
Thus the African delegates as well as the Canadians present listened, connected and planned. A new movement was formed and grew from there.
Next month: the Toronto statement – “We do not need a great deal but we do need enough”.