Lethbridge Living, May 8 2012. By Paige Murray.
In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 14.8 million children under the age of 18 have been orphaned by AIDS. The tragic pandemic has turned Africa into a continent of orphans, relying on grandmothers to assume parental responsibilities.
In some cases, these courageous grandmothers have become responsible for not only their own grandchildren, but their nieces’, sister’s, and even neighbours’ children. A few years ago, in some countries of southern Africa, 60 per cent of orphans lived in households run by grandmothers.
Recognizing the immense burden placed on African grandmothers, local organization the Harambee Grandmothers are on a mission to provide relief, compassion and support. As part of the Grandmothers to Grandmother Campaign through the Stephen Lewis Foundation, this group is one of more than 250 individual grandmother groups across the nation.
Unique to The Harambee Grandmas, the group’s name means “working together to ease a burden” in Swahili. The organization, which now boasts a membership upwards of 36, had approximately a dozen members when it was established in 2007.
In the last five years, The Harambee Grandmas have raised nearly $88,000 through a variety of fundraising initiatives. Although their major fundraisers include Good Words for Africa Scrabble Tournament and Stride to Turn the Tide of AIDS in Africa walk, the group has also hosted an African meal called Dare to Dine and sold crafts at local fairs.
From stitched handbags to wallpaper gift bag creations, this group has conjured up some crafty ways to raise awareness and funds over the years. Although the idea did not originate within the Harambee Grandmas’ clan, one the most unique items they are sell are angel ornaments.
These tiny decorations, handmade by members of the group, are meant to represent children under the age of 16 who have lost their lives due to AIDS and HIV. Each angel is given an authentic name African name.
Harambee Grandma Doris Rendel explains that originally the group created only female angels; however her own grandchildren’s curiosity caused the group to expand the variety of angels they sell. “I started to make little boys too, because when my first grandson was four years old he said, ‘Nana, if men can be angels do they have to wear those nightgowns?’ So I just decided they don’t,” laughs Doris.
A donation to the Harambee Grandmas, and other Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign groups, goes directly to African grandmothers and those in their care. These donations make a huge difference in their daily lives. In sub-Saharan Africa, where countless families have been afflicted by AIDS, a little goes a long way.
Did you know?
- $10 provides an orphan with a mandatory school uniform.
- $18 provides supplies for home-based care visits in South Africa, which includes providing HIV-positive patients with basic nursing care at home.
- $31 provides a mattress and bedding for an orphan in the care of their grandmother.
- $55 provides an orphan with the opportunity to attend school. It covers fees and supplies for one year at the elementary or secondary level.
- $80 provides a micro-credit loan to a grandmother to start her own sustainable business.
- $90 supplies a grandmother’s home with water harvesting jars so that her family can have safe drinking water.
- $90 buys a bicycle, which for many women is a means of bringing vegetables and other wares to market to generate income.
- $208 provides a group of grandmothers with packages of seeds that will enable them to grow a variety of vegetables for a community garden.