Quesnel women help grandmothers in Africa

Quesnel Cariboo Observer, Ken Alexander, November 22, 2017

Joan McNaughton is the chair of the Quesnel Gold Pan Grannies – affiliated with the Stephen Lewis Foundation – and she says the recent fabric and yarn sale was a great success for the Grannies.

McNaughton adds the funds are going to the foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

“This is one of numerous fundraisers we do through the year. This is the first time we have done this one, and from the requests we’ve been getting, I’m sure we’ll be doing it again.

“One of the neatest things was a couple of ladies came in yesterday and said they liked to sew for their children – and need to have that advantage of sewing their own clothes – but fabric has been so expensive and it’s going up in price and they haven’t been able to sew.

“They bought piles of fabric yesterday and we’re so excited they’ll be sewing for their own kids again.

“I thought that was cool. We’re not only helping grandmothers in Sub-Saharan Africa, we’re also helping ladies here do something they like to do in a more economical way.”

McNaughton says the fabric and yarn was at a reduced price because all of it had been donated.

She notes Grandmothers to Grandmothers started a little more than 11 years ago when Lewis left as the UN envoy for AIDS and started the foundation.

“He thought it would be really great if grandmothers in Canada help support – emotionally and not just financially – the grandmothers in Sub-Saharan Africa who were left raising all those little children orphaned by HIV and AIDS – millions of them.”

McNaughton notes some of these grandmothers are in their eighties and they are raising 14-15 kids in their households.

“We can’t fathom that. We can’t understand those hardships.

“For them, finding out that somebody so far away cared was huge. They just thought it was the most amazing thing that people in countries they don’t even know about cared.”

She adds the foundation doesn’t give them just money.

“They tell the foundation what they need, and they get it.”

McNaughton says it could be help with wells, sanitation, training each other to look after others in their homes or literacy support.

“They have been given the tools to be their own advocates to go to their government and say they need this or that and they’re getting it.”

Regarding the HIV and AIDS situation now, McNaughton says a lot of people around the world think it’s getting better in Africa, so “they moved on to the next fluff project that’s going to get them good press.”

“But, it’s not getting better; there are entire generations still living with HIV and AIDS.

“If they can get the medications and the nutrition, they can live with it. But not everybody can get those things, and they still need that support to help them access those things and help them learn how to live with it.

“It’s not going away. The infection rate is better in some areas, but it’s not finished.”

She says they need sex education at a very young age for it to be effective.

“They have to start early because those girls are victims. They need education way earlier, and when they get it, it really helps them.”

Women who are interested in joining Grandmothers to Grandmothers can get more information by calling McNaughton at 250-992-7485.

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