Local women are taking steps to turn the tide against the deadly disease that continues to claim the lives of young Africans leaving innocent children in the care of aging grandmothers.
Marilyn Jones is one of a group of women in Grey County who have pledged to raise funds in support of African grandmothers who have lost their children to HIV/AIDS and who now are left to raise their young grandchildren with limited resources. Marilyn and the women call themselves the Grey Grannies. They are part of Blooms for Africa, a larger group based in Hamilton, and part of still a larger group of women across Canada who support the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation in 15 sub-Saharan countries.
“You will remember that HIV/AIDS hit Africa big time some 35-40 years ago and wiped a generation of young adults,” Marilyn explained. “Millions died leaving young children. It was the grandmothers who had to step up and raise their grandchildren. They came together to support each other, tend to the sick, and try to keep the children in school. HIV/AIDS is still a big problem in Africa, despite medication and education. Unfortunately, the main group contracting AIDS is older teenage girls, hundreds of them. It’s a strange thing.”
Currently Marilyn is participating in a Stride to Turn the Tide by counting her daily steps and adding her steps to those of the Hamilton grannies who are attempting to walk 11,661 virtual kilometres from Hamilton to Uganda. She estimates that between walking, biking, gardening, swimming, and doing household chores, she has been averaging 25,000 steps per day.
The Grey Grannies have two fundraisers scheduled for June and July. They will be selling plants on June 11 during the St. George’s Anglican Church plant sale in Thornbury. On July 1, they will host a book-plus sale at 20 Pollard Drive in Meaford. On July 2, they will receive a donation in exchange for their services packaging dinners during Thornbury’s annual community lobsterfest.
“I am so delighted to be striding again this month with a team from Meaford, Thornbury, Collingwood, and Hamilton,” Marilyn said. “Stride to Turn the Tide is an initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. This virtual walk and fitness challenge raises funds in solidarity with grandmothers and the community-based organizations who support them in sub-Saharan Africa. The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s community-based partner organizations are expertly providing grandmothers with holistic care, including support groups, grief counselling, access to healthcare, income generating projects, counselling for the children in their care, help to send their grandchildren to school, and so much more. I have every faith in the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Ninety per cent of all the funds raised go to programs and grandmothers in Africa. The foundation backs up everything it says with statistics. I feel incredible gratitude that I am able to do something for people with needs that I can’t begin to understand.”
For more information, contact Marilyn Jones at 705-888-1496 or go to bloomsforafrica.org.