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Harambee Grandmas in stitches for upcoming fabric and yarn sale

Posted on October 12, 2023 by Vauxhall Advance

By Heather Cameron
Vauxhall Advance
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The 6th Annual Harambee Grandmas Fabric and Yarn Sale will take place on October 20-21 at McKillop United Church in Lethbridge, with the yarn and notions sale on the 20th and the fabric sale on the 21st.

Mardi Renyk of the Harambee Grandmas says that the proceeds from the sales will go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers Campaign and the unsold items are donated to various charitable groups and school programs after the sale is done. The Harambee Grandmas, Renyk says, is the local chapter of the Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers campaign. 

“The Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers Campaign was launched in 2006 as an initiative of the SLF in response to the emerging crisis faced by grandmothers in Africa,” Renyk said. “In the face of discrimination based on gender, age, and HIV status, these women are courageous advocates for their families and communities.”

Renyk says that the word ‘Harambee’ means “all pull together” in Swahili and the Harambee Grandmas are all about “working together to make a difference.” Since the Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers campaign was formed, Renyk says, more than $40 million has been raised in support of grandmothers and the work they do in their community-based organizations. 

Many of these grassroots organizations in African countries were originally formed by small groups of individuals responding to the crisis AIDS had wrought in their own lives and in the lives of their neighbours, Renyk says. Over the years, Renyk says, they have developed into thriving organizations with deep connections to their communities.

“The Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) is a progressive, feminist organization rooted in the principles of social justice, international solidarity, and substantive equality,” Renyk said. “The SLF was created in 2003 with the express purpose of supporting community-based organizations working on the front lines of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Since its creation, the SLF has partnered with 325 community-based organizations on more than 1800 initiatives in the 15 sub-Saharan Africa countries that have been hardest hit by the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

Stephen Lewis, the Founder of the Foundation, recently sent a thank you letter to Renyk in response to a donation she personally made for one of the Harambee Grandmas programs, an annual Stride to Turn the Tide Walk in July. 

In the letter, Lewis stated that according to the UNAIDS report, between 2017 and 2018, money for care, prevention, and treatment, and HIV declined by a billion dollars. Lewis says that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has asked donors for at least $14 billion dollars for the period 2021 to 2023 inclusive because they say the total required is $32 billion and there is a shortage of $18 billion. 

The 2019 UNAIDS report, Lewis says, shows that HIV is far from over; 160,000 children were infected with it last year, the majority of them becoming so as a result of the birthing process. Furthermore, Lewis said, there are 6,200 new infections every week among young women and girls.

“Cutbacks in global health, particularly women’s health, are doing severe damage to families and communities in Africa where the AIDS pandemic is rooted,” Lewis said. “In our own limited fashion, we have to try and compensate for the turmoil this has caused.”

Renyk says that the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s community-based partners are turning the tide of HIV and AIDS by providing care and support to children orphaned by AIDS, LGBTQ communities, women suffering abuse, and people living with HIV and AIDS.

The campaign itself, Renyk says, started with just a few groups in Canada and now includes 10,000 grandmothers and grand-others in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was launched in 2006 as an initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation in response to the emerging crisis faced by African grandmothers, Renyk says, and since 2006, more than $40 million has been raised in support of grandmothers and the community-based organizations who support them in sub-Saharan Africa. Renyk says that in the face of discrimination based on gender, age, and HIV status, they are courageous advocates for their families and communities.

Since 2003, Renyk says, the SLF has partnered with 325 community-based organizations on more than 1800 initiatives in the 15 countries that have been hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

“Many of these grassroots organizations were originally formed by small groups of individuals responding to the crisis AIDS had wrought in their own lives and in the lives of their neighbours,” Renyk said. “Over the years, they have developed into thriving organizations with deep connections to their communities. The SLF’s community-based partners are turning the tide of HIV and AIDS by providing care and support to women, children orphaned by AIDS, LGBTQ communities, grandmothers and people living with HIV and AIDS. These grandmothers groups organize fundraising events and activities and act in solidarity with the grandmothers and the SLF’s community-based partners in sub-Saharan Africa. The Harambee Grandmas, Lethbridge and district’s local group, have been part of the campaign since the beginning and continue to create ways – such as our annual fabric and yarn sales – to engage our own community in supporting this very worthy endeavour.”

For more information about the Harambee Grandmas or the Grandmothers-to Grandmothers campaign, visit the Harambee Grandmas Facebook page: Harambee Grandmas or the Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers Campaign website, grandmotherscampaign.org. 

“This international grandmothers’ movement amplifies the voices and expertise of African grandmother leaders and shows the world that grandmothers have a critical role to play in reclaiming hope and rebuilding resilience,” Renyk said. “It is beyond rewarding and affirming to see so much goodness in the hearts of so many people who give of their time and talents to bring awareness and assistance to those that the organization serves. It proves that the world is indeed a global community.”

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