Stitch by stitch, area grandmothers are contributing about $10,000 a year to better the lives of African grandmothers.
Raised over six years, these funds have been donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, with 90 per cent of the money going directly to the people who need it, says active local grandma Margaret Filiatrault, who recently attended a BC Interior Grandmothers Campaign Gathering.
On a much larger scale, Filiatrault says 240 grandmother groups across the country have raised $16.5 million since 2004.
Attendees at the Oct. 23 meeting in Kamloops learned about the various fundraising projects undertaken by other groups.
While they were interesting, Filiatrault says the local group has been served well by the knitting and sewing efforts of a core group of about 15 to 20 people.
“People donate wool and it turns up on Bernadette Forer’s step,” says Filiatrault of the club’s president, who is always happy to get wool sweaters as well as yarn, and takes them apart to make “famous Shuswap mittens” that are much in demand.
“Some members of the core group belong to the quilting guild so we get hand-sewn items as well.”
These items are sold at the Mall at Piccadilly on the first Friday of the month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and two annual big sale days, which this year fall Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8.
“The support from this community is phenomenal,” says Filiatrault. “I worked at the mall one day and a woman showed up with a shopping bag full and said ‘my church isn’t taking this any more.’”
The group was also successful in making $300 by taking a collection to the conference and selling items to other grandmas.
Another highlight for the grandmothers was keynote speaker Ky’okusinga Kirunga, who was raised in Uganda and Kenya and has worked with the Stephen Lewis Foundation for five years.
The Grandmothers to Grandmothers project was developed to support African grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
“When Ky’okusinga started visiting the projects in 2006, she saw desperation, grief, poverty and depression,” says Filiatrault, noting that with help, they are now better able to feed and care for their grandchildren and other orphans.
“They have had their dignity restored and they are feeling embowered, proud and happy.”
Kirunga told the women that one of the benefits of the Stephen Lewis Foundation is that it can act fast to address issues.
For example, Filiatrault says other agencies gifted a village with two vans and the foundation stepped up to run them.
“It was a wonderful gift but, how are they going to pay for gas and maintenance?” she asks. “Stephen Lewis Foundation to the rescue, because they can move quite quickly.”
Filiatrault points out the foundation has joined Imagine Canada, a national organization that oversees charities and nonprofits.
“I wouldn’t belong to an organization I didn’t believe in,” says Filiatrault. “I trust the organization to do the right thing with my money.”