AIDS: grandmothers helping grandmothers

In the face of a daunting challenge, it helps to look to your friends and neighbors. Start small and tackle the problem a little bit at a time.

This is one of the few philosophies that seem to yield results when it comes to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The challenge is so massive, many are easily discouraged in the face of it.

The statistics are staggering. Millions of people in the Sub-Sahara region are infected with HIV/AIDS. Entire generations are being wiped out by the ravages of the illness. 13 million children have lost their parents to AIDS. 13 million.

In many cases, orphans can only turn to their grandmothers for help. These same grandmothers, who have had to bury their own children, are taking up the challenge of trying to raise their grandchildren in some of the most deprived areas of the world. These are the silent, unknown heroes of the continent.

Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, is one of the few who champions their selfless work. Drawing on the principle of people helping each other, the Stephen Lewis Foundation launched the "Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign" last year.
Its goals are simple: raise awareness, build solidarity and mobilize support for Africa's grandmothers.

Today more than 150 grandmother groups in Canada have connected with an equal number of groups in Africa.

Canadian grandmothers have raised more than $1 million to help the Foundation bring financial support to grandmothers in 14 African countries. According to the Foundation website, the money goes to food, schools, income-generating projects like communal gardens, counseling, and "coffins and dignified burials for their loved ones."

The grandmothers initiative has become a movement. The movement has become an example of successful grassroots activism. So successful, in fact, that it is now sparking hope for a similar campaign to bring together the world's youth.

According to the Foundation, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 represent half of the new infections. Stephen Lewis and his team now see the possibility of high schools, colleges and universities working together to support the young people of Africa. It's still an idea in its infancy, but any campaign that works at a grassroots level provides hope. And hope is essential to keep up the fight against AIDS.

For more information on the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, see:

For an overview of the Youth Making a Difference idea:

For United Nations information on world AIDS:

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