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'Grandmothers-To-Grandmothers' luncheon

Inner Wheel raises $9K for foundation in Africa

Residents heard first-hand experiences of the struggles in Africa because of the AIDS and HIV pandemic, after three speakers talked about what they have gone through; they were with the AfriGrand Caravan at the Inner Wheel's "Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers" fundraising luncheon at the Weyburn Royal Canadian Legion on Oct. 18.

The "Grandmothers-to-Grandmothers" fundraising luncheon raised $9,175 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. This was the third year the Weyburn Inner Wheel hosted the event, and they raised $6,125 in 2008, and $8,768 in 2009.

"The Inner Wheel of Weyburn has been a huge supporter of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports grassroots organizations in 15 countries in Africa," explained Healy Thompson, representative from the Foundation. "It is these grassroots organizations who are turning the tide against HIV and AIDS in their communities."

"In a country where the life expectancy is only 39 years, there is a need to involve, educate and empower the young people of Africa and it means the difference between hope or despair, and life or death for millions," added Thompson.

The first speaker was Maness Kamwaza, age 18, who is a peer educator with one of Consol Homes' core programs, the Orphan Affairs Unit (OAU). Kamwaza has taken the role of primary caregiver to her brothers and sisters, and is involved with youth support groups where she provides peer counselling.

When Kamwaza's father died when she was 10, her family had struggled and it had been difficult for to get her education. "But now I go back to school because of Consol Homes," she detailed, noting the fact that she was in her final year of secondary school.

The second speaker was Rosemary Makandanje, a member of one of Consol Homes' grandmothers support groups. At 54 years, she is single-handedly raising her daughter and three of her grandchildren, in addition to her 94-year-old father and three teenage boys who lost their mother to AIDS.

"People are dying because of HIV and AIDS in Africa, so the grandmothers are now becoming mothers, and have to take care of their grandchildren," said Makandanje. "We do have success stories because of the Consol Homes organization, they have given us hope. They are trying to support us by giving us food for the children."

The third speaker was Ruth Maulana, age 27, who is the current Early Childhood Development Officer at Consol Homes, which is an ambitious grassroots organization that engages young people with 107 child care centres, 500 volunteers and providing support to more than 30,000 children in 1,200 villages.

Maulana had joined Consol Homes immediately after finishing secondary school and was a volunteer for a number of years before becoming an employee. She spoke about her experience at age 14 of taking full-time studies and raising her seven siblings, including a newborn, because her mother was caring for her chronically-ill brother.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation's AfriGrand Caravan travelled across the country from September to November. African grandmothers and teenage granddaughters orphaned by AIDS shared their stories, and challenges and triumphs in dealing with the ravages of AIDS.

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