African Grandmothers Raising AIDS Orphans Share Experiences With Canadian Grandmothers Ahead of XVI International AIDS Conference
About 100 grandmothers from 11 African countries last week traveled to Canada for a four-day gathering to share with about 200 Canadian grandmothers their experiences of caring for their grandchildren, who have lost parents to AIDS-related complications, the New York Times reports. The meeting was organized by the Stephen Lewis Foundation -- which was founded by U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis -- and is believed to be the first large gathering to focus on helping grandmothers cope with HIV/AIDS. Ilana Landsberg-Lewis -- Lewis' daughter, who runs the foundation -- said the gathering aimed to raise awareness about what grandmothers in Africa are facing, enable grandmothers to identify their needs and raise funds for the grandmothers (Altman, New York Times, 8/13). The gathering included workshops on topics such as caring for HIV-positive children, building networks and raising money (Ottawa Citizen, 8/13). The grandmothers from Africa also were instructed about how to help orphans handle depression and stress, how to build "resilience" among themselves and their grandchildren, how to help children who feel stigmatized, and how to effectively avoid HIV transmission, according to the Times (New York Times, 8/13). Lewis on Sunday attended the gathering to thank the Canadian grandmothers for their support (Butler, Ottawa Citizen, 8/13). Beninese singer and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Angelique Kidjo also attended the meeting, which took place at George Brown College in Toronto (Black, Toronto Star, 8/12). The gathering ended on Sunday with the grandmothers marching to the opening of the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto (New York Times, 8/13).
The meeting was part of the Lewis Foundation's new Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, which was launched in March to spur grandmothers in Canada to raise money for their counterparts in Africa who are raising their grandchildren (Ottawa Citizen, 8/13). There are about 40 grandmother network groups in Canada and one in the U.S. (Toronto Star, 8/12). The Canadian groups since March collectively have raised about $55,000. The funds are funneled directly to grassroots organizations operating in Africa, where the grandmothers can define their needs -- which often include food, school tuition, counseling services or coffins (Ottawa Citizen, 8/13). About 12 million children in Africa have lost parents to AIDS-related illnesses, and that number is expected to grow to 18 million by 2010, according to the Times (New York Times, 8/13). Approximately half of orphans in Botswana and Malawi live in homes headed by grandparents, and more than 60% in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe live in such homes, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail (Gandhi, Globe and Mail, 8/12). "Governments haven't the faintest idea what to do," Lewis said. His foundation sponsors 142 projects across Africa, and many of them aim to support grandmothers who are raising orphans (New York Times, 8/13).
Kaisernetwork.org is serving as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006.