SLF Blog

World AIDS Day 2013: A message from Stephen Lewis

World AIDS Day 2013 / Photo by Alexis MacDonald SLF

The international community is mesmerized by the mantra of “zero new infections”, “zero deaths”, “zero stigma” as the target for 2015 in seeking to reverse the tide of AIDS.

That’s both commendable and understandable. But it leaves out one huge fact: come 2015, there will still be 35 million people living with the virus, and they must be cared for.

The painful truth is that the international community is losing interest in AIDS. Everyone—including governments and UN agencies—talks of an “AIDS-Free Generation.” Funding is plummeting. It’s as though the pandemic is over.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Last year alone, there were two and a half million new HIV infections.

So the work of the Foundation remains crucial, vital, indispensable. Please stick with us. Grandmothers, orphans, entire communities: they’re counting on us.

Stephen Lewis, Chair of the Board

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Grassroots: Ten years of turning the tide of AIDS in Africa

Stephen Lewis with children (Photo by Gillian Mathurin/SLF)

The new Grassroots newsletter is now online!

The Stephen Lewis Foundation recently entered its tenth year of existence. Over the past decade, we have partnered with over 300 grassroots organizations across sub-Saharan Africa that have worked ceaselessly to bring the voices of grandmothers and women to the forefront of the response to the AIDS pandemic. Through their tenacious and sustained work they have seen their communities through the height of the apocalypse and into meaningful and extraordinary changes.

In this issue of Grassroots, we hear from two organizations that also recently marked ten-year anniversaries: Developing Families Together, in Ethiopia, and the African Women’s Development Fund, which works across Africa. The Foundation has worked with them both since their earliest days—and since ours. They represent the characteristics that mark so many of our partners—resilience, flexibility, innovation, and steadfastness. It has been an honour to work with them and learn from them every step of the way.

Read more in the Spring 2013 Grassroots >>


“To all of this work, focused on our implacable opposition to the AIDS virus, Canadians have contributed over $87 million. So here’s the challenge: surely we should aim for $100 million to round out the decade. It means giving more. It means digging deeper. It means further sacrifice—but it also means unrelenting compassion, decency, generosity and love. And it’s truly needed.”

—Stephen Lewis

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On Mother’s Day we remember and celebrate

At the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Mother’s Day is a complicated time of celebration and mourning.

Alicia and Phyllis. Photo by Alexis MacDonald/SLF
This is Alicia and her daughter, Phyllis. Phyllis’s life was cut short by AIDS in October 2012. It will be a reluctant Mother’s Day for Alicia, as she both mourns the loss of her beloved daughter and finds herself once more – in her twilight years – in the role of a mother, raising her orphaned grandchildren.

Meaza and her daughter Beza. Photo by Alexis MacDonald/SLF.
This is Meaza and her daughter Beza. Both mother and daughter are HIV positive, healthy and supported by Negemelelakennew HIV Positive Women Support Organization (NLK) in Ethiopia to have access to health care, food security, nutrition counselling and help with medication.

On Mother’s Day we celebrate because every mother who is able to raise her children is a blow to this pandemic. But we also mourn for all the mothers whose lives have ended far too soon and for all those grandmothers whose days of mothering should be long over.

On Mother’s Day we stop to ask: What better time to reflect upon the importance of mothers in our lives? What better time to celebrate the real possibility of keeping mothers alive and healthy? And what better time to recommit to the critical role we can play in supporting African women to be there for their children and their communities?

This Mother’s Day please consider making a donation in honour of the mothers in your life, and all the mothers and grandmothers in communities across Africa working so hard to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic.

Make your donation in lieu of a gift and send a beautiful printed or electronic card. You can send one of the Foundation’s two colourful cards yourself, ask us to send it on your behalf, or donate online and send an e-card for easy and immediate delivery.

Click here to order your Mother’s Day e-card or printed card.

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April 9 is Aeroplan Mile Matching Day

Ida Mukuka (photo by Margaret Wright/SLF)

Click here starting at midnight on Tuesday, April 9, to donate your Aeroplan Miles and have Aeroplan match them.

Aeroplan Beyond Miles Matching Day is a golden day for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. April 9 is the day to donate Miles and have them matched – Aeroplan Beyond Miles will match them up to 500,000 miles!

Aeroplan Miles are an invaluable part of our work; in fact, they make it all possible. Here is a potent example of how we use Miles to support community-based organizations working so hard to turn the tide of AIDS in Africa.

Meet Ida Mukuka.

Those who do rarely forget her.

Whether in her role as a mother, counsellor, HIV-positive activist or peer educator, Ida exudes a passion and commitment that surpasses the call of duty – she simply lives what she believes. Ida is one of our Field Representatives, and she couldn’t do her job without your donated Aeroplan Miles.

From her home in Zambia, Ida travels constantly – assessing grassroots organizations for potential funding in the 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa in which we work, and visiting partner organizations in order to monitor their ongoing programmes. The relationships of trust, partnership and accountability that Ida builds are key to the way the Stephen Lewis Foundation works.

“I love this work. I don’t know any other organization that does it this way. The relationships that we build with our partners are unique, where we go is unique.”

“Grassroots organizations are situated right in the heart of their communities, and so I spend a lot of my life travelling. Planes are just the beginning; sometimes I have to travel by boat, bike, or foot to finally get to them.” Ida says. “And we don’t just go once. We come back again and again. The key to our work is our relationship. You know it is so hopeful when I go back to a project where there have been challenges and I see that they have fixed them. This gives me the motivation and strength to move forward. We are like part of them, and they are like part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.”

We thank Ida for being the face, the hands and the heart of the Foundation right at the frontlines of this work. We thank the grassroots organizations that remain in their communities, committed to turning the tide of this pandemic.

With a full heart, we thank you for providing the Miles to bring them all together.

Please continue to be part of it. On Tuesday, April 9, visit stephenlewisfoundation.org/aeroplan to donate Miles and have Aeroplan match them.

Learn more

Watch a video interview with Ida as she reflects on her work, the state of the pandemic and the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Click here to learn more about the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Field Representatives.

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Annie Lennox’s SING Campaign turns five

Our friend Annie Lennox recently released a video to commemmorate the fifth anniversary of her SING Campaign. We are proud to support the SING Campaign in turning the tide of HIV & AIDS.

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World AIDS Day message from Stephen Lewis

World AIDS Day 2012

It’s like all the wars of the twentieth century wrapped into one. 30 million have died. 34 million live with the virus. Two and a half million new infections last year; 330,000 are children. More than 50% infected in Africa are women. And right at the point when we could subdue the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we’re running out of money. Treatment reaches fewer than half the target.

And people say the AIDS pandemic is over… time and again we hear the phrase “an AIDS-free generation.” In whose lifetime?

AIDS must be restored to the international agenda. The one place where it’s never been off the agenda is at the grassroots in Africa. And it’s at the grassroots where everything works. That’s where our Foundation money goes. That’s what keeps hope alive. That’s what turns the tide.

Stephen Lewis
Chair of the Board
Stephen Lewis Foundation


Order your holiday cards today

Holiday tribute cards available now

The holiday season is here, and our holiday tribute cards are now available! Make your donation in lieu of a gift, and send a beautiful printed or electronic card to your family member, friend or colleague. You can send one of the Foundation’s two colourful cards yourself, ask us to send it on your behalf, or donate online and send an e-card for easy and immediate delivery. Give a gift that is truly meaningful!

Learn more and order your cards.

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Thank you – We raised almost 2 million Aeroplan Miles

Thank you! We raised almost 2 million miles

Thank you to everyone who donated Aeroplan Miles to the Stephen Lewis Foundation yesterday, and a special thank you to Aeroplan Beyond Miles for generously matching the first 500,000 donated miles.

With your support we nearly doubled our million-mile goal, raising almost 2 million miles!

Donated miles have enabled us to bring the voices of African grandmothers and grassroots leaders to the forefront, create partnerships through our mentorship programme, send our field representatives to see the projects firsthand, and bring together community workers to share strategies and experiences with psychosocial counselling, orphan care and home-based health care.

Thank you so much for your generous donations. Your miles help make initiatives like this possible.

In case you missed it, we posted earlier this month about how Aeroplan Miles helped Touch Roots Africa in Lesotho and The AIDS Information Support Centre in Swaziland strengthen the work they do in their communities. You can read that story here.

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A Mother’s Day reflection

A mother with her baby (photo by Felicity Heyworth)

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, we wanted to share this reflection on motherhood and the AIDS pandemic from Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, Executive Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Honour Mother’s Day with a tribute donation to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

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Peer-to-Peer Mentorship through SLF’s partnership with Aeroplan Beyond Miles

A million miles, a million ways to soar

Since 2003, The Stephen Lewis Foundation has been partnering with grassroots organizations in Africa that are working tirelessly to beat back the ravages of AIDS. We have seen significant ground gained as communities move from scrambling to cope with the impact of the pandemic, to rebuilding their communities and teaching others how to replicate their successes.  While this is happening, powerful voices are emerging in communities – formidable champions for change and advocates for human rights around HIV and AIDS from the frontlines.

How is Beyond Miles contributing to turning the tide of AIDS?  Here is just one powerful example: Peer-to-Peer Mentorship Programmes.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation uses miles to bring people together, to build relationships, exchange knowledge and experience and generate the ground-breaking ideas that will turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Grassroots organizations have taught us that this is critical if lasting change is to be secured.

It brought together two powerfully effective groups last year with remarkable results: Touch Roots Africa (TRA) is a community organization in Lesotho focussing on working with orphaned and abused children, and The AIDS Information Support Centre (TASC) in Swaziland – an organization specializing in HIV and AIDS issues and home-based community care.

Over the course of the year they partnered to increase their organizational capacities and enhance the efficiency, impact and reach of their programming. They trained each other in ‘best practices’, they shared their successes and challenges, and the results were more profound than either organization had imagined!

Touch Roots Africa trained TASC on child rights and protection. As a result, TASC now has a fleet of home based care workers who have unprecedented access to homes through health care delivery, and who are now able to identify children who are abused, vulnerable or have special needs. These home based care workers received training on how to approach the topic with the child’s caregivers, assess the safety of a situation, and identify the resources and child protection services available in the community.

Hundreds of children have already been assisted. Last month, an HIV positive mother receiving home based care from a TASC worker received referral and support to access services for her hearing impaired daughter. For the first time, this young girl is learning to communicate and is beginning to thrive. Her mother, relieved of the stress and concern over her daughter’s future, is also seeing an improvement in her own health.

TASC’s other community partners are so inspired and affected by the success of TASC’s work, they asked them for training so they, too, can incorporate child protection into their programming. In Swaziland where TASC is based, the Ministry of Health pledged to incorporate TASC’s Children’s Psychosocial Support programme into the national training counselors receive on HIV Testing and Counseling.

“When we pass skills on from grassroots to grassroots, then from grassroots to community and finally grassroots to government – this is capacity building, this is true sustainability.”

- Peer-mentorship Programme participant

The significance of this partnership for Touch Roots Africa was equally ground-breaking.
Thanks to their training from TASC around HIV/AIDS and children, Touch Roots Africa now has staff and volunteers who know how to talk to grandparents and guardians of children orphaned by HIV and AIDS about disclosure of HIV status, the loss of their parents, sexual and reproductive health, adherence to medicine and the importance of education. One staff member shares this story:

I was giving a workshop to the community on the information we learned from TASC. Attending the training was an elderly man who was caring for his 8 year old grandson whose mother died of AIDS last year. He always struggled with how he would disclose his status to the child:

“I didn’t want him to be scared that I will die too and he will have no one. Also, I was ashamed.”

After the training he went home and disclosed his status to his child. Not only did the child accept, he is his grandfather’s greatest support and reminds him every day when to take his medication. This knowledge is helping bring new families together when they need it most, helping them not to be scared, to face this together and to be strong.

Touch Roots Africa also received training from TASC around equipping youth on developing healthy HIV and AIDS attitudes around prevention, testing and treatment, and breaking the silence caused by stigma. When they shared this training with their HIV positive youth groups, these young people responded by approaching schools, churches and youth clubs in their community and asking how they could help.  In one high school the teachers identified a student who had stopped taking her medication and they didn’t know what to do. The youth from Touch Roots Africa started a support group in this school and the student joined them. Not only has she started taking her medication again, but helps others in her school understand the complex barriers that prevent young people from adhering to life-saving treatment.

Partnership and exchange between community-based organizations has resulted in life-saving and life enhancing initiatives, and the replication of very successful models that improve the quality of life for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS at community level.

Aeroplan Beyond Miles has made this possible. In supporting critical partnerships, they have fundamentally altered the way grassroots organizations and individuals are able to respond to the pandemic. It’s invaluable.

“What we have achieved in one year is beyond anything we could have done on our own…Peer mentorship addresses the hope for south- to -south learning. There is so much we can learn from each other and we can sustain each other – even when the economy is flagging in the west, we can be strong together.”

- Peer-mentorship programme participant

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#granspiration – wrapping up Canadians’ stories for International Women’s Day

The Stephen Lewis Foundation has been asking Canadians how grandmothers inspire them for International Women’s Day. We are pleased to share the following stories and reflections with you.

Grandmothers inspire me by being always patient, encouraging, innovative, loving, caring and being role models to others.

Hedef Foundation

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I have 2 grandmothers I would like to honour. The first is my own, a woman who believes wholeheartedly in everything I do and celebrates with me as opportunities arise and as things come together. I am so grateful to have her to share my journeys with and to experience her enthusiasm for the stories I get to tell her.

The second is a grandmother I met 5 years ago in Uganda. She is the caregiver for 19 children, a collection of beautiful little ones that are her biological grandchildren and those passed to her by others who knew they would be in good hands. This Jaja inspired me to take a risk in my work and pursue a career change that allows me to support grandmothers, caregivers, and people who are passionate about making a difference across Africa. I am forever grateful to her for showing me what it means to care, and for showing me that people like her would do it, no matter what it costs them.

I am inspired by the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, bringing together people from different walks of life but shared experiences. Thank you for working so tirelessly to support Grandmothers in Africa and for taking the opportunity to learn from their wisdom and experience.

Shannon Thomson
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Attached is a photo of my great-grandmother, Mary Becker Axelrod (1872-1962), who immigrated to New York from a Russian-Jewish village in 1886, age 14.  Over the years she took care of many children — in her family and in families who needed her. Her motto was, “We’ll fight it through.”  I was 19 when she died, so have good memories of her — she has been an inspiration to me.
This is the same way the Grandmothers in Africa live their lives — I am also inspired by them, and by your Foundation’s work in supporting them.

Warm wishes on International Women’s Day,

Ellen S. Jaffe
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My gramma passed away in late January and I wrote what you see below as a testament to her.  She didn’t want a funeral, but I felt the need to let others know what a powerful influence she was in my life.  I know that you wanted only 200 words, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut out anything I wrote about her.  I understand if it’s not possible to include it, but felt compelled to submit this.

Best wishes,
Amber Holliday
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When I was a baby, you opened your home to me and my parents.  I can only imagine that having a wee baby in the house after so long being without one was quite the adjustment. The bathing. The feeding. The crying.  Although I have no memory of this I must have sensed that I was loved.

When I was eight I faked my way sick through several weeks of grade 3.  Every time I was put in a cab and sent off to your place where I would miraculously recover with the help of ginger ale and chocolate cake.  Apparently, I didn’t want you to leave for Texas and this was my way of trying to make you stay.  Chocolate cake and ginger ale – I knew I was loved and I can only imagine you knew you were loved.

When I was twelve I used to hop on my bike and travel alongside the train tracks by my house to your home on Penningham.  I was an awkward pre-teen and you had the innate ability to make me feel like I was even more than special and could accomplish anything I set out to do.  And you tolerated when I would call you with crazy fake accents trying to fool you into thinking I was someone else.  How could I not have known I was loved?

When I was sixteen my dad moved to Calgary.  You and Papa packed my sister and I up in your car on spring break to drive out there.  You sat in the back and told Papa to let me drive.  Your trust and faith in the untested driving skills of a sixteen year old meant I definitely knew I was loved.

When I was eighteen I broke up with my first boyfriend.  It was friendly enough but you immediately removed any trace of him from your family albums.  You were like a warrior princess who couldn’t take the thought of your granddaughter being hurt.  I understood just how fiercely you loved.

When I was twenty-two I moved to Toronto.  You told me not to go out at night.  You cried every time I visited and left Winnipeg.  You pressed twenty dollars into my hand for magazines on the plane and cab rides home from the airport.  I missed you every minute I was away.  I understood the power of love.

When I was twenty-nine you sent Matthew a birthday cheque.  You told him fiance’s only got half the amount until they were husband’s.  You also threatened, in writing, to ‘kick his ass’ if he broke my heart.  I laughed and knew how much you loved me.

When I was thirty-two I got married.  You conquered your fear of flying.  Got a passport. Baked and brought me chocolate chip cookies.  Made a speech at my wedding and danced like you were 25.  I completely understood how much I was loved.

When I was thirty-three I had a child of my own.  I was so proud to show him off to you.  You loved him and hugged him and called him Nick (and sometimes Matthew by accident).  I have no doubt he knows how much he is loved.

When I was thirty-four I got the news.  You were sick.  I flew out to see you.  One of the first things you asked me was if I was hungry and had eaten.  Food.  It was your way of letting us know how much we were loved.

When you were sick we all rushed out to see you.  You had all of your family with you.  They were there -  All day. Every day. As long as the hospital would let them.  I only hope you understood just how much you are loved.

The last thing you said to me was that you loved me more than I could possibly imagine.  I don’t know how that’s possible.  We spent our whole lives feeling your love.  And we’re better people for it.  I look at my little guy every day and I take comfort in the fact that through him I’m connected to you in a new way. Looking into his smiling face I understand just how much I can love.

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I had the pleasure of growing up 4 houses away from my Memere Diana Marsolais and 2 blocks from my Grand’Mere Florence Goguely for most of my childhood.

Memere Marsolais was always a pleasure to be with and several days were spent at her house with my siblings helping her maintain her home and yard. She became a widow early in life with the loss of pepere to a brain tumour and was a single mother of 9 children for over 50 years. Our friends would often tease us for working so hard at memeres house for free (other than a bowl of soup and ice cream floats). My response to that then and now is that her kindness, wisdom, respect and acceptance for whatever mistakes we made in life, was payment enough.
She taught me to appreciate and respect  women and realize that gender should never be a barrier in fulfilling our dreams.

Grand’Mere Goguely was a very intelligent quiet ,patient women that always had the correct time and date of events in the past despite grand’Pere Victor’s disagreement. She was a mother of 5 and also taught me mother that everyone deserved respect and recognition for their qualities, not their shortfalls.

I cherish the life lessons and the legacy these 2 lovely ladies instilled upon me, lives on through my children & grandchildren !

Marcel Marsolais

How do grandmothers inspire you? Share your stories with Stephen Lewis Foundation for International Women’s Day: write a story, email us a note, post on Facebook or tweet using the hashtag #granspiration, share a photo or create a video to tell us how they motivate you! E-mail campaign@stephenlewisfoundation.org.

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