SLF Blog

Video: AfriGrand Caravan brings African HIV/AIDS awareness to Southern Ontario

The Canadian Auto Workers filmed AfriGrand Caravan events in Port Perry and Toronto, Ontario, on September 21–23, 2010. Their video captures the words of Nkulie Nowathe and Regina Mokgokong–the grandmother and granddaughter who travelled on the first leg of the Caravan–as they spoke to Canadian audiences about how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives.

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AfriGrand Caravan: Reflections from the road, part 2

Joanna Henry, Grandmothers Campaign Coordinator with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, brings us another reflection on her time on the AfriGrand Caravan with Nkulie and Regina. (You can read her first dispatch here.)

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AfriGrand Caravan: Matt Galloway interviews Regina and Nkulie on Metro Morning

Metro Morning logoRegina Mokgokong and Nkulie Nowathe took the AfriGrand Caravan to CBC’s Toronto studios last week to talk with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning. They spoke about the effect of AIDS on their lives and the incredible work of Tateni Home Care Nursing Services, an organization funded by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in Mamelodi, South Africa.

In case you’re not an early riser and missed it when it first aired, click here to listen to the interview!

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AfriGrand Caravan: Nkulie and Regina on CTV Toronto

CTV reporter Pauline Chan was on-hand at the AfriGrand Caravan’s visit to Bishop Strachan School in Toronto last week. She spoke with Nkulie, Regina, and some of the BSS students who took part in the conversation. We can’t embed the video, but you can check it out on CTV Toronto’s website by clicking here. It’s a great watch!

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AfriGrand Caravan: Reflections from the road

Joanna Henry, Grandmothers Campaign Coordinator with the Foundation, travelled with Nkulie and Regina for the first portion of the AfriGrand Caravan. She sent us a wonderful message with her reflections on the Caravan thus far, which we’re pleased to share with you here.

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Video: AfriGrand Caravan – St. John's hospitality

Check out this video of Nkulie and Regina during the AfriGrand Caravan‘s stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland. There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal (from the wonderful Grannies Terre Neuve) and a great event turnout to kick off a nine-week, 40-community, coast-to-coast speaking tour!

A very special thanks to Sarah Moffat for the video.

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AfriGrand Caravan: "Helping grandmas care for orphans of AIDS"

Here’s a great article on the AfriGrand Caravan from the Halifax Chronicle Herald:

Helping grandmas care for orphans of AIDS
September 10, 2010
By Clare Mellor

Nonkululeko Nowathe lost her mother to AIDS in January.

And like vast numbers of sub-Saharan African children who have lost parents to the AIDS pandemic, she is being cared for by her grandmother.

“My mother was sick for a very long time,” says the 18-year-old, who lives in Mamelodi, South Africa.

When Nowathe’s mother became ill in 2008, she was cared for by Nowathe’s grandmother but also received home nursing services from a community-based program called Tateni.

Another branch of the same program runs a youth drop-in centre, where Nowathe gets basics such as food and new shoes, as well as grief counselling, HIV-AIDS education and help with homework.

All the programs receive funding from the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports community-based organizations in Africa that help those affected by HIV and AIDS.

A Grade 12 student who speaks 11 languages, Nowathe now has her sights on law school.

“Some kids, they don’t have a chance to go to school because they don’t have someone to care for their (sick) parent. . . . That is awful for them because they have to drop out,” she said

The Stephen Lewis Foundation brought its AfriGrand Caravan to Nova Scotia on Thursday, with a visit to Citadel High School in Halifax. Students there have raised thousands of dollars for the foundation.

The tour includes African grandmothers who care for orphans and young women who have lost parents due to the AIDS pandemic, speaking first-hand about their experiences.

Grandmother and retired nurse Regina Mokgokong runs the Tateni programs in Mamelodi, a township north of Pretoria.

The program provides home-based care and support to about 300 people living with HIV-AIDS and provides more than 300 orphans with food and help with school, Mokgokong said.

The program also gives support and parenting courses to grandmothers who, after many years, have to become parents again, said Mokgokong, who cares for her HIV-positive niece and her niece’s four children.

While community-based programs are making a difference, funding is still needed, the 68-year-old said.

Hospice services are required for the very ill dying of AIDS at home.

“I came across a 10-year-old with a little brother of four years old trying to give their mother water. They didn’t know their mother was dying. So that hospice service is really, really important,” she said.

After listening to Nowathe and Mokgokong, Citadel High students held brainstorming sessions for fundraising ideas for the foundation.

The caravan has been organized by Grandmothers of Canada, which is part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign that began in 2006, said Linda Wills, a member of the Tantallon-based Bay Grandmothers.

There are 240 groups of grandmothers across the country raising funds for the foundation’s programs in Africa, said Wills, who helped organize the tour’s Halifax visit.

“When you hear the stories of the grandmothers in Africa and you hear of the HIV pandemic, you just can’t turn your back. Grandmother to grandmother, it just speaks to us. I have four grandchildren of my own. They are so precious to me.”

Some of those involved, like Citadel High chemistry teacher Kathy Reid, aren’t technically grandmothers but that doesn’t seem to matter.

“It’s a state of mind,” said Reid.

She said the Canadian grandmothers are trying to get others involved, especially the young.

“Students are so interested and so compassionate. Like a lot of us, they want to do something.”

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AfriGrand Caravan: Photos from the East Coast

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The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s AfriGrand Caravan is now on its way across Canada!

The AfriGrand Caravan is a cross-country tour with young African women orphaned by AIDS and grandmothers faced with an orphan care crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. The Caravan is travelling to 40 communities, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia, from September 7 to November 10, 2010. It is providing a forum for African women to tell their stories and engage thousands of Canadians in a meaningful dialogue about the grassroots response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Photos from the Atlantic Region leg of the Caravan, featuring grandmother Regina Mokgokong and granddaughter Nkulie Nowathe, both from Mamelodi, South Africa, are now on the Foundations’s Flickr page (as well as in a nifty slideshow at the top of this post).  More photos and video from the Caravan are coming soon!


"I am positive and I am free"

African Grandmothers’ Gathering, Day 2

“I am positive and I am free” says a South African Grandmother.

Day two of the Gathering was both exciting and exhausting, filled with intense joy and heartbreaking sadness. 500 grandmothers from 13 African countries came together to share their experiences as caregivers, community activists and experts. The day was organized and led by African grandmothers and the staff of the projects. Eighteen separate workshops covered wide ranging topics on HIV/AIDS and poverty, the desperate need for social security, sustainable economic empowerment and gender-based violence.

Women’s empowerment was at the core of all workshops at the Gathering, especially the right to raise strong, healthy and confident grandchildren with dignity, access inaccessible legal systems that discriminate against women in areas of property rights and horrific gender-based violence, and the obligations of governments in responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

What follows is a snapshot of some of the issues and themes, challenges and solutions, and burdens and demands that arose again and again throughout the day as told through the words of African grandmothers. No one could say it better.

“When we empower women, the whole community benefits!”

“Children are the branches and we are the roots.”

Sibongile lost her husband. People came to her rural home and were hostile. “Your husband died of AIDS and you are going to die in 3 months.” They started to take her property. “They threw me out of my home. I took my children but they took everything else. I am a survivor. I have been living with HIV and I am still strong.”

“Politicians always buy the vote with short term gifts like blankets or food. I say eat but don’t vote for him.”

“The work we are doing in our projects should actually be done by our governments. Our success should be celebrated, but let’s not forget to mention our government’s failures. We need pensions, we need health care, we need better education for our children, we need social services.”

“I was dying before got help from the project. Now that I am not dying what do I do? What can we do to support our children?”

“Try to explain to a child that her mother was HIV-positive and died, but that she is HIV-positive and can live.”

“What happened in Africa? Grannies refused to die!”

“Dancing means there is hope.”

“If you build it yourself, you sustain it yourself.”

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Manzini Statement

On May 8th, 2010 the grandmothers of Africa, assembled in Manzini, Swaziland for the first ever African Grandmothers’ Gathering, tabled the following clarion call to the world, demanding action and recognition for the pivotal role they are playing in the effort to turn the tide of AIDS in  Africa. It follows the Toronto Statement, which gave voice to the issues raised at the first Grandmothers’ Gathering, held in Toronto in August 2006. Read the Toronto Statement here.

MAY 8TH, 2010

We are gathered here in Manzini, Swaziland – 500 grandmothers from fourteen countries, sharing our experience and knowledge, and celebrating our progress in beating back the ravages of HIV and AIDS. In 2006, at the first Grandmothers’ Gathering in Toronto, we heralded the dawn of a new movement.  Four years later, the strength and momentum of our movement are undeniable.  We, the grandmothers of Africa, issue this clarion call to the world.

In 2006 we were battered by grief, devastated by the deaths of our beloved sons and daughters, and deeply concerned for the futures of our grandchildren.  We stand here today battered, but not broken.  We are resilient, and stand unwavering in our resolve to move beyond basic survival, to forge a vibrant future for the orphans and grandmothers of Africa.

We are the backbones of our communities. We form the core of community-based care. With our love and commitment we protect and nurture our orphan grandchildren.  Africa cannot survive without us.

Integrity and autonomy is at the heart of our agenda.

We demand the economic independence to support our families, to provide nutritious food; decent housing; access to ongoing quality education for our grandchildren; and a richer quality of life for us all.

We must have the resources to build our own capacity to raise healthy families and assist one another. We call for more training in critical areas such as home-based care, HIV/AIDS education, on parenting orphaned children and adolescents, health care, literacy, and financial management.

We have lived through the enormity of AIDS in our communities, and have played our part in helping our nations survive the devastation. Without us, the toll on orphans and our communities would have been incalculable.  Equal urgency and passion must now come from our Governments around the provision of services, and the guarantee and delivery of our rights.  Urgent action must be taken in these priority areas:

1) Violence against grandmothers. These egregious acts, whether domestic violence, elder abuse, or accusations of witchcraft, must cease and be sanctioned.

2) Grandmothers must have meaningful support in the form of pensions and social security.

3) Laws must be passed and implemented ensuring the safety and rights of grandmothers and their grandchildren.

We will continue to provide a protective embrace around our grandchildren and communities.  Our hope, indeed, our expectation, is that our governments will provide our families with the social and legal protections – from inheritance laws to educational opportunities for our grandchildren.

To the international community we say: true sustainability is in the hands of grandmothers and other community activists. We call on you to deliver on your promises. We have reached a real turning point in the struggle to subdue the AIDS pandemic.  Now we are seeing the growing impact of our joint efforts, the need for increased and consistent resources is greater than ever.

We are leaders in our communities and countries. We have come together in this historic moment to lay the groundwork for greater support from our friends, our governments and the international community. We will continue to come together until such time as we and our grandchildren are secure and able to thrive.  We will continue to stand in solidarity with one another throughout Africa and with our Canadian sisters.

We are strong, we are visionary, we have faith and we are not alone. Together we will turn the tide of AIDS.