By: Nancy Vermond
Moving to St. Marys 15 years ago from Toronto, I was drawn to the natural beauty, friendliness and relative serenity of this community. I also was impressed that so many St. Marys citizens were involved with organizations that kept us connected to the larger world, organizations like Hope for Haiti, Rotary, and more recently, the Syrian Refugee committee.
In 2006, after hearing Stephen Lewis speak of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa and the determination of grandmothers there to hold their families and communities together after their grown children died of AIDS, a group of grandmothers here in St. Marys began a local chapter of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. The Stonetown Grans is one of over 240 groups across Canada who raise funds for programs that support the grandmothers and the millions of AIDS-orphaned children in their care. Thanks to this caring community, the Stonetown Grans have raised close to $50,000 for the campaign. The good news is that 91 % of funds go directly to programs run by grassroots groups in 15 African countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. These community-based organizations, who apply and receive grants from the Stephen Lewis Foundation, support the grandmothers’ and grand-children’s immediate needs for nutritious food, health care, transportation, adequate housing, school fees and uniforms, as well as longer term needs, such as parenting and business skills, counseling, HIV awareness training and testing, and grandmother support groups.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Grandmothers’ Campaign and the Stonetown Grans, this year the Grans will participate in the nationwide “Stride to turn the Tide” walk to raise funds and awareness and stand in solidarity with the African grandmothers. The 10K walk, for 10 years, will be on Saturday, June 11, starting at 10 am at the Farmers’ Market. Those who participate do not need to walk the entire course, though several walkers plan to do so.
African women walk….a lot! They walk to the market to sell produce and crafts. They walk to get water, to take children to the clinic or the school, to work in gardens, to get involved in local councils, and to gather with other grandmothers for support. Our walk will go to places in St. Marys that represent the many walks of our African sisters: we will walk to the river, to the hospital, Little Falls School, community gardens and the town hall. We will end at the Creamery for a celebration lunch. Would you like to walk with us on all or part of our walk, donate, or raise funds? We’d love to have you join us! If interested, please call Sharon Fraser at 519-349-2545 or me at 519-284-2698.
Thank you again for your support over the past ten years and in our upcoming “Stride to Turn the Tide” walk on June 11.