Red Deer grandmother joining mission to Africa

‘Gramma-Link Africa’ member Chris Hume selected for journey

  • Feb. 5, 2014 6:14 p.m.

A City grandmother is preparing for a trip to Africa as part of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmother to Grandmother campaign.

Chris Hume, a member of Gramma-Link Africa here in Red Deer has been selected as one of 20 Canadian grandmothers to represent the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign on an educational tour to sub-Sahara Africa.

Along with about five others, she will visit an array of Foundation projects in Ethiopia and South Africa.

“In July we got some information in our news bulletin announcing this trip to Africa,” she explains. “Grandmothers from across Canada were asked to consider applying.” Twenty would ultimately be selected. Hume was nominated by two others from the local Gramma-Link Africa group, and she now is preparing for the trip which departs at the end of February.

The trip is slated for March 1-17 and Hume will be going to South Africa and Ethiopia. The Canadian grandmothers will visit grassroots projects and each have pledged to spend one year following the trip speaking to grandmothers’ groups, community groups and schools about their experiences.

Gramma-Link Africa is also asking for the community’s assistance in donating Aeroplan Miles for Hume’s trip.

It’s not the first time Hume has visited Africa – she was part of a group with the Lacombe-based humanitarian organization A Better World that visited Kenya in 2007.

“We will all meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” she explains of the upcoming mission. “There will be four groups, and each group will have a member of the Stephen Lewis Foundation with us as we go from place to place,” she said. “Each group is also visiting two projects in Ethiopia, and two of the groups will go to Rwanda and the others to South Africa.

“We will visit projects that are supported by the Grandmothers campaign,” she said.

GrammaLink — Africa was launched in Red Deer a few years back with Shirley Challoner and Dorothy Hryniuk essentially leading the humanitarian charge. Prior to that, Lewis had started up Grandmothers to Grandmothers in 2006.

When Hume heard about the organization in Red Deer, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. Her experience with A Better World sparked an interest in finding ways to help those overseas from here at home.

“They have very little, so their focus is also on how do we get some education for our children? Putting food on the table is also sometimes a trial, and some walk for miles for water.”

According to the Foundation, since the first AIDS diagnosis years back more than 25 million people have died, leaving millions of children in their wake – as many as 13 million children have been orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

As the Foundation also points out, African grandmothers are central to the life of their communities. With almost no support, they have stepped forward to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS, sometimes as many as 10 to 15 in one household.

To date, Canadians have raised $16.5 million for African grandmothers through the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. Resources from the campaign are invested directly at community level, with grassroots organizations that provide grandmothers and the children in their care with supports that include food, educational supplies, uniforms and school fees, medical care, HIV counselling and testing, adequate housing and bedding, counseling and support groups, home visits and more.

In many countries throughout southern Africa, it is estimated that between 40-60% of orphans live in grandmother-headed households. After burying their own adult children, they take on the responsibility of caring for their grieving grandchildren, often with little to no support and while coping with their own deteriorating health.

Grandmothers are now recognized as community experts and agents of change by governments and international aid agencies.

They nurture, feed and put their grandchildren into school. They work to educate their grandchildren about HIV prevention care and treatment, tend to the sick in their communities, help the recently bereaved, set up support groups, harvest the crops, and advocate for women’s rights.

“Some of the projects support the fact that sometimes the grandparent don’t have enough food, they may need support because of a death in the family, they may need help with palliative care, they may need help with even burying their loved ones – because they don’t even have the money for coffins – things like that.”

GrammaLink – Africa also keeps busy through the year raising funds for the Foundation and raising awareness about the plight of grandmothers in Africa who find themselves in such desperate situations.

For Hume, it’s been a joy to be part of a group that is making such a profound difference.

“I think it increases your awareness of what’s happening in the world, and I think we need to do that.”

Meanwhile, she is thrilled for this special opportunity. “I’m looking forward to learning more about their cultures, the projects and the people who run them.”

Those interested in helping Chris Hume by donating Aeroplan Miles can contact her at 403-347-2776.

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