Dozens of compassionate grannies from B.C.'s Interior are gathering in Kamloops on Tuesday for a day-long event to re-energize an eight-year campaign that helps African grandmothers raise children orphaned by the scourge of AIDS.
It's the first regional gathering of the CanGo Grannies since the group's inception in 2004 when local grandmothers launched awareness and fundraisers in response to Stephen Lewis's lecture at Thompson Rivers University. At the lecture, he pleaded for assistance for African grandmothers who watched their own children die of AIDS and were left to raise their orphaned grandchildren.
Now, a dozen groups like CanGo Grannies exist in the Interior but their numbers have been dwindling.
"People are aging and having health problems that prevent them from participating as much as they have been in the past," said Ann Milliken, a Kamloops grandmother activist.
The groups would like to strengthen their membership as well as their campaign with new ideas to reach African communities and motivate its members.
Milliken said changes had to take place to balance out significant inequities between African communities resulting from targeted charitable initiatives. But those changes also meant losing touch with precisely what kind of impact CanGo Grannies had on communities, said Milliken.
"So we don't get the same targeted information," she said. "I think for some for the original grandmothers, they really miss that."
To re-energize regional grandmothers, the gathering will hear from Zahra Mohamed, manager of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, and keynote speaker Ky'okusinga Kirunga, manager of monitoring and evaluation for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
The keynote address is free to everyone from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Through her work and her personal life, Kirunga has come into close contact with HIV/AIDS and its devastating effects on households, families and communities. She's witnessed in depth and up close the heroic work being done by grassroots organizations to alleviate the impact of the pandemic in their communities and countries. She now oversees and co-ordinates intensive work in 15 African countries.
The gathering is open to everyone for a $15 registration fee, lunch included, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Paul's Cathedral, 360 Nicola St.