Dust off Those Cobwebs!

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Grandmothers need support in order to educate the future./image: Stephan Lewis Foundation

Grandmothers need support in order to educate the future./image: Stephan Lewis Foundation

Art is getting a second chance with a new event

Article: Robyn Tocker – A&C Editor

Grandmothers are the staple of a community in any country. In Canada, the organization “Grandmothers 4 Grandmothers” works with the Stephan Lewis Foundation to support grandmothers in Sub-Saharan Africa who are raising their grandchildren on their own.

One of the newest projects G4G is working on is “Art from the Attic”, an art sale where work that has been stored over the years will be sold from anywhere from $5 to $500. Over the past six months, the group has solicited a variety of pieces they plan to sell on Saturday, Sep. 28, 2013 at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, 2900 13th Avenue. The chair of the event, Susan Whittick, said they are accepting art that either isn’t able to be hung anymore, has been in storage for some time, or art that no longer suits a person’s taste.

There are hundreds of pieces available for sale, including originals, numbered prints, reproductions and posters, and covering a wide variety of styles including abstracts, landscapes, photography, and wildlife art.

“It’s a nice way to bring life to art that’s not currently being enjoyed.”

Whittick and her group got the idea to do the sale from a group in British Columbia who also put on the same event.

The real reason behind all this effort is, of course, to support grandmothers in Sub-Saharan Africa who have taken on the burden of raising anywhere from 10-15 grandchildren. Because of the HIV/AIDS devastation, a whole generation was wiped out, leaving no one to raise the orphans except the grandparents.

Stephen Lewis, the man responsible for organizing his foundation and getting the funds to the grandmothers, saw there was a need to support the women in the early 2000s when he first visited

Lewis went to Sub- Saharan Africa as an UN Envoy for AIDS. He could see the grandmothers were a lynch pin in the community and if they could be supported, then the orphans and their communities could survive.

The way the process works is quite simple. The grassroots organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa draw up proposals for why they need a certain amount of money, usually to provide health care, food, education and housing for their grandchildren. The Stephan Lewis Foundation accepts these proposals from local communities, usually 100-200 a month, and decides which ones they will fund. The Foundation employs field workers who visit the location regularly to make sure the money is accounted for and used the way it was meant to be.

“These women are working so hard and are so creative and ingenious with the funds they receive. Since they’ve had to care for their grandchildren the women have become activists in their communities for children’s and women’s rights. They just want enough to get their grandchildren educated, support themselves, and be cared for if they need treatment.”

“Art from the Attic” is not the only event G4G puts on during the year. Next month they are having their sixth annual Scrabble tournament. In May, the group will hold a fundraising dinner where a speaker from Africa, or the Foundation, or someone involved in international development will attend.

In between these events, G4G sells merchandise, toys/puppets from Kenya, fabric items from Malawi and Zambia and jewelry from Sierra Leone. The women make a lot of things themselves that are sold at farmer’s markets and craft shows.

“We’ve been going for about seven years and have raised $350,000. We started very small but have gotten more efficient/ambitious over time.”

Not just grandmothers belong to the group. G4G is not a registered charity, but have sponsors who support their work. The group is made up of 100 women who work hard to provide for those in need.

“Art from the Attic” will give people in Regina the opportunity to bring art to life again. As Whittick said, “Art isn’t art if it’s being kept in a closet.”

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