On Oct. 19, Westminster Books felt the power of love as they hosted the launch for Powered by Love, written by Joanna Henry and Ilana Landsberg-Lewis.
The book follows the movement of grandmothers in Canada and Africa working to combat the AIDS pandemic.
The story also aims to share the “Grandmothers Helping Grandmothers” campaign that began 11 years ago in Canada with the Stephen Lewis Foundation—a non-governmental organization that assists AIDS and HIV-related grassroots projects in Africa.
According to Anne Marie Atkinson, “Grandmothers Helping Grandmothers” member, some of these African grandmothers are raising as many as 19 grandchildren who have been orphaned by AIDS. “It’s a pretty powerful story—and really, the purpose is to give voice to those grandmothers and share their expertise in combating the AIDS pandemic on the front lines “
As reported by the World Health Organization, more than 70 million people have contracted HIV since the beginning of the pandemic. The current death-toll sits at 35 million—just under Canada’s population.
Atkinson became involved with the movement five years ago because it struck a chord with her.
“I am a grandmother—albeit a young one—and it’s not only that these grandmothers are raising their grandchildren [and] they’re becoming parents again, but that they have no political or social standing in their country.”
She said the movement aims to create visibility for these grandmothers by getting them on decision-making bodies, so that they can decide on matters affecting their livelihood. The movement’s overall goal, however, is to help the women become empowered and self-sufficient.
Locally, the group works to raise awareness and mobilize funds. “It is just phenomenal what a small group of women, grandmothers and ‘grand-others’—not everyone is a grandmother—has been able to do.”
With 90 members in Fredericton, they have raised around $250,000 over the last decade through innovative fundraising events—such as an annual dance, bridge lunches and the “Spring Bling” jewelry campaign.
In Canada, the organization has been able to raise over $25 million in the last ten years. “It’s no small feat. There’s 240 groups across Canada and its now infiltrating to Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States,” Atkinson said.
The book was five years in the making. One of the co-authors, Joanna Henry, was present at the book launch, accompanied by Kenyan grandmother Philister Andiege, and her granddaughter, Beatrice Onyango.