Our G-Moms Journeys to Africa
Eke Van der Zee
‘‘It WAS AN EXPERIENCE OF LIFETIME ... meeting the African grandmothers and listening to them has literally shown me how important and healing the work is. My commitment to the stephen lewis foundation has been strengthened and my respect for how the SLF works with the community based organizations has grown tremendously.”
Since 2010 the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) has organized Grandmother gatherings in Africa made possible through a large gift from the Slaight Family Foundation. The Gatherings provide the Community Based Organization (CBO's) and the grandmothers with the opportunity to learn from each other, to have their voices heard, to support each other and to return to their respective communities with new knowledge and enthusiasm and thus the healing process of the people at home.
This year the SLF took 11 grandmothers to Uganda and Tanzania. I was one of the ones fortunate to go: so were 6 other grandmothers from Canada, two from Australia, one from the USA, and one from the UK.
“Twenty-two Canadian Grandmothers and Grandmothers, met in Africa to celebrate the work of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and our African Partners. It was 20 days to connect with the courageous Gogo’s.
The Canadian women found courage for themselves, healed hearts and amplified the voices of our African sisters. We traveled in situations that challenged us some days. We started out as strangers and became a sisterhood.
We had to give up control, learn how to live, travel and trust as a group. And there it was, the African Grannies teaching us that anything is possible to overcome. We found an universal bond that will never break. We realized that no matter what you have or don’t have, we all love our families, love to laugh, sing and have wisdom that has come with age and experience.
We know the statistics, seen the pictures but once you have had a Gogo hug, then you realize women are the hope for this world.”
“When you see directly what effect we have on our African Grannies and their orphans you become committed to that cause forever.
You see their joy, their resilience and are so aware that we are sisters walking hand in hand from far across the continent and we empower one another.”
The challenges are to fight for the rights of the widows and children. Support those who fight for their rights, teach those that don't know their rights. Protect them against isolation. Economic empowerment.
That evening we had a celebration dinner with performances from a group of Masaai dancers, a (male) singer and his band, a very active dance group and of course Jackie Richardson. Lots of dancing was done by us all!