• Jules-Pierre Malartre

Grannies going the extra mile


(Left to right, front row): Chris Merulla, Dolores Meade, Donna Munro, Glenna Vipond, Debbie Woodhead, Fay Powers. (Left to right, second row): Helen Murray, Linda Eames, Carmela Portelance, Penny McCaig, Joyce Pardo, Nancy Patterson, Yvonne Vogel.

Many charitable organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are finding creative ways to engage communities and continue their outreach and fundraising activities in great part thanks to online resources.

The Hudson charity group Grannies Aid for Africa had to cancel their Annual Soup Contest and other fundraising activities this year. However, they will participate in the Virtual Stride Walk, a march to increase awareness and raise funds to combat AIDS in Africa, that takes place throughout the month of June.

“Grannies Aid for Africa stand in solidarity with grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dolores Meade, Director of Grannies Aid for Africa. “We will continue to raise funds and awareness to support the organizations responding to the COVID-19 and AIDS pandemics. Consequently, we are changing our fundraising efforts by participating in the Virtual Stride to Turn the Tide. This is an annual national campaign when Canadians walk in support of the grandmothers who walk with purpose every day as they turn the tide of HIV and AIDS and care for their orphaned grandchildren,” Dolores explained.

“This event is something that the Stephen Lewis Foundation has done for years,” Dolores added of the foundation named after the former Canadian NDP politician and diplomat. “Usually, people organize a walk in their towns. Now, we can’t do those things together, so this year, people are walking individually, recording their kilometres, as opposed to doing it collectively as we’ve done in the past.”

Participants can march in their own communities anytime during the month of June and add up their kilometres. People can make donations online by visiting the foundation’s website at slf.akaraisin.com/ui/stridetoturnthetide/team/288789 where they can also join the team and access other tools to help them record and tally up kilometres during the month. People also have the option of doing other activities in support of the fundraiser. “We have a chart that converts activities like swimming and bicycling to steps,” Dolores added. “We can then calculate kilometres that way.”

The website features a map showing the number of kilometres between various towns in African countries impacted by AIDS.

Grannies Aid for Africa aims to walk the equivalent of the distance between two cities on the map, namely Lusaka in Zambia, and Harare in Zimbabwe, which is about 400 km.

“If we go more, great! This is about as much as we think we can do for a small group,” Dolores said. “It depends on your capacity and ability to do it. We’re all grandmothers, after all.”

The total distance between the various towns on the map (a little over 10,000 km) serves as a soft target for the Virtual Stride Walk this year. They are aiming to raise $3,500. Supporters can also mail in their donations to 166 Fairhaven, Hudson, Quebec, J0P 1H0.

The event is open to everyone. “What we want from people, in addition to walking, is that they contact their friends and families, and send them our information so that they can become supporters,” Dolores said.

Dolores feels there is a need for increased awareness regarding AIDS both here and abroad. “As it gets to be less and less of a problem here, people put it to the back of their minds. It’s ongoing, and if we let it go, it will get worse, again,” she warned. Groups aiming to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic are therefore just as critical as ever, as is support for the cause.

Dolores and Grannies Aid for Africa understand there are many causes asking for donations and that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for most people to donate. “All of these causes are worthwhile, and I personally wouldn’t fault anybody who chose a cause other than ours at this point, because there are so many competing ones, but ours is important,” Dolores said.