Scarves donated by Oneness Gogos to Atira House. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Oneness celebrates 10 years of philanthropy

Group supports grandmothers in Africa

Soon after the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, a local group of women joined a movement to help the unsung heroes of the tragedy: grandmothers.

In the early 2000s, there were a reported 12 million orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a majority of those children being raised by grandmothers. Today, that number, globally, is expected to be as high as 17 million, with approximately 90 per cent of the children from Sub-Saharan, according to the United States Agency for International Development.

While support was ramping up to support families in Africa, Canada’s Stephen Lewis, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, held a Grandmothers Gathering in Toronto in 2006, bringing together 100 African grandmothers and 200 Canadian grandmothers.

Jesse Pringle, from Ladner, attended the gathering and started the South Fraser Gogos, which joined the grandmothers movement to raise money for the work the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) was doing to relieve families affected by HIV.

Semiahmoo Peninsula resident Mary Harris and a couple of her friends attended the meetings, and eventually announced that they were starting a chapter in South Surrey/White Rock area in 2008.

Today, there are more than 240 grandmother groups across Canada, including 28 in the Greater Vancouver Area.

As a way to celebrate 10 years of philanthropy, the local chapter, Oneness Gogos, met at Chartwell Crescent Gardens Retirement Community Friday with an Atira House director, Caithlin Scarpelli.

Oneness Gogos, which generally works towards funnelling money into the SLF, presented Atira House with “gifts of love” to celebrate 10 years, and recognize Random Acts of Kindness week, which starts Feb. 17.

The group presented Scarpelli with a collection of handcrafted gifts, accessories and jewelry for women to “remind them how loved they are.”

Donna McBride, who has been a member of the Oneness Gogos since it started, says the local chapter of grandmothers are a “wonderful group of people who are determined, committed and they show up.”

“They have a lot of ideas, there’s a lot of diverse backgrounds and skills. We try to target the skills of the individual person to how we can use them best. Whether you’re a craft, whether you’re somebody who has ideas about fundraising, whether you have computer skills,” McBride told Peace Arch News Friday.

Member Doreen Bruce says she loves the contingent of grandmothers, but added that “it is work.”

Since the group started, it has donated $234,711 to the Stephen Lewis Foundation through fundraising efforts and personal donations. The group does not collaborate with SLF, they instead operate a grandmothers to grandmothers campaign, something which McBride called a “movement.”

The national Grandmothers Campaign has provided more than $25 million to the cause.

The group is organizing two fundraisers for the spring, a flower sale and a “boot sale.”

The boot sale, organizers said, will be similar to that of a tailgate party, but instead, participants will fill their vehicle trunk with a variety of items to sell.

It will be Oneness first attempt at the boot sale, the group continually tries to create new ways to raise funds, Bruce added.

Other events the group hosts are craft sales, dances, flower sales and galas.

Currently, there are approximately 35 members of the group, and McBride said there’s no cap on the number of members accepted.

The grandmothers wanted to specifically thank the Crescent Gardens retirement home and White Rock Library for allowing the group to meet at their facility.

If residents are interested in learning more, or to inquire about joining the group, contact onenessgogos@gmail.com.

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Caithlin Scarpelli, from Atira House, answers questions from Oneness Gogos. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Caithlin Scarpelli, of Atira House, is questioned by Oneness Gogos on how the group of grandmothers can support the organization. (Aaron Hinks photo)

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