Above: Members of the Hands Across the Sea: Grandmothers to Grandmothers group pose for a group photo at a recent Garage Sale event. Below: A displayshows details on the cause the local grandmothers are raising money for.
by Stephen Dafoe
For the past few years, Hands Across the Sea (HATS) have been raising funds for the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, an organization that provides assistance to the plight of African grandmothers, something Lewis became aware of in his role as Special Ambassador to Africa for the United Nations.
The volunteer organization raises funds to help African grandmothers who are struggling to raise their grandchildren and other children whose parents have died or who are dying of Aids.
The smiling faces of these local philanthropic grannies can be seen a few times each year in the basement of the Morinville United Church where they hold a garage sale and silent auction to assist their chosen cause. The events are so frequent and looked forward to; the grandmothers are nicknamed the Garage Sale Grandmas.
The group’s most recent sale took place Apr. 1. Their next is scheduled for sometime in June and will be tied into the group’s 10th anniversary and Canada’s 150th.
But the local HATS group meet more than a few times each year to sell gently used merchandise. Their regular meetings at the Morinville United Church are an opportunity to keep up with what is happening through the Stephen Lewis Foundation and from the more than 240 regional grandmother groups raising money to assist the African Grandmothers.
Group spokesperson Delsie Thachuk said the group was started by the late Louise Horstman a decade ago and has been in action ever since. Today, Thachuk shares lead responsibilities with Val Souliere.
“Over the ten years, we have raised over $40,000,” Thachuk said. “We’re a small group. There are only 16 or 17 of us soaking wet, and we’re [all] not always at the meetings. A lot of the members are at the meetings in spirit only because they can’t attend, but they do contribute in whatever way they can.”
The money raised locally by HATS and across the country by other Grandmother to Grandmother groups helps provide funds for food, school fees and uniforms, counseling and social supports. Additionally, the Stephen Lewis Foundation focuses on “building resilience by providing the knowledge and skills to build and continue to maintain fruitful lives.”
Thachuk says the Foundation’s work in Africa is hands-on. “The Stephen Lewis Foundation operates a little differently in that the workers go to the villages. All of the work they do they try to make it community-based. They don’t just hand out the money. They want the grandmothers and everyone else to become involved in some kind of money-making project or other projects they can carry on.”
Souliere said only 10 per cent of the monies collected across the country goes towards the organization’s administrative operations.
“The other 90 per cent goes to the cause,” Souliere said. “It’s incredible.”
More members needed
While the group is grateful for the ongoing community support at their frequent garage sales, they are hoping some supporters would like to give a little bit of time as well. HATS are looking for additional members, but despite the name; there is no age requirement.
“We call them Grandmothers and Granddaughters,” Thachuk explained of the members. “There is no age requirement. We welcome new members.”
Meetings are the second Tuesday of each month at the Morinville United Church and usually run about an hour, depending on how much the grandmothers get to talking.
Anyone interested in joining or learning more about joining can call Delsie Thachuk at 780-569-3878. For information on the local HATS group visit morinvillehats.org.