Campbell River’s Shannan Brown will share her experiences in Africa in an event for the Campbell River Grandmothers to Grandmothers group’s efforts to support the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Campbell River grandmothers building a bridge to Africa and back

Step out of the pages of National Geographic and Walt Disney and into the horrifying reality of AIDS

What little girl hasn’t dreamed of visiting Africa? What little boy hasn’t longed to see this mysterious continent teeming with elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and of course the real “Lion King” along with the statuesque Masai warriors striding across the savannah in search of new pastures?

Well that’s one picture of Africa: the other is of course vastly different. Step out of the pages of National Geographic and Walt Disney and into the horrifying reality of AIDS as it wreaks havoc on young families, killing off young parents and leaving behind, grieving, bewildered and terrified children. With no-one to care for them most are taken into orphanages: the lucky ones find comfort in the arms of a loving but bereft grandmother.

When Shannan Brown was a little girl she dreamed of going to Africa and she realized that dream as an adult.  But this wasn’t all about photographing wildlife from the safety of a jeep. What Brown saw was the day-to-day reality of poverty and illness of the people who lived there.

Typically, Brown also saw an opportunity to make a difference by tapping into the amazing resolve that both she and the women of Africa shared: the resolve to make a dream a reality.

Travelling the continent from Cape Town to Cairo, Brown settled in Tanzania where she volunteered, teaching English and working with an orphanage.  On her website, Brown says, “It is difficult to explain the full impact such a trip had on me.  Suffice to say it was the best thing I ever did for myself.  The learning from that trip is still unfolding months later….I can’t wait to get back.”

In November 2010, Brown shared those first experiences with the Campbell River Grandmothers to Grandmothers for Africa.

This group of over 75 local grandmothers has committed itself to assisting the Stephen Lewis Foundation in putting money directly into the hands of community based organizations working on the frontline of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Since 2003, over 240 Grandmother Groups across Canada have funded over 700 initiatives, partnering with over 300 community-based organizations in 15 African countries that have been the hardest by the AIDS pandemic.  From home-based care to grandmother support and orphan care, from feeding programs to music and art therapy, grassroots organizations are driving the response to the AIDS pandemic in ways that are innovative, sophisticated and impactful.

Meanwhile, Brown did indeed go back and this time as a Fellow in the East Africa Micro Business Program of Royal Roads University. Armed with her newly minted MBA, Brown returned to Tanzania to put money contributed by a private donation to the university directly in the hands of her own “Group of Seven.”  Not Canadian artists, but seven hardworking African would be entrepreneurs.

At the request of the Campbell River Grandmothers to Grandmothers, Brown has agreed to share with everyone the stories of her return trip to assist the Grandmothers yet again in their fundraising activities.

On Sunday, the Campbell River Grandmothers to Grandmothers in partnership at the Campbell River Museum will present: A Bridge to Africa with Guest Speaker Shannan Brown.

Doors open at 2 p.m. Browse through their new collection of Kazuri Jewellery, meet Brown and enjoy locally made dessert.  All proceeds will go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.