The Canadian grandmothers group

Local grannies help Africa

Find out more about the Campbell River chapter of GRAN Oct. 25, at the NIC/Timberline Theatre

One more example of the city’s “small, thoughtful, committed” groups is the Grandmothers Advocacy Network, fondly known as GRAN.

Campbell River’s GRAN is a committee of grandmothers who participate in a much larger national movement: Advocating on behalf of the grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa who are struggling to feed, clothe and educate millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Populated predominantly by older women, GRAN is attracting an increasing number of volunteers who are dedicated to challenging the status quo with a view to ensuring that federal government policies reflect Canadian values, particularly as they relate to supporting the lives of the grandmothers of Africa and the orphaned children in their care.

Heading the GRAN groups on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands is Maggie O’Sullivan, a Campbell River resident and who retired as a dean from North Island College.

“I have also been fortunate to see quite a lot of the world and to work with minorities and indigenous people,” she says. “We, in turn, act as a Canadian voice for our African neighbours and sisters with MPs and government officials. Similarly, it is our job to raise awareness of these issues in our own communities.”

Last June, O’Sullivan was one of 46 grandmothers from across the country who met in Ottawa to strategize how best to bring these issues to the attention of Canadians.

Over the past few years, the grandmothers fought for and lost federal legislation that would have enabled Canadian suppliers to provide developing countries with affordable medications for epidemic diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

The current priority for GRAN is to fight for more support for the Global Fund. Created in 2002, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, has helped to treat 4.2 million people living with AIDS, 9.7 million people suffering from TB and has provided 310 million insecticide-proofed bed nets to prevent malaria.

GRAN will be urging the federal government, which has to date played a leadership role in contributing to the Global Fund, to commit at the fall replenishment meetings to increase its contribution to $750 million (from $540 million) over the next three years.

If Canada continues to provide leadership and steps up its contribution, other countries may be encouraged to do the same. If the funding goal could be reached, Dr. Christoph Benn of the Global Fund says eight out of 10 people could get access to effective treatment and prevention.

If Campbell River citizens want to support this cause, a GRAN will be at the North Island College/Timberline Theatre on Oct. 25. The documentary by Jan Padgett, “Under The Bushy Tree,” will be shown at 7 p.m. There will also be an information table.

Call O’Sullivan at 250-286-9778.