African and Island Grandmothers Celebrate 12th Annual Cycling Fundraiser

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    Celebration at The Legislature

    VICTORIA Sunday September 9th, 2018 (National Grandparents Day) – Vancouver Island grandmothers will be cycling up to Centennial Square at 2:45p.m., led for the last few kilometers by Mayor Lisa Helps.

    These amazing women will be celebrating the conclusion of their 12th Annual Cycle Tour.  Twenty-five women, who range in age from 56 to 75, will have ridden 275 kms over three days from Campbell River to Qualicum Beach to Chemainus to Victoria, and ten more women will have cycled 50 km on the third and final day of the tour.  This year there are participants from Campbell River, Nanaimo, Delta, Vancouver and Victoria. Their efforts are in support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s (SLF) Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, supporting African grandmothers raising 15 million children orphaned by AIDS.

    50k-riders coming in
    50k-riders coming in

    Why do Vancouver Island women in their senior years train year round and cycle these distances in grueling summer heat or worse, rain?  Why do they ask friends, family and perfect strangers to donate to their fundraising for African Grandmothers?  Not your elite athletes with long sinewy muscles; these Vancouver Island grandmothers and grand-others look very much like their friends of a similar age, with greying hair, the slight rearranging of body shapes and the smile lines to show the passage of years.

    Vancouver Island grandmothers ride because they get ‘in their gut’ the struggle of African Grandmothers, and when the cycling seems hard and long, we feel solidarity with these hard-working gogos.  African grandmothers are making a huge difference to the recovery of sub-Saharan African countries hit the hardest by HIV and AIDS.  Vancouver Island grandmothers know that many large international institutions provide access to HIV medication, education and humanitarian assistance, but they also know that the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign makes possible the powerful additional contribution of community-based organizations.  It is community based organizations that support these African grandmothers and it’s the African grandmothers who are building resilience in their communities and re-establishing hope for the future.  Since 2006, Canadian grandmothers have contributed more than $25,000,000 to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign

    The Victoria Grandmothers for Africa (VG4A), who organize the annual cycle tour for the island grandmother groups, last year celebrated their own achievement of $1,000,000 funds raised for the grandmothers’ campaign since the Victoria chapter began in 2006. These funds include their share of the funds raised by the Island Cycle Tour.  One Million dollars is a lot of money for a tiny organization of Victoria grandmothers who diligently make and sell crafts, hold education forums, host African Dinners, participate in walking challenges, and who organize and participate in the annual cycle tour. It’s not entirely a coincidence that Sunday, September 9th is National Grandparents Day. According to their website, the aims of National Grandparents Day are: to honour grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer. Our initiative certainly achieves all of those!

    “There is something special about working for a common goal with others. I believe that our rides reach out to many and inform them of our mission to provide what assistance we can.” said Jocelyn Green, originator of the idea for a cycling fundraiser, an organizer of the annual ride, and a 9 times participant of the cycle tour.  The Island Cycle Tour has raised more than $725,000, including the efforts of the Victoria riders as well as grandmothers from other island groups.

    end-of-day-1_2_orig

    The good news is the fundraising and the work of African grandmothers is showing positive effect.  But the work is by no means done, and while HIV and AIDS are often not the lead newspaper stories today, the work of African grandmothers is as critical as it has ever been, more critical because they are starting to make a difference and must maintain the current momentum for the difference to be long-lasting, i.e. the youngest generation is  AIDS-free and educated.

    The public is encouraged to join the celebration Sunday September 9th to welcome and celebrate the successful conclusion of the 12th Vancouver Island Cycle Tour, and to honour the cycling grannies and the fabulous African grannies on Grandparents Day.  The event will be held from 2:15 – 3:30 p.m. in Centennial Square (by the Victoria City Hall) and includes music from the Gettin’ Higher Choir and the arrival of the cyclists at 2:45 p.m.  The celebration will include the recognition of the contributions of all island grandmothers, who prepare meals and refreshments for the cyclists at each stop along the three-day route and who support the cyclists all year.

    To learn more about the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign please visit www.stephenlewisfoundation.org and grandmotherscampaign.org

    To learn more about the cycling fundraiser, the welcome home event or to donate to the cyclists please visit https://slf.akaraisin.com/pledge/Team/VG4A Cycle Tour 2018 or the VG4A website www.victoriagrandmothersforafrica.ca.
    For further information please refer to background or contact Laurie Wilson, Media and Communications for Cycle Tour 2018, at vacationlauren@gmail.com.

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