Tuesday night’s Nyanyas of Niagara gathering was the charity group’s first in-person fundraiser since the pandemic began – and they’re declaring it a huge success.
More than 70 tickets were sold at $30 each for the event at Ironwood Cider House. This group of Niagara-on-the-Lake women raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.
The campaign focuses on supporting grandmothers in countries across Africa who are raising the millions of children whose parents lost their lives during the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
“It’s not just focusing on grandmothers anymore. We’re focusing on the children who used to be raised and are now adults themselves,” said Sandra Hardy, who started Nyanyas of Niagara in 2007.
The group raised at least $2,190 by selling 73 tickets total, not including extra tickets sold last-minute and additional donations made at the fundraiser.
After the group pays Ironwood the venue fee, they will send the rest of the donations to the foundation, which will disperse the money throughout Africa to those who need it most.
Linda Carleton, a member of the Nyanyas steering committee, said the foundation sends the money directly to those in need and it doesn’t go through anyone else.
“And that way, the funds are used appropriately,” she said.
Nyanya is the Swahili word for grandmother. There are more than 200 Nyanya groups, across North America, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Nyanyas of Niagara have about 145 members, said Carleton.
The campaign started in 2006 as a Stephen Lewis Foundation initiative. Grandmothers around the world banded together to raise money for their fellow grandmothers in Africa.
Now, many of the orphaned children are in their 20s, said Hardy,
“They’re doing a lot to educate and help understand situations of gender identity and inequality and violence,” she said.
NOTL resident Jeannie Manning appreciates what the Nyanyas are doing: she has been to Africa three times and met some of the women raising their grandchildren.
However, she loves how the Nyanyas have evolved.
“You’re not only just assisting grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren because they lost their children to AIDS. They’re now supporting women in general,” she said.