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Supporting African grandmothers

Swags and Bags craft sale set for Nov. 27
Swags and Bags
Burnaby Gogo member Sharon Woloschuk with some swag.

There’s plenty of shopping to be done at the fourth annual Swags and Bags craft sale, returning to Deer Lake United Church later this month.

The event is put on every year by the Burnaby Gogos, a group of 35 grandmothers who have made it their mission to help their African counterparts through fundraising efforts.

Canadian humanitarian Stephen Lewis started the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in 2006, and since then it has raised more than $24 million for African grandmothers caring for children orphaned by AIDS. The money goes towards food, educational supplies, uniforms, school fees, medical care, HIV counselling and testing, housing and more.

“We have so much here in Canada. We are so fortunate, and the grandmothers in Africa are struggling for human rights, dignity, all in their name of their grandchildren,” Elizabeth Bowes, co-chair of the Burnaby chapter, told the NOW.

The grandmother-of-one said African grandmothers are often taking care of not only their own grandchildren, but grandchildren of other families who have died of AIDS. And if they’re husband dies, she said many of them don’t get to keep their property.

“And in order to get services, even if services are available in some places, they have to go huge distances to register their grandchildren to have the right to be their guardian. When they get there, they have to go three more times because they don’t have the same legal paperwork that we all are used to having in North America,” Bowes said. “In many countries, when a woman is widowed, her brother-in-law has the right to take her property and take her as another wife if they choose. Their rights are literally taken from them.”

Proceeds from Swags and Bags will be donated to the Grandmothers Campaign. The goal is to raise more than $4,000.

As always, the craft sale will carry fresh greenery, including holly made by the local members.

“They sell out pretty quickly, so hopefully people will come and knock the door down and get them,” Bowes said with a laugh.

Other items include signature tote bags, eco-holiday wrapping, scarves, home décor, unique stocking stuffers, hostess gifts in a jar, jewellery and Safari Denim children’s wear.

Deer Lake United Church is at 5135 Sperling Ave., off Canada Way. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27. For more information, call Elizabeth at 604-291-7790 or visit