Story By Marion Boyd
Photos by Hilary Drummond
Oliver’s Grandmothers for Africa gathered recently at the home of Christina Ruddiman to enjoy a meal together and to hear about Hilary Drummond’s recent trip to Africa.
Hilary was given a number of pillow case dresses, socks and some shorts for boys to distribute wherever they might be needed. Although the Stephen Lewis Foundation we support is focused on grass roots community development and not ‘give away’ programs, we do occasionally ask friends going to Africa to distribute these cute dresses made with love locally by women in our community.
Hilary told of her experience. “We drove down a long, red dust road in the middle of Benin, West Africa, looking for the small village where we were to observe a voodoo celebration. Our bus parked outside the village as the roads were not meant for driving. As we approached, curious children gathered and we could hear drumming.
Soon we saw different groups gathered. Some were on the drums, some were talking and some were involved in ceremony. As the voodoo ceremony started, our guide approached me and suggested this was a good place to give some dresses.”
“We went into a small building and there were about eight little girls between the ages of 5 and 8 waiting with excitement. We were able to give each girl a dress and pair of socks,” Hilary told us. She added, “I wasn’t sure what they would do with the socks since none of them had shoes to wear but they were happy to receive them. They put the dresses on over their shorts and t-shirts and smiled for the camera.”
Hilary told us that she distributed similar clothing in several sites in both Benin and Togo. Mothers and children clamoured to have them. The new clothes gave the children something to wear besides simple school uniforms at play time. School uniforms are treasured and handed down to others in each family.
Hilary and the local Grandmothers found they were soon engrossed in discussions of effective community development work in Africa. What is the best way to support local institutions and initiates when we want to help? Hilary had some good tips for other travellers. She recommended that in future donated items such as clothing and school supplies be given to local organizations like the school or an orphanage rather than to individuals.
The evening ended with camaraderie and stimulating conversation. If you are interested in the Oliver Grandmothers for Africa and learning more about the 140 community-level organizations and projects in 15 sub-Saharan African countries we help support, give Eunice a call at 250 498-6840 and join us at our monthly meeting.