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This last week I received a call from my past from the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Six years ago the John Labatt arena hosted a fund raising program to inform Londoners of the good work of the foundation. I was most fortunate to be able to interview Ilana Landsberg-Lewis. The following is what I learned.

Canada’s own, Stephen Lewis, who was the United Nations Special Envoy for AIDS established the Stephen Lewis Foundation. His focus is on the areas of greatest need. Providing care for women who are ill and struggling to survive so their lives can be free from pain, humiliation and indignity. Helping the orphans that have been left behind. Supporting the unrecognized heroes of Africa, the grandmothers, who bury their own children and care for their orphan grandchildren; assisting the people living with HIV/AIDS

I want to focus on the plight of the sixteen million orphan children in Africa who have lost one or both parents to AIDS being raised by their grandmothers. 40 - 60% of African households are headed up by these very hard working dedicated women.

The foundation is helping these children in every possible way They have established programs to help nourish the orphans through school vegetable gardens and feeding programs.

I called Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, the Executive Director, to find out how Londoner‘s can help. Learning is the key to change: We have to lift the stigma that surrounds the virus. Women must be given rights and autonomy to be healthy and feel safe.

Education for the orphaned children provides the hope of a secure future. For most African children there is the cost of books, uniforms and fees. Simple - no money no education.

School uniforms are worn with pride and they are often the only new clothes an orphan child has to wear.

The foundation is trying to help the children to become educated including the payment of school fees and supplies to the support their grandmothers.

Schools are safe havens that provide continuity along with food and bereavement counseling.

Volunteers hear stories of the children who so yearn to attend school that they share one pair shoes with their siblings. Often times they can only attend classes on alternate days to travel the long distances to school.

We will not see the end of the pandemic until children and youth are involved.

The monetary costs are minimal while the affects of giving are enormous. African grandmothers who are for the most part the sole support of their grandchildren with a little help can help provide for a healthy, happy future for the children in their care.

To make a difference we all need to become involved. Bishop Bruce Howe of the Anglican Diocese of Huron spoke to me of the challenges of the AIDS Pandemic and how his congregants have become involved.

Ilana reminded me that: "there is always hope, no child lives in a vacuum." The time to deliver is now. A small contribution can make all the difference in a life of an innocent child.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation is making a difference in fourteen countries bringing hope and dignity to the lives of those they reach. To find out more you can access Stephen’s web site www.stephenlewisfoundation.org.

You can help. Please take a moment to join with me and my family and send a contribution to the : Stephen Lewis Foundation , 260 Spadina Ave. Suite 501, Toronto, Ont. M5T 2E4 . Tax receipts for donations of $10.or more are issued. http://www.stephenlewisfoundation.org

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com