UJAMAA GRANDMAS Profile {Month of Giving}


Hi lovelies. December is the Month of Giving (aka Nifty Gifty Month) at Sewing Patterns by Mrs H. To kick the month off, we’re starting with an overview of UJAMAA GRANDMAS – a fantastic group of ladies who give their time, talents and supplies to raise money for charity. We’ll also be profiling some of the ladies later in the month.

Volunteers before Handcrafts sale doors open

Based in Calgary, Alberta, UJAMAA GRANDMAS raises funds for children in Africa who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and the grandmothers who care for them. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has decimated families and communities across Africa, leaving children to be cared for with scarce resources by their grandmothers or other community members who never anticipated having to take on child-rearing responsibilities a second time. UJAMAA GRANDMAS support the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which provides funding to grass-roots community-based projects in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Some products at handcrafts sale before the doors open

What is now UJAMAA GRANDMAS started in 2004 when Ellen Monaghan put her sewing skills to work to make purses for sale at craft fairs. Ellen decided that the profits from this venture would go to charity. Over time, more and more people joined Ellen to make purses (at first as Purses for Africa) and later a whole variety of other items. The first stand-alone handcrafts sale was in 2006 and the group also ventured into new areas for fundraising. There are now around 500 members. 

2016 handbag set up

The charity Ellen selected to benefit from her sales was the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Stephen Lewis was the United Nations' Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and had brought world attention to the crisis unfolding in Africa due to the pandemic. In 2006, the Stephen Lewis Foundation created the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. The Campaign is composed of community groups such as Ujamaa Grandmas; primarily women of 'grandmotherly' age, who understand the huge demands this responsibility places on the African grandmothers, who empathize with them, and feel motivated to support their struggles to improve their lives and their communities. 

More information about the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign can be found on line at http://www.stephenlewisfoundation.org/get-involved/grandmothers-campaign
Fabric sale stack of fabric

So how does UJAMAA GRANDMAS raise money? There are two major fundraisers each year; a Fabric & Yarn Sale and a handcrafts sale. Each spring we solicit donations of fabric, yarn, and related supplies, and in April we sell them to eager sewers and knitters in Calgary and the surrounding area. From these donations, we also obtain fabric and yarn that we distribute to our members who then produce handcrafted items for our Bags, Babies & Beyond sale in October. These two fundraisers now bring in almost $100,000 per year. We have also managed smaller fundraisers such as a fashion show, and an annual bake sale. In addition, we have a Speakers’ Bureau that provides presentations to various local groups to raise awareness and to encourage donations in our name to the Foundation. 

Sorting in the notions room

There are almost 500 members of UJAMAA GRANDMAS in total. Whilst the members are all women, several men volunteer at our events. Around 150-200 of the members create various items for the Bags, Babies & Beyond sale including:
  • bags and purses, both sewn, knitted and/or felted 
  • baby and child items such as sweaters, hats, booties, stuffed toys, pillowcases, growth charts, and play mats
  • home decor items including place mats, aprons, tea cozies, Christmas decorations, wine bags, felted bowls, coasters, casserole carriers, and table runners
  • accessories such as shawls, scarves, hats, mitts, slippers, vests, sweaters, and kimonos 
  • things for pets such as our almost famous catnip mice, dog beds, placemats, neckerchiefs, and toys
  • book bags (fabric bags containing books, primarily for children, where the fabric of the bag is selected to go with the story
For a fun look at the fabric sale, please do watch the video below!

Fabric sale time lapse

To date, we have raised almost $1 million. Our target for this, the tenth year of the Grandmothers' Campaign, is to hit the $1 million and we are almost there! This amount includes funds raised directly by us through our sales and events plus donations generated by the Speaker’s Bureau. Because the need is ongoing, once we reach our target we will set another target and keep on raising funds.

Fabric sale line up

If you’d like to, you can support us in many different ways: 
  1. You can become a member by filling out a membership form on our website http://www.ujamaagrandmas.com/JOIN. Your name will be added to our email list and you will receive our regular monthly E-news, which contains information about events (regular monthly gatherings, sales, and volunteer opportunities.) Members are welcome to participate as much or as little as they are able. Some members rarely attend gatherings, but make many things for our sale, while others may be involved in other aspects of the organization such as the Board of Directors or the Speakers' Bureau, but are not handcrafters. The level and type of involvement can change over time as their lives change. 
  2. You can also support us without being a member. We have Friends in far places, who donate finished items for the sale or donate fabric or yarn or other handcrafting supplies. There is no formal sign up process for these individuals and some are and some are not members. There are also organizations that support us through exclusive sales of items made by us or cash donations made directly to us to defray our operating costs.
  3. If you’re in the Calgary area, come and support us at events. You can sign up for customer information here.
  4. Share information about our events and about the work we are doing and the reason we do it through social media, web sites, blogs etc.
  5. Make a donation directly to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to support our cause. To learn how to make a donation so UJAMAA GRANDMAS is credited check the bottom of the FUNDRAISING page on our website: 

Volunteers before fabric sale doors open

If you’d like more information and depending on what you’re interested in, you can contact us at the following email addresses.

Keep an eye out later in the month for more from UJAMAA GRANDMAS!

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