This photo, taken in 2006, shows our original members holding our first banner.
Back Row L to R: Mary Lynn Carter, Donna Hall-Clark, Judy Henderson, Julia Roles
Middle Row L to R: Sharleen Halstead, Kathy Margolese, Wendy Merson, Sherry Ardell, Bev Lefrancois, Kathy Mason
Front Row L to R: Doreen Johnson, Carole Holmes, Lorraine Green
How Oomama Began
A group of us, grandmothers and grandothers, got together to “do something” in November ’05. We’d all heard Stephen Lewis speak and were stunned and touched by what he articulated so passionately. His description of the HIV/AIDS situation in Sub-Saharan Africa, as it affected especially the grandmothers who were looking after their orphaned grandchildren, galvanized us into action.
Carole Holmes got the ball rolling by calling a meeting. There were 14 of us from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Oakville. We decided to meet monthly and to work through the Stephen Lewis Foundation rather than directly with a group in Africa. We called ourselves the Steering Committee, named our group “Oomama” (taken from a South African tribal chant) developed a Vision/Mission/Principles statement, held a successful garage sale in May ’06 and began to gather names of interested people for our “Friends of Oomama” list. In 2021, it numbers over 700 people.
Fundraising is an essential part of our activities, and to this end, we held our first fundraiser, a garage sale, in May 2006. Our second fundraiser, in May ’07, was an amazing success - an event where Stephen Lewis spoke to an attentive audience of 1400 at Appleby College.
Some members of Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) were part of Oomama in the early days before Canadian charities, like the Grandmother's Campaign, were no longer allowed to do advocacy. In approximately 2007, GRAN was formed. Currently, GRAN focuses its advocacy on the rights of older women worldwide. See their website!
This led to our holding an “Oomama Orientation” in June ’07 so our “Friends” could learn more about us and we about them. As a result of the Orientation, we added three sub-committees: Fundraising, Speakers/Education, and Advocacy.
The Advocacy sub-committee was discontinued when we learned that as a charitable organization, SLF would lose its charitable status if more than 10% of its funds were spend on advocacy. This realization gave rise to an independent social justice group: Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN).
Through creative fundraisers (ranging from bridge luncheons, “Dare to Dine” initiatives, a theatrical production and golf tournaments) we continue to find interesting ways to fund the essential grassroots projects funded by The Stephen Lewis Foundation. As of 2021, we have raised $700,000!
We have taken our awareness message (the consequences of HIV/AIDS, Climate Change, and COVID19) to all parts of the community. To that end, we have created interactive classroom powerpoint presentations for students.
We distribute a Newsletter twice a year, have designed a brochure, business cards, and note cards for Oomama, and developed a website oomama.org.
We are busy, committed, and love what we’re doing. When needed, we hold strategic planning days to clarify our direction. We laugh hard and work hard. We value diversity and would love to expand our group at any time. The more the merrier!