HIV/AIDS, Grandmothers and The Children in Their Care: Immaculate Nakyanzi’s Story

In 2009, Peggy Edwards received the Alan Thomas Fellowship Award presented annually by the Carold Institute, and began a year of reflection and writing about the important work of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. Since then, Peggy has built on her Fellowship work to make numerous presentations and to continue to advocate on behalf of the Grandmothers Campaign.

On March 16, 2015, Peggy spoke at a seminar in Women’s Studies (University of Ottawa and Carleton University). Her presentation Body Politics: HIV/AIDS, Grandmothers and The Children in Their Care incorporated a story from Immaculate Nakyanzi–a tiny but strong Ugandan grandmother. In her story, she speaks to the triple threat of discrimination African grandmothers face—based on age, sex and HIV status.

Immaculate’s Story

When HIV and AIDS came to my community, it hit my life very hard. My parents, most of my brothers and sisters, my husband and two of my children died from AIDS. My three other children are living with HIV and AIDS. I was left by myself, caring for the children and grandchildren in my home.

I strained myself to get the medication, to go to hospitals, and to get food supplements to feed the sick and the rest of the family. There was such poverty in my family then. It harmed my dignity to have to ask for loans from other people. I was losing so much weight and couldnt take care of myself, so people started looking at me as if I had HIV. The feelings and the stigma were so bad, and I lost my friends and started keeping alone to myself. 

In 2011, when Kitovu Mobile AIDS Organization started helping us grandmothers, my life began to change. They helped us raise crops again. My grandchildren needed special grief counselling, and I had help communicating to the girls how to prepare for their menstrual period, and to talk to my adolescent grandchildren about building relationships, and the reality of growing up in a community struggling with HIV and AIDS. Kitovu Mobile also helped me get a good house for the family. The old house was in very bad shape.

So many grandmothers are having land problems, and relatives are even taking their animals and selling them. In my solidarity group, two grandmothers have had their land grabbed.

When my house was being built, my in-laws tried to chase me from my land. They told me to stop encroaching on their land and to pay them rent. They said, Youre a grandmother, you are only left with land for your grave. One time they came after us with machetes, but one of my sons joined with our neighbours and fought them off.

About four times, my in-laws threatened to kill me. I reported them to the police. The police asked for 10,000 shillings but I only managed to raise 6,000. They took the money but did not act because I failed to raise the full amount. So then I went to the prison officer and got a letter from him to give to the local leaders and the boys. It warned them to stop any kind of violence to me, otherwise they would be imprisoned.

 I still worry about the land but for now, things are better. The children are fed and they are going to school. Kitovu Mobile is counselling the children living with HIV to live positively. One of my daughters is getting free AVR medicines from Uganda Cares.

But Kitovu Mobile doesnt have resources to help all the grandmothers. They are isolated because of the stigma. They dont know about nutrition and sanitation, and how to generate some income for themselves. They have problems with bad houses, and their grandchildren are not getting to school. Their land is taken from them.

 That is why I am doing my voluntary work with Kitovu Mobile. They trained me as a contact granny and gave me the knowledge and skills to help others. I offer the grandmothers counselling and teach them about nutrition and hygiene, to keep in solidarity and dignity as grannies, and to be hopeful. I accompany the sick to the health facility. I advise them about their property rights and how to deal with the police. I love the work of helping fellow grannies. It has become part of my life.¨

Immaculate Kakyanzi is an example of defiance against the stigma and abuse of women’s rights that can precede and accompany a disease that invades an individual’s body, and the soul of a community.

The grandmothers in Africa have become a powerful source of resistance. They inspire their Canadian sisters. Together, we issue a clarion call for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of the rights of African grandmothers and the children in their care. Together, we are a strong source for change and social justice.

* This is an abbreviated version of Immaculate’s story. She told her story in Vancouver, October 2014 at the Grandmothers Tribunal hosted by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. To learn more, visit and

Call for applications for the 2015 Alan Thomas Fellowship

We are pleased to announce the call for applications for the 2015 Alan Thomas Fellowship to Promote Civil Society and Voluntary Action.

The Fellowship was first awarded in 2008, and there are now eight Fellowship recipients whose research and reflection has made a significant contribution towards strengthening leadership for civil society and promoting greater understanding of the importance of voluntary action.

The Fellowship will again be awarded in 2015 to a leader in the NGO/not-for-profit sector who would not normally have access to a sabbatical leave. Valued at a maximum amount of $60,000 for up to one year, the award is intended to allow the recipient, at a transitional moment in his or her career, to make a contribution to the sector, through research and reflection.

In recognition of a shared desire to strengthen and support leadership capacity in the voluntary sector as an essential element in advancing development and positive social change, both locally and internationally, the Carold Institute and Cuso International are now working together to promote our respective Fellowship opportunities.

Visit our webpages at  and for fuller detail on the Fellowships and on past recipients. The new deadline for applications is March 28, 2015 and the 2015 recipients will be announced in July.

Please publicize both these Fellowship as widely as possible among your networks, and strongly encourage any potential candidates to apply.

For further information, please contact us.

The Carold Institute announces the 2014 Alan Thomas Fellowship Award

June 19, 2014

For immediate release

LucThe Carold Institute is pleased to announce that Luc Gaudet, founder and artistic director of Mise au jeu, a Montréal-based participatory intervention theatre company, is the recipient of the 2014 Alan Thomas Fellowship.

The annual fellowship is a $60,000 award enabling a leader in the not-for-profit sector to spend a sabbatical year researching issues that advance citizen participation and strengthen civil society.

Luc Gaudet has been actively engaged in the production of intervention theatre for more than 30 years. Inspired by the techniques used in Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed,” his research on the use of games and theatre as a tool for personal and social development has taken him throughout Québec, to Central and Eastern Europe, Central America, the Philippines, Indonesia and more recently West Africa.

As executive and artistic director of Mise au jeu, Luc has worked with his team to develop innovative approaches for encouraging citizens to participate in regional development and promote living together better.

Since 2010, Luc has been a contributor to the “Québec Network for Social Innovation” (Réseau québécois en innovation sociale (RQIS)), and been actively involved in PRAXCIT Team lead by the Montreal Research Centre on social inequality and discrimination and alternative citizen participation (Centre de recherche de Montréal sur les inégalités sociales, les discriminations et les pratiques alternatives de citoyenneté (CREMIS)), which develops and tests participatory practices for citizen action on social inequality.

He also sits on the executive board of Québec’s Tools of Peace, an innovative network that promotes the transfer of skills needed for the prevention of violence, and is an active participant in the international social art practitioner’s community “Think Tank for change,” which is supported by the One Drop Foundation.

Luc will use his sabbatical year to reflect on and assess his 23 years of social interventions through Mise au Jeu and establish a model of the crucial stages involved in turning the public into actor. In particular, he will focus on the evocative power and place of play in the process. Luc’s aim is to create new training programs to support a “citizen mobilization and knowledge transfer though art” program as a first step towards the creation of a “citizen involvement through the arts” mobile school program.

Luc Gaudet is the 9th recipient of an Alan Thomas Fellowship, which was first awarded in 2008. Past fellowship recipients continue to be connected to the Carold Institute and with each other, deepening the impact of their work and mentoring others in their respective fields.

For more information on this award and on the work of the Carold Institute, visit or contact Carold President, Michael Cooke (tel: 416-209-6156; email Luc Gaudet cans also be contacted (tel: 514-871-0172; email

PovNet goes to school: musings on academia and community

Several months ago I was approached by Michael Cooke, the President of the Carold Institute, the organization that awarded me a community fellowship in 2008. He said that Carold had embarked on a new partnership with St Paul’s University College at the University of Waterloo, and their Principal, Graham Brown had invited me to be there inaugural visiting fellow for a week. I was to engage with students and professors, give a public lecture, speak to classes, and write and reflect.

“Sure,” I said. I figured it would be a break from staring at soul-destroying funding cuts budgets and reports. I was going to be in Ontario anyways for a national colloquium on access to justice. And I’m interested in how academia and community organizations can form productive and mutually respectful relationships with each other.

I arrived in snowy Waterloo on Monday February 3 and the next morning my first event was an interview about PovNet for an online coast-to-coast Masters of Social Work class “Knowledge Mobilization and Evidence-Based Practice”. I was asked whether PovNet was a knowledge mobilizer; I had no idea what knowledge mobilization was. But the two professors who interviewed me were interesting and interested, and quick to modify their pre-determined questions to accommodate my somewhat less than academic sensibilities. We liked each other, and we had fun.

Over the course of the next few days, I met with students and professors in international development programs who were going to be going out into the field. They wanted to know about our work with marginalized communities – they were interested in how we used technology for social change.

I was invited to the Aboriginal Education Centre for soup (actually it was really good chili) and bannock (baked and fried, both) to talk a bit about our work at PovNet. A warm and welcoming place – I went back the next day as I had a bit of extra time and chatted with the co-ordinator, Luane Lentz. I had brought with me as a gift for the Centre, several copies of a poem called “Remember,” about residential schools, written by Jacqueline Oker, an Indigenous writer and published by Lazara Press (the author had given me permission to distribute the poem).

I gave a public lecture to a fairly small segment of the public (there was a snowstorm that night) about “How Digital Activism Can Help Make Poverty History.”

A couple of the anti-poverty activists whom I had invited braved the storm to come from Kitchener to the talk. I recognized them right away even though we hadn’t met – it was good to have allies from my own community sitting at the back of the room.

I went back to Kitchener on Friday morning. Trudy Beaulne, the Executive Director of the Social Planning Council Kitchener-Waterloo had organized lunch at a local Greek restaurant and invited Greg deGroot-Maggetti, People in Poverty Program Coordinator of the Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, Rev. Michael Hackbusch from the House of Friendship and Charles Nichols an anti-poverty activist in the areas of homelessness, welfare and disability rights and a self-advocate.

Anti-poverty groups and academic institutions traditionally have a rocky relationship. In some instances, we are working to form respectful peer relationships with each other. We travel carefully in each other’s very different countries, sometimes exploring each other’s languages and cultures. Seeing if and how we can connect.

But community activists want to write our own histories — we don’t want people from the outside speaking for us in a language that we don’t use.

We do write our own histories.

We tell our own stories. We produce analysis about the systemic “poornogrophy” of poverty. We are poets.

We even write murder mysteries set in our own communities.

But our research is called grey literature and is somehow not as legitimate, according to the experts.

We get help from academics to archive our histories. But the grant runs out, and our archives are not complete.

The last night I was at the University of Waterloo, I had dinner with a couple of social work professors and a PhD student. I was talking about the struggle we were having with finding funding for PovNetU. One of my hosts asked if we had considered partnering with academic institutions. I replied that we had, but that we are committed to offering courses to advocates who wouldn’t necessarily be able to pay fees, and that didn’t work with an academic partnership model. He disagreed. We will stay in touch.

Canada’s First Nations: finding opportunities for dialogue and democracy in the resource boom

By Mark Selman

First published in SEEchange Magazine

If think tanks and major business organizations are to be believed, Canada is on the verge of a major resource boom driven by the rapid pace of urbanization in developing nations. The proposed Bitumen and Liquefied Natural Gas pipelines and port facilities in Northwest BC is but one manifestation of this boom. The Northern Gateway pipeline and no less than fourteen LNG port facilities and supporting pipelines have been proposed. As in most other major resource development projects, First Nations are likely to feel the greatest impact of these developments and may ultimately have a very significant role in shaping what can be done.

These kinds of development are at a huge scale and their potential impact on the economy and the environment is undeniable.  Unfortunately, in this author’s view, discussion of these issues has been focussed almost exclusively on their economic and environmental consequences. Little attention has been paid to the potential these developments have to affect learning, democracy and governance, or citizenship participation in decision-making.  Unfortunately senior levels of government have been among the culprits in framing these developments as primarily economic. Harper and his cabinet have intimated that they will evaluate the Northern Gateway in terms of its potential benefit to the national economy, and may override local and environmental concerns in the national interest.  The BC government has imposed strong conditions for its approval of the Northern Gateway project but has touted LNG projects as having the potential to save the provincial economy.  Neither has shown any inclination to use the opportunity to engage people and communities in meaningful dialogue about what kinds of development are desirable, what trade-offs are worth making, what mistakes must be avoided, and most importantly, what processes could be used to balance national, provincial and local interests.

We have enough experience with major industrial projects in remote communities to know what some of their effects are likely to be on rural communities:

  • Large influxes of short term workers, often staying in camps which do not generate revenue for local communities even though they may use local services and often contributing to social problems including prostitution and drug use.
  • High paying jobs for some local people, often attracting people who have been fulfilling key roles in communities, local businesses and community organizations.
  • Lots of money for training skilled trades and technicians but nothing to assist communities to fill gaps caused by the changes in the local economy.
  • Divisions in the communities as some local businesses benefit hugely while others are affected negatively and others oppose the development on environmental or other grounds.

All these problems can be mitigates, especially if communities are prepared and more senior levels of government support local government in making sure that companies are forced to be responsible for these effects.  But that requires seeing these projects as more than just cash cows for the national and provincial economies.

Interestingly, First Nations may hold the key to developing more rational approaches to thinking about resource development projects.  A series of court decisions under section 35 of the constitution mean that senior levels of government and corporations cannot ignore the rights of First Nations to consultation and accommodation for infringements on their use of their traditional territories.  Every major project will infringe on the territories of one or more First Nations.  Like other communities, First Nations want more than environmental assurances and economic benefits.  They want to use resource development as part of reconciliation, the restoration of respectful relationships between themselves and other levels of government and equity with regard to education, health and other social goods.

Since even business organizations such as the BC Business Council are urging that First Nations need a more equitable deal on upcoming resource developments, maybe there is an opportunity for First Nations to open the door for a broader dialogue about how we make decisions on matters of local AND national significance.  Maybe this is an opportunity for everyone to learn something about how we can resolve conflicts through dialogue rather than through the courts.

St. Paul’s welcomes Carold Institute Visiting Fellow

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In a new collaboration between the Carold Institute and St. Paul’s University CollegeIMG_1189, the Carold institute Visiting Fellow program will bring to campus former or current Alan Thomas Fellows of the Carold Institute to engage with students, faculty, and the public on social innovation for a more just and humane society in Canada and beyond. Fellows will spend a week on campus, during which they will give a public lecture, lead classroom discussions, and meet with students and faculty.

The inaugural Carold Institute Visiting Fellow is Ms. Penny Goldsmith,founder and CEO of PovNet, an online anti-poverty community. Ms Goldsmith will be on campus from February 2 – 6.

For more information, contact the Office of the Principal at St. Paul’s University College at 519-885-1460, ext. 200.

Growing an Intercultural Neighbourhood

“Growing an intercultural neighbourhood, growing a civil society” was the focus of my exploration as an Alan Thomas Fellow.  Supported by the Carold Institute and the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Vancouver, I was able to explore and further animate this subject area with practitioners, academics and a diverse community of citizens and service providers.

I am writing this blog because I am interested in hearing people’s thoughts about interculturalism. I have been reflecting on this work throughout my career and more intensely throughout my fellowship with the Carold Institute. The following briefly describes my thoughts as they are evolving and I hope to advance my thinking by hearing from you.

  • How do you describe interculturalism?
  • What successful intercultural approaches have you tried or witnessed?
  • What are its benefits and what gets lost if an intercultural focus is not there?
  • Where are you seeing examples of intercultural work where diversity is connected to get a great whole?

The topic of interculturalism was an area of interest as I witnessed the increasing diversity of our communities during my career in community development and through working in Vancouver, Canada, an urban centre whose policy decisions, along with provincial and federal policies, led to significant population growth over a 25 year period, primarily through immigration.

With this change, I could see that our communities were at greater risk of becoming disconnected. I also saw that there were many advantages when we were able to embrace, utilize, and connect diversity, particularly in place-based arenas like a neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods are a great place to engage people because people share a common space. Consider the number of places where you can meet neighbours – public transit, schools, shopping districts, recreation facilities etc.


How do we describe interculturalism?

Most of the international literature focuses on ethnicity when interculturalism is discussed. However, in the neighbourhood of Renfrew- Collingwood and throughout other parts of Vancouver and Canada, this work has evolved into seeing diversity through a broader lens. Diversity is not limited to ethnicity but to any quality which might otherwise serve as a “divider” — including age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socio-economic class, appearance, fitness and religion. It also can be used to describe the different cultures of our organizations, sectors, and disciplines.

For the purposes of my exploration, I used the broader definition and described interculturalism as work which focuses on building bridges and exchanges between people, sectors and disciplines that are different, and encourages them to bring their unique gifts and approaches to address common interests. This intercultural work happens when diverse groups are given an opportunity to connect with each other and become greater than the sum of their individual parts.

What is the intercultural approach?

An intercultural approach works with assets and gifts- the positive aspects of diversity. It sees diversity as an advantage rather than just a challenge. It builds on the strides of multiculturalism by going deeper into the connection within and between communities while continuing to highlight unique assets. It focuses on the “in between” space, and actions we can co-create together so we see results and have shared ownership. It allows us to deepen conversations and understanding. It is an always shifting and co-created dynamic space as new people enter.

Benefits of intercultural community

Interculturalism promotes inclusivity, social cohesion, creativity and harmony. Each group, while maintaining its distinct identity, shares with and learns from others, thereby becoming stronger, more dynamic, more aware and more connected even beyond what they already know. People bring value and are valued. We become a more engaged community and create a sense of belonging when we co-create and do things together. Community members are enriched in career and life skills, leading to personal growth, community growth and innovation.

What gets lost when there is not an intercultural focus?

Our approaches in the past have reinforced differences and divisions, which can result in people living in fear and discomfort.  An intercultural focus honours uniqueness and also makes an effort to bring diversity together through common interests. When we do not embrace uniqueness, we lose people’s gifts and contributions, wasting valuable resources. When people are detached, indifferent, and unable to contribute, this can limit how we take on our common community challenges. An increased feeling of isolation can also impacts health and the availability of community support in times of need. This in turn affects our ability to evolve a society that is vibrant, resilient and caring.

Examples of Intercultural Neighbourhood Development

The following links describe some of the experiences in the Renfrew Collingwood Neighbourhood of Vancouver.