Masai Campaign Raises $1 Million, Celebration Planned

September 26, 2008 - News Release

The University of Guelph will help Masai for Africa celebrate reaching its goal of raising $1 million to support an AIDS clinic in Lesotho during a special event Oct. 4 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Gryphon football stadium.

There will be live music and remarks from Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, the Guelph doctor who spearheaded initiative. Zajdlik volunteers in Lesotho, where nearly 40 per cent of the residents have AIDS or HIV. U of G president Alastair Summerlee, Guelph mayor Karen Farbridge, Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran, and Woodstock mayor Michael Harding are also expected to attend, along with the presidents of the University of Waterloo (UW) and Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU). The honourable Mots’eoa Senyane, high commissioner of Lesotho, will also be there.

People are asked to wear red clothing and "bracelets of hope" to mark reaching the milestone. U of G began selling the red and white bracelets in 2006 as part of its Masai Project: For Africa, for AIDS, for Hope, with the goal of raising $100,000 to contribute to Zajdlik's initiative.

The bracelets, which are available in various venues on campus, are handmade by women from the Inina Craft Agency, a co-operative in Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The U of G project has spread nationwide, with "bracelets of hope" now being sold in other parts of Canada and even in areas in the United States and Britain. To date, more than 115,000 have been sold. In June the initiative won a 2008 Global Best Award presented by the International Partnership Network in co-operation with the Conference Board of Canada.

UW and WLU are now planning bracelet campaigns to support the Waterloo region's $2.5 million fund raising project to fight AIDS in Africa. Woodstock has also passed a motion declaring the city a "Bracelet of Hope" community.

"In addition to celebrating reaching our fund raising goal, this event is a ceremonial 'passing of the torch,'" said Andy MacDougall, executive director of Masai for Africa.

"We are issuing a friendly challenge to the communities of the waterloo region and city of Woodstock, particularly their universities, to step up to the challenge of building something as powerful as the campaign in Guelph and at the University of Guelph has been." Masai for Africa will continue to raise funds to support the Tsepong Clinic in Lesotho.

Jamie VanderBerg, a member of U of G's Multi Faith Resouce Team and member of the University’s Masai committee, said he is thrilled to see other local universities get involved.

"The bracelets started out as a visible and symbolic way for people to show they are helping in the fight against AIDS," he said. "But they turned out to also be a powerful tool in helping alleviate poverty and improve the lives and livelihood of African women and children."

The women in the co-op manufacture bracelets and other crafts at home. In addition to providing employment and income for them, the co-op also helps support AIDS orphans in the community.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338/, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982/

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