Coming together for a night of hope

On March 25, community members from Waterloo gathered at Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) for the first annual Night of Hope. The event, in support of the Bracelet of Hope campaign, raised funds and awareness to combat HIV and AIDS in the African nation of Lesotho.

“This cause is so important because while North Americans live comfortably, 15 million children face the world each day with no parents, no future and no hope, while an entire young generation of men, women and children die of AIDS,” said Jackie Dobson, Wilfrid Laurier University student and chair of the Mayor’s Student Advisory Council (MSAC), which consists of students from Laurier, Conestoga College and the University of Waterloo.

Mayor Brenda Halloran and founder of the campaign Anne-Marie Zajdlik – who directs the Masai Centre for Local, Regional and Global Health, which cares for HIV/AIDS suffers in the Guelph area – were the featured guest speakers at the event.

Proceeds, raised through a raffle for items donated by local businesses as well as a concession booth and the price of admission, amounted to more than $600, which will go towards funding the Tšepong clinic in Lesotho.

Both Halloran and Zajdlik travelled to the impoverished African nation last summer, and shared stories of their experiences there.

“All we know in Canada is the letters [HIV and AIDS], but I was able to see people ill because of them,” said Halloran, explaining the profound effect the trip had on her. “I got this feeling: I’ve got to do something and I can and I will,” she said about what inspired her to bring the Guelph-based fundraising campaign to Waterloo though MSAC.

“Eight [African countries] are on the brink of human extinction because of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis,” added Zajdlik, who highlighted how outrageous this is when the Western world has the medicines that could end the African crisis.

“Africa does not need aid. Africa does not need charity. Africa needs us to grab their hands.”

The Bracelet of Hope’s main fundraising initiative is the sale of bracelets, which were commissioned from a craft company in Africa.

Not only do the funds made by selling the bracelets go towards medical facilities in Lesotho, but African women are employed in the production of the bracelets and other crafts themselves, contributing positively to the African nation on all levels.

“I wear my bracelet every day because I think of the women whose lives are so different from mine, and who made it for me,” said Halloran in the conclusion of her speech.

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