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Bracelet of Hope celebrates Guelph

Charitable organization celebrates 10th anniversary.

Ten years ago, at the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, a Guelph physician was inspired to do something tangible to address the catastrophic medical crisis on African soil.

Anne-Marie Zajdlik started the Bracelet of Hope, with a simple plan to raise money for AIDS treatment and prevention in the tiny African country of Lesotho, first by selling simple red and white beaded bracelets. A great number of those bracelets have since been sold the world over.

Within a few years, the cause had raised $1 million to open Lesotho’s first HIV/AIDS clinic. The organization’s work in Lesotho has in recent years transitioned into a number of grassroots efforts to support the people of that country.

To celebrate it’s 10th anniversary, the national charitable organization will celebrate Guelph, the city and its people that gave so much to do so much for people devastated by AIDS in Lesotho.

The 10th Anniversary Summer Festival happens in Royal City Park on Saturday, Aug. 13, from noon to 7 p.m.

Candice Coghlan is Bracelet of Hope’s director of business development and fundraising.

“The idea behind the free summer festival is a thank you to the community for supporting us for these 10 years, celebrating what we have done for the past 10 years, and what we are continuing to do and moving forward with,” Coghlan said.  

The 10th anniversary is “absolutely huge.”

“Because we are such a small organization,” she said. “We only have two-and-a-half Canadian employees, and two employees in Lesotho, with a very active board. For an organization that small to make it 10 years, and still continuing to provide programs, we need the support of the community, otherwise we wouldn’t have been here this long.”

There will be a number of food trucks, a number of bands, and a number of inspirational addresses at the afternoon and early evening festival. Admission is free, but there will be plenty of opportunities to donate to the organization’s ongoing efforts.

Proceeds from the event will support health, homes and jobs for those citizen of Lesotho whose lives have been profoundly affected by HIV/AIDS.

After accomplishing the $1 million fund raising goal, and keeping a clinic in Lesotho staffed and supplied, Bracelet of Hope turned the clinic over the government of Lesotho.

“That gave us the opportunity to branch out in the country and support the people of Lesotho on a more holistic level,” Coghlan said. “Now we support health, homes, and jobs. Those are our three pillars now.”

The organization’s largest program in Lesotho is the homes component, consisting of six foster homes in the country that support children orphaned by AIDS. Foster mothers are employed full-time to run the homes, which house up to 10 children.

Unicef estimated in 2012 that there were 150,000 children orphaned by AIDS in the country, which has long had one of the highest HIV/AIDs prevalence rates in the world.

“Our goal is to take them in off the streets and out of orphanages when they are in the greatest need, provide them with all the nutrition, medication and education that they need and deserve, and then hope that they go on to post-secondary education,” Coghlan said, adding that many of these children live with AIDS themselves, and require ongoing medical care. Bracelet of Hope sponsors that health care.

A business to business program, with about 30 Canadian businesses mentoring businesses in Lesotho, helps to create jobs in the African nation. There is a fundraising effort on now to raise $10,000 for a micro-loan program for start-up businesses in Lesotho.
Visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BraceletOfHope and its website at www.braceletofhope.ca to read more about how Guelph has supported Bracelet of Hope over the years, and what the organization is doing in Lesotho.

The festival is described as family friendly. D'Eve Archer, Speakeasies, Zoe and the Great Escape, Mandippal, Kev Morse from Great Wooden Trio will be the bands.

Breakfast Blues & BBQs, Café du Monde Crêperie, El Luchador Mexican Fusion, Fo' Cheezy Food Truck, and Sweet Temptations Cupcakery will be the trucks.

There are 10 craft vendors, and many activities for kids.