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Test driving a Ford in Guelph helps families living with AIDS in Africa

Drive 4UR Community supports Bracelet of Hope

Afraid to go to a car dealership for fear of a high pressure sales job?

On Saturday Wayne Pitman Ford offered free test drives of eight of its new line up in the parking lot at the Frank Hasenfratz Centre of Excellence in Manufacturing in an event it called Drive 4UR Community.

For every community member who took a test drive, Ford Canada donated $20 to Bracelet of Hope on behalf of the local dealership to a maximum $6,000.

“A few years ago, Ford challenged its dealers to partner with a community agency,” said Ged Smyth, marketing manager at Wayne Pitman Ford. “We bring the cars and choose the charity and Ford makes the donation. They really want us to be good community partners. And we want to help get rid of any fear of the car dealership.”

Ishita Ghose, office manager at Bracelet of Hope, said Linamar donated the parking lot for the day, Wayne Pitman provided the cars, and they basically had to provide water, making it a low-cost and easy-to-run fundraiser for the organization.

Early in the day, she and her crew were tweeting and texting their friends to come on over and take a drive.

“There’s absolutely no cost to participants and no one will try to sell them a car,” Ghose said. “Just a chance to drive one of these beautiful new cars.”

Bracelet of Hope is a Guelph-based charity that funds programs in Lesotho, Africa to help children orphaned by AIDS, working with local community groups on projects designed to help people earn a living.

It was started by Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, initially to fund AIDS health clinics and treatment centres in the small African country. At one time Lesotho was at the epicentre of the AIDS pandemic.

Since the Ministry of Health in Lesotho has now taken over the clinics, Bracelet of Hope has shifted its focus to helping those affected by AIDS and HIV.

Zajdlik has received several honours for her work including an Order of Ontario award in 2009. Last week she received a Meritorious Service Medal – one of 17 – from the Governor General of Canada at a ceremony in Ottawa.

The award is for Canadians who perform exceptional deeds that bring honour to Canada, and Zajdlik certainly qualifies. She first campaigned to raise $1 million to fund an AIDS clinic in Lesotho and regularly visited to work in the clinic. She continues to travel to Lesotho.

She started Bracelet of Hope to help people living with or affected by AIDS. The organization has raised millions of dollars through the sale of handmade red-and-white bracelets which provide income for African women artisans.

“I’m grateful for this recognition,” Zajdlik stated in a press release. “My hope is to bring focus to the ongoing needs of those living in poverty and the people who are suffering as a result of HIV/AIDS both here in Canada and in Lesotho.

“The world seems to have shifted its focus from this cause, but children and adults still suffer. There is now so much hope,” she continued. “Treatment of HIV allows for a normal life expectancy. Communities and families thrive when access to treatment is available.”

She said much progress has been made in the fight against the AIDS pandemic.

“I believe that in under a decade we will see countries free of AIDS. My dream is to help bring that reality to Lesotho,” she said.


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