In just five short years the Stephen Lewis Foundation has raised more than $26 million to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Twenty-six million dollars! That was beyond Stephen Lewis’s wildest dreams when he started the foundation in 2003. At that time he was the UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, seeing first hand the devastation and the areas of greatest need — the millions of women dying, their orphaned children left behind, the grandmothers who step in to fill the void.
Since then millions of dollars have been funneled through grassroots organizations to the very people affected most, whether it’s providing soap and clothes to infected women or paying for school fees for orphans.
Stephen Lewis takes time out of his busy humanitarian schedule to speak candidly and passionately with Pique’s Alison Taylor about his foundation, about the crisis ravaging Africa and about our responsibility to do something about it.
Amid the despair, the horror and the unimaginable atrocities, Lewis ultimately has a vision of hope.
He is coming to Whistler on Friday, Oct. 19 to speak to corridor residents about it.
Q: There’s a lot of anticipation about your upcoming talk in Whistler. Why did you accept the invitation from the Whistler Social Sustainability Speaker Series to speak to the community?
A: I’ll accept an invitation from anyone where I can discuss important issues of the day. It’s a tremendous privilege to do so…. In a sense, it’s a community event in Whistler and it will focus to some extend on my foundation and therefore I will obviously be discussing issues of HIV and AIDS, but in the process I will want to discuss poverty and conflict and all of the things in the developing world which are compromising the lives that people lead.
Q: Just last month you visited Kenya, South Africa and Lesotho. Do you leave Africa with a sense of despair after each visit or are you filled with hope when you see that your on-the-ground programs are making a difference in the day-to-day lives of Africans?
A: There’s tremendous gratification in seeing the value of working with people right on the ground, right at the community level, right at the grassroots, because it can change and save and improve human life. But it’s also sometimes pretty despairing to watch the intense struggle for survival that grips so many of those countries. Africans are resilient, courageous, determined to overcome the pandemic but as they overcome it, it’s still taking a terrible toll.