Angels in the making

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Juliana Kratz’s house is filled with celestial beings.More than 200 delicate, winged angels, each one unique as a snowflake, were lovingly crafted by volunteers in preparation for this weekend’s World Craft Bazaar, hosted by the social justice group Kairos.It’s an opportunity to purchase foods and crafts from around the world, and each year Kairos ensures there are plenty of their perennially popular African AIDS angels available for purchase.Kratz said money from the angels supports four projects in southern Africa with proceeds spent on essentials like food, clothing, medicine and school supplies for disadvantaged women and children.“We have to do something,” said Kratz. “The people are becoming very real to us, how they pick themselves up from disaster to having small businesses.”The facts surrounding AIDS and its impact in Africa are staggering. In 2006 2.1 million people succumbed to the disease with an estimated 25 million living with HIV/AIDS. Recent statistics reveal there are approximately 12 million orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa and it’s not unusual for the head of a family to be eight years old, or for grandparents to be beleaguered with the care of children who have lost their own parents to the scourge.The African AIDS Angels began after a group of Canadians from Ottawa and Victoria attended an International AIDS Conference in 2000. After visiting orphanages and hospitals and noting the critical lack of funding and the resultant absence of services they returned to Canada determined to help. Over the past six years the project has raised more than $235,000.“There are no administration costs. Everybody is volunteers,” said Kratz. “The money collected goes to Victoria and people who have direct human contact with the four projects.”Progress reports are sent out to keep those involved abreast of the difference the money makes in the lives of its recipients.Kratz, beaming with pride, brandishes an October newsletter with news on recent initiatives.“There’s a women’s shelter in Malawi,” she said. “All these women have AIDS.”She notes four of the woman are now receiving drug treatment and have regained their health.“Now they’re debt free and operating their own small business selling scones, tomatoes ... it’s wonderful to see this happen because of our angels.” It’s easy to see why the delicate and pretty angels, priced at $5 each, are such a hit. Dressed in an array of colourful designs, many clutching a tiny present or bauble, each one is accessorized with snatches of fabric, feathers, in one case even real fur.They all begin with an oversized clothespin and small painted head, with the rest left to the creativity of its creator. Adding to their unique charm is a small card attached that gives each angel a traditional African name with English translation in honour of a child affected by AIDS. “We spend almost as much time giving them names as we do making them,” laughed volunteer Marion Jessen, busily working on an angel at Kratz’s kitchen table. The World Craft Bazaar is worth a look for much more than just its angels however. It provides a way to directly assist workers in developing countries by purchasing products at a fair price, secure in the knowledge the money will go back to their own homes and villages benefiting the local economy.Organizations supplying goods include Ten Thousand Villages, Global Villages, Puebla Partisans from Guatemala, Parksville’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers and local First Nation crafters. Homemade soup and berry pies come courtesy of the Qualicum First Nation.Kratz said the angels are requested year round.“People have phoned and asked ‘Will you be there with your angels?’ I’ve assured them we will be.” reporter@pqbnews.com

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