CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It started with a guest editorial in the Charlotte Observer on World AIDS Day in December 2006.
Patricia Shafer, president of Charlotte consulting and research firm Compel Ltd., had just returned from a trip to Uganda with Save the Children’s HIV/AIDS Leadership Council.
Struck by the contrast between what she saw there and what she returned home to in thriving Charlotte, she felt compelled to put her thoughts to paper.
“I made the case that if we really wanted to be a world-class city, one of the things that we had to do was be part of the world,” Shafer recalls. “If you look at the number of orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda and do the math, if we in Charlotte had the same percentage, we could fill Bank of America stadium twice.”
After reading the editorial, Lyndall Hare, of Lyndall Hare Consulting, reached out to Shafer because of their common interest in addressing the needs of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.
Together, Shafer and Hare, who serves on the board of directors of the South Africa Development Fund, organized Mothering Across Continents, an initiative with a vision to be a catalyst for people who want to make a difference in the lives of orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS.
They started with the women of Charlotte.
In celebration of Mother’s Day, the organization officially launched last May, raising close to $50,000 for three specially-designed projects run by South Africa Development Fund and Save the Children.
The projects support children and families in South Africa by providing meals at school, play therapy and home care. This year, their goal is to raise $100,000 while further galvanizing women to engage in this global issue.
“Fifteen million orphans and vulnerable children are affected by HIV/AIDS globally, and one million of them are in South Africa,” says Shafer.
This year’s events, which run from May 8-10, are presented in collaboration with founding sponsor Wachovia, Myers Park United Methodist Church and Unity Fellowship Church.
The events will feature a speech from Julia Zingu, Save the Children’s South Africa country director, about Mothering Across Continents’ contributions to Caring Schools, a program that funds the schools supported by Mothering Across Continents.
Charlotte-based photographer Catherine Anderson will exhibit images from her trip to South Africa to capture the impact of the group’s support.
And award-winning documentary director Louise Hogarth will preview her film Angels in the Dust, which weaves the story of South African orphans with a parallel saga of orphaned elephants.
Though this year’s goal is more than double what the group raised in 2007, Shafer feels confident the group can reach the goal while planting the roots for expanding Mothering Across Continents in the future.
“Our intent is that this become national and, at some point, international in nature,” says Shafer who feels the group’s greatest strengths have been in collaborating and leveraging relationships that already exist, rather than reinventing the wheel, and in creating an opportunity for others to feel empowered.
“It is an empowering experience for them to be able to make a difference to an issue like this, with us serving as the catalyst,” she says.