Thérèse Bourque Lambert, founder of the West Hill Grandmothers Group in NDG, had been working exhaustively for years to rally her fellow senior citizens and friends on behalf of the Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. The purpose of the Foundation is to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic ravaging Sub-Saharan African countries and to provide much-needed aid for those afflicted. A powerfully inspirational speech delivered by Stephen Lewis provided the impetus for Thérèse to assume a leader's role in raising funds and awareness, marching in protests, and lobbying politicians in her solidarity with the Grandmothers of Africa, sole caregivers to their AIDS-orphaned grandchildren. Even then, Thérèse felt that she could do more.
Thus it was that in 2007 she approached her friend Roger Roome who was posted to Lilongwe, Malawi in his work for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), to ask him if he knew of a community that Thérèse and some friends and families could support as a project independent of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. After examining around 100 applications, Roger chose the village of Mnjale to be the beneficiary of Thérèse's efforts, and the Mnjale Foundation was born. The fledgling organization flourished and before long the funds, which were transmitted directly from Thérèse, to Roger Roome, to Melissa Banda the director of the Mnjale Foundation, were granting help to not one village, but twenty-five, and then fifty. Roger Roome was later posted elsewhere, but before departing he transferred his role to Soeur Gisele Leduc, a Québecoise nun living in Lilongwe, and she continued to arrange for the conveyance of the funds into Melissa's capable hands. To accurately reflect the growing breadth of the Foundation, the name of the organization was changed from Mnjale Foundation to the Theresa Foundation, in honour of Thérèse Bourque Lambert, and Melissa Banda has supervised the organization of a Board of Trustees as well as the detailed budgeting of the Foundation. Thérèse was deeply proud of the incredible success of the Foundation, and extremely honoured that it bore her name.
Although Thérèse passed away in 2011, leaving a rich legacy of community leadership and social activism, the Foundation will continue under the direction of her children and grandchildren, all of whom are inspired by her monumental example. The Theresa Foundation is now incorporated as a non-profit organization and will continue to provide funds for school bursaries, new wells, bedding,clothing, medicine, a farming programme, and a feeding program.
Every penny that has been raised in Canada through theatrical productions, concerts, and other ventures is delivered directly to the grandmothers of Malawi. They have given our family a touching gift in choosing Thérèse's name for their Foundation; they inspire us through their resilience, their resourcefulness and their courage. We will not rest until they can rest. We will not let them down.
Grandmothers and their grandchildren in Malawi know that we care.