Today, a remarkable transatlantic partnership of grey-haired women may not be taking over the earth, but are certainly helping to change it.For some four years a group of grandmothers from the small Canadian town of Wakefield have been helping other grandmothers from the South African township of Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, raise their Aids-orphaned grandchildren.
Psychiatric nurse Rose Letwaba’s chance conversation with Norma Geggie in a Canadian supermarket led to the remarkable relationship between the grandmothers of Wakefield and Alexandra.
Some of the Alexandra kids the transatlantic partnership helps support. Since 2004 the Wakefield Grannies have raised funds as only grannies can, with quilt sales, music concerts, book sales and more.“One day, an army of grey-haired women may quietly take over the earth,” said US feminist and writer Gloria Steinem.
As head nurse, Letwaba investigated the matter, discovering that across the township, grandmothers living in abject poverty were raising their Aids-orphaned grandchildren, some of them HIV-positive.
What started out with three grandmothers sharing their grief at the loss of their children and supporting each other to care for their orphaned grandchildren has now grown to a group of 40 elderly women.
It began in 2004 when Rose Letwaba, an Alexandra-based psychiatric nurse visiting a friend in Canada, struck up a conversation with a stranger in a Wakefield supermarket.
Letwaba told the stranger, Norma Geggie, then 80 years old, the story of a group of South African (grandmothers) who had been forced by the Aids-related deaths of their own children to return to parenting.
Made by Brenda Rooney, a founding member of the Wakefield Grannies, and her husband Robert, it follows the story of the remarkable partnership – and friendship – that has grown between the grey-haired women of Wakefield and Alexandra.
At one of the first Canadian screenings of the film, Ledwaba told the audience, “If everyone was like the people of Wakefield, the world would be a better place to live in.”The Alex Aids Orphans Project was started in 2001 when staff at the township’s East Bank Children’s Clinic became aware that many young HIV-positive patients were either missing appointments or dropping out of treatment altogether.
When her daughter succumbs to the disease Ramakabo will be left, in their one-room shack, to raise her daughter’s two children.
Each of the Wakefield grannies has paired up with 10 members of the Gogo Granny Outreach Project, with strong friendships developing over the years.
I phoned Granny Mouse and the booking was handled in a very professional manner. A wonderful stop on the Midlands Meander for an afternoon tea and scones, very cozy rooms with wonderful views over a little country river/stream.