Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Robin Scobie is one of the organizers of Together in Concert: In Solidarity with African Grandmothers.

JENNIFER GAUTHIER/The Globe and Mail

“It’s total love, it’s a rush of magic, and it’s such a gift,” says Robin Scobie, of being a grandmother. “It’s a whole other journey than that of being a mother.”

Scobie is one of the organizers of this week’s Together in Concert: In Solidarity with African Grandmothers, a webcast celebration that marks the 15th anniversary of the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

The campaign involves 160 groups of grandmothers across Canada devoted to the support of fellow grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa who are caring for children left orphaned by an HIV/AIDS epidemic that has devastated a generation of parents.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s a sisterhood, and it’s a passion for us, coast to coast,” says Scobie, who is the co-chair of VanGogos, the campaign’s Vancouver chapter. The word “gogo” is a Zulu term of respect for elders. “We’re honouring the resistance and the leadership and the strength of African grandmothers.”

The pre-taped 90-minute virtual concert of music, dance, storytelling and testimonials streams on April 15 at 7:30 p.m. Performers include Jackie Richardson, Lorraine Klaasen, the National Ballet of Canada, Fredericton singer-songwriter David Myles, traditional Québécois musical trio Genticorum and Forte - Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus. Former Barenaked Ladies star Steven Page, the event’s concert director, will sing a song as well.

Speakers include representatives of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, a non-governmental organization that assists HIV/AIDS-related grassroots projects in Africa. Registration to view the event is free and available for 72 hours after it starts. Donations are encouraged.

“We have a lofty goal of $500,000,” Scobie says.

The organization’s first gathering occurred when 200 grandmothers from Canada and half that many of their African counterparts attended the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto in August, 2006. “There was a commitment by Canadian grandmothers that we would not rest until the grandmothers in Africa could rest,” says Scobie, a grandma six times over. “We’re still here, 15 years later. The bond continues.”

Singer-actress Jackie Richardson has visited South Africa and Tanzania in her capacity as an original Grandmothers to Grandmothers member.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

“As we get older, our network of friends are drifting away. We’re losing people. But with the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, our network has multiplied. One grandmother told me she could drive to any province in Canada, knowing full well she could find a grandmother, a sister, who would put her up.

Story continues below advertisement

I attended a conference in Durban, South Africa. There were about 200 South African grandmothers there, but they mostly didn’t know each other. They were standing around in pockets of two or three women, unsure of what to do.

But then a magnificent African grandmother who was part of the organizing committee came into the room and started talking to people. You could see the women nodding and understanding. And then, all of a sudden, they began singing.

I realized the singing was the cleansing part. They had to sing a song just to get through the pain of what they were trying to talk about. The song was healing and uplifting. It went straight to my very core.”

Singer-songwriter Steven Page is long-time supporter of the cause.

Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press

“I have a long connection to the campaign. My mother has been involved with them since 2006.

At a benefit for the Stephen Lewis Foundation I had co-hosted in 2005, I heard rumblings that African grandmothers were going to speak in Toronto in 2006. I had my mother call Stephen Lewis’s daughter, Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, who was running the foundation. The whole Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign started from that.

Story continues below advertisement

I lost one grandmother when I was 13. I lost the other one, my bubbie, my mother’s mother, while the Barenaked Ladies were recording the album Stunt in 1998. We were super close, and I miss her all the time. If she were alive today, she would be all over this kind of event. She was involved, aware and full of compassion, and a go-getter as well.”

Concert performer Lorraine Klaasen’s mother was the South African jazz singer Thandi Klaasen.

GEOFF ROBINS/The Globe and Mail

“Growing up in South Africa, I had a cousin who was like a twin sister. Two of her daughters have passed away. So I know first hand how important the roles of grandmothers are. Mothers are dying of AIDS, and the grandmothers are raising the children. The Stephen Lewis Foundation is reaching out to these grandmothers.

For the concert, I’m singing a song I wrote for Nelson Mandela. CBC in Montreal had asked me to write it in 2013 when he died. It’s called Now is the Time. It was a celebration – now was the time to see South Africa free.

We see things in the long distance. But at closer look, it’s not quite what it seems to be. The situation is still difficult over there. The theme of Now is the Time was relevant then, and it’s still relevant today.”

Concert co-chair Sya VanGeest is a storyteller.

Story continues below advertisement

Handout

“Our local chapter in Guelph, Ont., has raised more than $40,000 since 2006. We all do the thing we’re good at. If I tell a story and get an honorarium, I donate it. Some members sell arts and crafts. One woman fixed up donated bicycles and sold them. It’s wonderful when you’re older and you can work together and maximize your skills and passion to contribute to something so important.

We also donate Air Miles. In 2017, at a regional grandmothers meeting in Brantford, Ont., a woman from Swaziland told us her story. She had wanted to be a carpenter, and she needed to buy tools and go to school. But she was looking after her grandchildren. She didn’t have any money.

So the foundation had funded her. And now, she told us at the meeting, there are a half-dozen or more carpenters, all women, making coffins and benches and tables, and selling enough of them to buy land and grow vegetables. They then sell the vegetables, which buys shoes and uniforms for children to attend school. It’s the kind of project the foundation finds. It’s about being self-sustaining.”

Concert performer Sheree Fitch is a Nova Scotia-based author, literacy advocate and grandmother.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

“For the concert, I’ll be reading a poem, Because We Love, We Cry. I wrote it on the morning after the tragedy in Portapique, N.S., almost a year ago, when 22 people were massacred. I was in bed when I heard the news. The words just came.

When the campaign called me, I thought they’d want me to do something happy. I’m known for joy, you know? But they specifically requested this poem.

Story continues below advertisement

It makes a lot of sense. With all the hope and solidarity of women joining with women and holding hands around the world and trying to raise awareness of the issue of what grandmothers are going through in Africa, there’s also an incredible sadness around it.

This campaign is an initiative that comes from love and a sense of community. And that’s where this poem comes from, too. Because we love, we cry.”

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies