Grandmothers helping grandmothers. That is the goal of an international campaign that has significant representation in the Ottawa area and an active local chapter.

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign is an initiative started by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in 2006. Its goal is to help support grandmothers in Africa who have become the permanent guardians of children orphaned by the AIDS crisis.

The local chapter of Grandmothers to Grandmothers calls themselves the Gorgeous Grannies and Friends. It was started by a group of neighbours in North Gower in 2010, and they are one of about 20 groups that support Grandmothers to Grandmothers in the Ottawa area. They currently have 14 active members who live in North Grenville and surrounding area.

Current chair MaryLouise Benedict has been leading the group for four years. She said she decided to get involved when she retired because she believes in helping those in Africa who are not as fortunate as we are in Canada. “I believe that if you have the time and money, you should help people,” she says. “It doesn’t always have to be local.”

MaryLouise’s passion for the Grandmothers to Grandmothers grew after she had the opportunity to go to Uganda and Kenya in 2013 and learn more about what she had been working to support. One community-based initiative has helped provide grandmothers with proper houses made of bricks instead of the shacks that many had become accustomed to making their home. Another program provided sewing machines to a group of grandmothers who have been able to help provide for their families by starting up a sewing business in their community. All the initiatives that Grandmothers to Grandmothers support are community-based programs that have been created for and with grandmothers to help transform lives and restore hope in their communities.

The Gorgeous Grannies and Friends supports Grandmothers to Grandmothers through three main fundraising events throughout the year. In the spring they hold a plant and bake sale, and in the fall they hold two craft sales. They also sell their handmade items at Country Creations in Osgoode year-round. MaryLouise says they are usually able to raise about $7000 a year for Grandmothers to Grandmothers through all their fundraising initiatives.

The fall fundraisers are coming up and both happen to fall on a weekend in mid-November. On Saturday, November 16, the Gorgeous Grannies and Friends will have a few tables at the annual Tartan Bazaar at the Kars Presbyterian Church where they sell sewing, crafts and holiday plant arrangements. On Sunday, November 17, they will be taking part in the Ottawa regional Grandmothers to Grandmothers event, the GRAND Market, at Lansdowne Park, where they will also be selling a variety of sewing, crafts and home décor. MaryLouise says it will be a busy weekend, but she and the group are looking forward to raising as much money as they can for the cause.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers is always looking for new members. While there is always space in the local group, MaryLouise says she is happy to help people make the connection with a group in their area. To learn more about Grandmothers to Grandmothers you can contact MaryLouise through the Gorgeous Grannies and Friends Facebook page or visit the Grandmothers to Grandmothers website (http://grandmotherscampaign.org/).

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