Grandmothers to Grandmothers!!!


When Janet Siddall first visited Africa in the 1980s, she was bowled over.

“I was absolutely captivated by the landscape, the African people, the vibrancy of it all,” recalls Ms. Siddall, who accompanied her then-husband, a Canadian diplomat, on his first posting.

After they split, she embarked on a career in Canada‘s foreign service that took her all over Asia. But Africa remained in her heart. When she became eligible for a job as high commissioner (ambassador), she set her sights on that continent – and ended up in Tanzania.

She was struck by the resilience of people in “villages that time forgot” – like the women of Nganjoni in northern Tanzania, who had to walk more than six miles to reach the nearest health services.

Although they were extremely poor, the women managed to raise enough money to buy a plot of land – but not enough to build a much-needed clinic on it.

Siddall visited the village after a local nongovernmental organization drew her attention to the women’s plight. She was so impressed that she authorized funds on behalf of Canada’s High Commission to help them realize their dream. The clinic opened in March 2010.

It’s this kind of firsthand knowledge that Siddall has brought to her work with Grandmothers to Grandmothers (G2G).

“She brings the human side of what’s happening in sub-Saharan Africa to our little group,” says Nancy Martin, chair of the Peterborough, Ontario, chapter of G2G. “We’re very lucky to have her!”

When Janet retired two years ago, she moved to Peterborough to support her daughter and four young grandchildren – and to be closer to her elderly mother.

Maintaining a link with Africa was also important to her, and G2G seemed the perfect fit. An initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), a large Canadian NGO, grandmother groups began to form in 2006. They raise funds to support grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa struggling with the effects of AIDS on their families.

Having lost their children to the disease, many African grandmothers must raise their grandchildren. According to UNAIDS, a United Nations program devoted to prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS victims, about 15 million AIDS orphans now live in sub-Saharan Africa – nearly twice the population of New York City. The cause spoke to Siddall.

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