When South African nurse Rose Letwaba first visited Wakefield 18 months ago she couldn’t have known she was sowing the seeds of what would later become a national movement in Canada. But that’s exactly what grew out of her first visit, and now she’s coming back to the village with three South African grannies in tow for a Granny Gathering Aug. 15.
“The very first granny group began in Wakefield and now there are 45 groups across Canada. None of us ever dreamt it would explode like this,” Gathering organizer Brenda Rooney said. “Wakefield should be very proud. It’s a huge national movement and these women coming here is a closing of the circle that began in Wakefield.” Letwaba is back, accompanied by Magdeline Ramakobo, Lucia Mazibuko, and Petronella Makhanya- three Alexandra grandmothers who were partnered with Wakefield grannies after the nurse first visited the community a year and a half ago. Inspired by Letwaba’s tales of AIDS-ravaged South Africa and the plight of grandmothers there forced to take on the burden of raising grandchildren orphaned by the pandemic, the Wakefield grannies decided to help. What began as simple community acts of charity and solidarity has since blossomed into national campaign, and three South African women touched by it will share their experiences at the Granny Gathering. “They’re incredible women. It’s hard to imagine living on nothing and taking on the raising of children,” Rooney said. “It’s going to be an opportunity for people to hear from them and then talk to them informally. I think everyone will be blown away and inspired.” The Granny Gathering will be held at the Wakefield United Church, Aug. 15, at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.