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North End grannies reach out to African 'sisters'

From left, Myra Bittern, Clara Boucher, Pat Lippai, Mary Richard, Irene Bingues and Angel Peterson.

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From left, Myra Bittern, Clara Boucher, Pat Lippai, Mary Richard, Irene Bingues and Angel Peterson. (BORIS.MINKEVICH@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

The Grannies have gone global.

That's how members of the grandmothers' support group at St. John's High School in Winnipeg's North End explain the baking, beading and crafting blitz that has taken over their meetings in recent months.

It's all part of their ongoing efforts to raise money to send to their African "sisters" -- women who, like themselves, are raising their children's children.

This Friday, they're throwing a party to help out grandmothers in Uganda.

The Grannies Gone Global all-ages, non-alcoholic social takes place at the Winnipeg Convention Centre from 7 p.m. to midnight and will feature entertainment, door prizes, a silent auction and dancing to music provided by a DJ.

Veteran children's entertainer Fred Penner will perform from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students (ages 12 to 17), $2 for children (ages 6 to 11) and free for ages 5 and under. They are available at St. John's High School (589-4374), or can be ordered through Christine Penner ( and picked up at the door.

Reaching out to grandmothers across the globe who are raising grandchildren in more dire circumstances is their way of paying it forward, says Dale Auger, one of the 25 or so active members in the St. John's grandmas' group.

"They are our African sisters. I feel like we're so privileged here in Canada, that we take so much for granted," says Auger, who is raising two of her grandchildren, ages two and 17.

"We're giving back what Chris (Penner) and St. John's School has done for us. Doing this makes me feel special, like I'm part of something positive."

The grandmothers' group began in 2006 when St. John's then-vice-principal Christine Penner went door-to-door to welcome Grades 7 and 8 students to the school. After visiting more than 450 homes, she discovered that grandmothers were often the primary guardians of the students and invited a few of the women out for coffee. (Nearly 20 per cent of St. John's 1,150 students are reportedly being raised by their grandparents.)

Since then, the group has continued to grow and to meet the first Thursday of every month to socialize, to share stories and survival tips, and, more recently, to brainstorm ways of raising funds for grandmothers' groups in parts of the world where everyday parenting struggles are compounded by things such as poverty and disease.

"There's not a lot of spare cash floating around here in the North End," says Penner, who still runs the grandmothers' group although she is now an assistant superintendent of the Interlake School Division.

"So when I see these grandmas rising up to help those who are less fortunate than they are, that brings tears to my eyes." - Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2010 D3


A well-deserved award goes to our very own Chelsea!  (click to read article)


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