Profile of a Canadian Grandmother: Janet Siddall
Adapted from an article by Sian Griffiths, August 8, 2011, Christian Science Monitor.
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. 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.
When Janet retired two years ago, she moved to Peterborough, Ontario 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 Grandmothers Campaign seemed the perfect fit. An initiative of the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), 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 virus, many African grandmothers must raise their grandchildren. The cause spoke to Siddall.
“[They] have exactly the same aspirations as we Canadian grandmothers,” but with just a fraction of the resources, she says. The African grandmothers must start parenting all over again – as well as care for themselves. They assume responsibility for feeding, housing, and schooling their grandchildren. Their plight has struck a chord with Canadian women. Siddall’s grandmother group Grandmothers Together Peterborough thrives on the generosity and pluck of its members. It has no budget. Siddall has organized a potluck dinner that raised $2,500. She also headed up a local “Stride to Turn the Tide” walk that raised $6,000.
This group of retired teachers, community workers, nurses, and a former ambassador isn’t likely to be found sitting by the fire reading a book, says Ms. Nancy Martin, Chair of the Grandmothers Together Peterborough group. “We’re from the ’60s generation. We don’t take anything lying down,” she says of her group’s determination to support Africa’s AIDS-ravaged families.
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