How this group of grandmothers supports their colleagues in Africa



A local organization committed to helping raise awareness among African grandmothers, their orphaned grandchildren and their communities is approaching a milestone this year.

Grandmothers of Alberta for a New Generation (GANG) has been around for 15 years and has even opened an online store to stay afloat during the pandemic.

“I don’t know anything about techniques but I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said GANG member Cathy Thorkelsson.

“Certainly when we’re in this pickle of COVID it’s a good outlet for us and for us to get the money to grannies in Africa.”

GANG has been working with grandmothers in Africa since 2006 to raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s “Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign”.

The foundation supports community programs run by African grandmothers who care for orphaned children affected by HIV and AIDS.


Judy Mill, president of GANG, told CTV News Edmonton that when the pandemic hit, they knew shutting down their operations was not an option.

“They still had the same needs to care for their orphaned children,” said Mill.

So this year, GANG is once again selling handmade items online to continue its efforts to support fellow grannies. However, Mill told CTV News he is staying online because members still don’t feel comfortable hosting an in-person event just yet.

“Because of COVID and we were sort of isolated, so I sewed and sewn and sewn,” Thorkelsson added.

In addition to sewing to keep him busy, Thorkelsson said the GANG has contributed to his sanity.

“You need something to do during the day and the sewing does it.”

To celebrate the anniversary, Thorkelsson set a goal of making 15 items for the online store.

“I have done and I have done others,” she laughed. “I achieved my goal.

Mill said most of the costs are covered by their dues, and much of the supplies are donated to grandmothers by the public. At least 90 to 95 percent of the profits go directly to the foundation, she added.

“A lot of our fabrics, our beads, if the women make jewelry, a lot of these items are donated by the grandmothers themselves,” Mill said.

In 15 years, GANG has donated over $ 1 million to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

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