“I left my heart in Africa,” says Beatrice Tellier who taught there for four years. A member of the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa, one of 240 Grandmothers to Grandmothers groups across Canada, Beatrice will join over 5,000 grandmothers and others on June 12 and 13 to cumulatively walk 8,000 kilometres, the distance of Canada from coast to coast, in support of African grandmothers caring for their AIDS-orphaned grandchildren.
Working with CUSO, a Canadian non-profit organization that offers aid to developing countries, Beatrice, spent two years teaching French in Ghana in the '60s and two years as an ESL teacher in Botswana in the '70s.
“Ghana was a very poor country at the time, but it was a place where people were happy and so full of energy,” says Beatrice. “The poorest people gave gifts to you because they were so honoured by your visit. It was right after independence, so there was so much hope for the future of Africa. That was before the AIDS pandemic that decimated populations, and Africa’s so much poorer now.”
Born in Winnipeg and educated in Manitoba, France and Spain, Beatrice spent most of her teaching years in Alberta. After retirement, she moved to Victoria.
In addition to helping African grandmothers, Beatrice volunteers with the Saanich Volunteers Service, watches birds, takes classes, attends lectures, travels, swims and takes line dancing classes for fun and exercise. She has worked with immigrants as a friendly visitor and helped with language skills.
Merron Proctor, another member of the Victoria Grandmothers Group, also grew up in Winnipeg. After graduating from Queen’s University with a master’s degree in public education, Merron took a job with Social Services in Victoria, working on childcare programs and initiatives for Canadians living with disabilities. From Victoria, Merron moved to Saskatchewan to work with the Social Services Policy and Planning Secretariat dealing with First Nations Governments. In 1982, she moved to Ottawa to work for the Ministry of State for Social Development before returning to Saskatchewan in the mid '90s as Deputy Minister of Labour and part-time political science instructor at the University of Regina.
While living in Regina, a friend invited her to attend an African dinner. “We’re so privileged here,” says Merron, when she heard about the African grandmothers’ plight. “Imagine raising seven or eight grandchildren, or even two or three.”
Merron walks with several groups in Victoria. She also likes to bike. In addition to working with the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa, Merron is a member of the Gorge Society Seniors Housing Finance Committee.
Retired librarian Joan Wenman, who belongs to the same reading club as Beatrice, comes from a long line of Victoria residents on both sides of her family. Her paternal grandparents came from Manitoba in 1911 to farm daffodils and fruit. Her grandfather built the house in which Joan and her husband live. “I went to school here, I started university here, I did my undergraduate work here,” says Joan, who got her master’s degree at the University of Toronto. She spent most of her career years in the Lower Mainland.
Joan got involved with Grandmothers to Grandmothers in 2005 when she heard Stephen Lewis speak at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. “He gave a typically rousing speech for assistance to African Grandmothers raising their HIV/AIDS orphaned grandchildren.” A few women from the Victoria Grandmothers, a group of about 170 women, were there, and Joan signed up.
Joan likes to walk the trails in Gordon Head and Saanich. She also likes to garden on their two acres of the family's original 10. Assisting those who are less privileged is a good fit for her.
According to the Grandmothers “Stride to Turn the Tide” against AIDS campaign, Africa has become a continent of orphans. The money raised from the walk (1K, 2K, 5K, or 10K) will help African grandmothers achieve greater access to health care, nutritious food, emotional support and education, “their passport to getting out of poverty,” says Merron.
All walks in Victoria start and end at Centennial Square. People of all ages are asked to donate and/or sign up to walk with the Grandmothers on June 12 and 13.
To join the Grandmothers walk, call Audrey at 250-382-2935. For more information about the Grandmothers Campaign, visit www.grandmotherscampaign.org
All proceeds go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation
Registration: June 12, 9 a.m., $10, Centennial Square
Walk: 11 a.m.
Donations can be made online at www.grandmotherscampaign.org
1km, 2km, 5km, 10km walks
Participants receive an African scarf