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Paola Gianturco's latest work showcases local women 0

By Susan Doolan, Special to QMI Agency

Paola Gianturco, right, shares a laugh with some of the members of the Barrie chapter of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, while showing her latest book, Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon, before an official book launch in Barrie. Gianturco, who is a photojournalist, has documented both the foundation's work in Africa and here in Canada, even including some of the local supporters in the book. Gianturco has travelled to 55 countries documenting the lives of women and has released her work at scores of international shows. (J.T. McVeigh Photo)

Paola Gianturco, right, shares a laugh with some of the members of the Barrie chapter of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, while showing her latest book, Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon, before an official book launch in Barrie. Gianturco, who is a photojournalist, has documented both the foundation's work in Africa and here in Canada, even including some of the local supporters in the book. Gianturco has travelled to 55 countries documenting the lives of women and has released her work at scores of international shows. (J.T. McVeigh Photo)

Four years ago this month, photojournalist Paola Gianturco visited Barrie to talk to some Grandmothers and Grandothers at a gifts fair fundraiser.

The resulting 12 profiles were included in her latest book, Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon. The Barrie women were also the only Canadians among the 120 plus stories of grandmothers in 15 countries across five continents.

“I have a sense this is an issue that is not being discussed and the worldwide grandmother activist movement is unheralded,” said Gianturco, who launched her book at a sold-out event in Barrie last month.

“Grandmothers to Grandothers of Canada is leading with the movement.”

For JoAnne O’Shea, it was a no-brainer once she met some of the 100 grandmothers from Africa travelled to Toronto to meet with 200 of their Canadian counterparts. It was organized by Stephen Lewis.

“Once you met them you were done,” said O’Shea of the 2006 event that inspired her so much she started the Barrie group to help the African grandmothers.

Since then they grown to 100 members — 45 active — and have raised around $225,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation and its work, through community groups, with AIDS-stricken Africa. Grandmothers in Africa are not only raising their own grandchildren but other orphans as well — all have lost their parents to the disease.

The local group has raised money through a variety of events, a minimum of one each month, from garage sales to selling ice cream at Kempenfest, Fair Trade coffee at Fig Leaf Jazz Band gigs, dinners, and the annual gift fair, which is one of the largest.

At this year’s ‘Gifts that Give’ fair next weekend, they will be selling handmade crafts, alongside a number of local groups and Ten Thousand Villages.

The Barrie group is being recognized for its contribution to the Stephen Lewis Foundation but there are other grandmothers around the globe who are equally determined to invoke change and make a difference. In Latin America, they are setting up reading-aloud campaigns for indigent children; in India, they have trained in solar engineering so that children wouldn’t get black lung disease from reading by the light of Kerosene lanterns and are passing their knowledge on to other grandmothers.

Some are taking on social justice issues to right the wrongs forced on women during the Second World War.

Gianturco, who lives in California, has two grandchildren. She was in marketing and corporate communications before she “defected” at age 55 to take a one year sabbatical to do a book and kept on going. Grandmother Power is her fifth. All are about women and all centre on global issues.

It was meeting grandmothers in Africa that was pivotal to Gianturco to start this book and as such she is donating the proceeds to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

“I met Grandmothers who were raising children who’d been orphaned by AIDS,” said Gianturco “That inspired me and was the genesis of the book. These women are superstars.”

Grandmothers and Grandothers will have display copies of the book at the alternative gift fair — the book can be ordered online through Amazon.com and Chapters or purchased at the south end Barrie store.

The Gifts that Give fair takes place on Nov. 24-25 at St. Mary’s Church Hall, 65 Amelia St. It also features around 12 non-profit organizations along with Ten Thousand Villages fair trade gift items. Hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

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