Taking to the cafeteria stage at St Peters Catholic School, Libby Strathdee age 75 joins nearly two-dozen members of the Grandmothers and Grandothers to perform a flash mob for students Thursday in an effort to raise awareness on World AIDS Day and the 14 million children orphaned worldwide by the AIDS epidemic. Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network
A flash mob grannie-style rocked the high school’s gymnasium, Thursday.
With arms in the air and geriatric feet swinging in sensible shoes, two dozen grannies shimmed their way through Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves (Eurythmics with Aretha Franklin) at St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School in Barrie.
“We were one of 240 groups around Canada, the US, Britain and Australia doing a flash mob to that song today because it’s World AIDS Day,” said Nancy Knapp.
Knapp is one of the Barrie’s Grandmothers to Grandothers group who joined the Grandmothers’ Embrace South Simcoe group for the performance.
Knapp has been involved with Stephen Lewis Foundations’ campaign raise funds to help struggling grandmothers in Africa for several years.
The Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign was launched by Lewis in 2006 in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa.
During the last decade, it has raised more than $25 million to support community-based organizations working with African grandmothers who’ve lost their own children during the AIDS epidemic.
In addition to her work with the campaign, Knapp has also travelled to Africa to help build schools. She has also used her former training as a nurse to inoculate children and has worked in the poorest slums in east Africa, where she says one in three adults is HIV positive.
“We get the medicine here, but they can’t get it,” Knapp said. “Some children are born HIV-positive or it can be passed through their mother’s milk.”
Knapp said she has seen first-hand how grandmothers in Africa suffer.
“They don’t have old-folks’ homes like we do here; their kids are supposed to take care of them when they’re old, but they can’t because they’re dead.
So the grandmothers end up raising their grandkids,” she said.
The South Simcoe and Barrie groups have raised more than $150,000 in support of community-based organizations working with African grandmothers struggling to raise their orphaned grandchildren.
“The financial aid we offer is invaluable,” she said.
To celebrate World AIDS Day, the two groups met half-a-dozen times to practise their flash-mob routine together.
St. Peter’s vice-principal Janet Cinnamon ran some of the sound equipment for the dancing grannies.
“One of the lady's grandchildren attend this school. When she approached me with the idea, I thought it sounded like fun,” Cinnamon said.
“Of course, it’s poutine day - which we only have once a month - so it’s a favourite. The lunchroom was full today and loud,” she said, with a laugh.
“But we’re blessed because our students here are such great kids, so it went well,” she said.
Student Moe Zawadi, 15, was one of a dozen students who climbed up on stage to dance with the grannies.
“It’s a sad cause, so I wanted to support them,” Zawadi said. “And I like to dance, so it was fun.”
For more information about the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, visit www.grandmotherscampaign.org