February 19, 2009
My name is Amy. I am a 50 year old mother and have just become a grandmother. I wasn't a grandmother when I first heard Mary's story. I was listening to NPR when I heard the story of Mary. Here is the link so you too can hear her story. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5074670&sc=emaf After hearing Mary's story of being 80, having lost 14 children, many to HIV/AIDS and living in absolute poverty, now raising 10 grandchildren, I couldn't turn away from her words "I feel abandoned and alone in my old age to carry my burdens". I thought about my own grandmother, my mother and so many others who can't imagine what that would be like. I phoned a few friends, and we gathered women for tea to talk about what I had heard. One of the women who came to the tea, whom I had never met, was originally from Uganda and had also heard the story. She talked about sitting in her car listening to the story and feeling helpless. She has since become the co-director of GBB. After the tea, it was decided that my daughter and I would set out to Uganda to find Mary. We traveled there in May of 2006. We tried to find Mary but were unsuccessful. We did however, find that Mary represented thousands of elders in Uganda who are burrying their own children and become parents all over again in old age and with little or no resources. We met 35 grandmothers on that trip and learned a little about their lives, loss, and amazing courage. My daughter and I returned from Uganda to Milwaukee and began with a small group of others to form Grandmothers Beyond Borders. One of the more important things we learned from our first visit is the power of listening to another woman's story. Just in that, 35 grandmothers who were isolated and alone joined together and formed collectives knowing that someone cared. Now in four villages more than 500 elders have formed elder associations. In the past three years, we have learned so much about them and ourselves. You can go to www.grandmothersbeyond.org to get more information. We are a volunteer grass roots organization. We are learning as we go and continue to be inspired by others who too have followed their hearts, jumped in to see what can happen!