THE BLOG

Grandparents Who Are Now Parents Again

02/10/2017 11:59 BST | Updated 02/10/2017 11:59 BST

This year, Sunday 1 October marked both the UN International Day of Older Persons and Grandparents' Day in the UK.

Grandparents all around the world, including in the UK, often play a critical role in caring for their grandchildren. Sadly, during times of crisis such as the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014-15, many grandparents become the primary carers of their grandchildren.

Younger adults were hit particularly hard by the Ebola virus; more than half of all deaths from Ebola in Sierra Leone were people aged 15-44. More than 3000 children lost both parents to Ebola, leaving many grandparents to take on the role of parent to their grandchildren.

One grandmother in this situation is Theresa, 55, a widow who lost both her daughter and son-in-law to the disease. She is now single-handedly raising four orphaned children, plus two foster children who were already in her care (6-14 years old), and providing for her new family.

Theresa said: "I have a major challenge to raise them and to give them a good education. If they can have a better education, I will be really happy."

After the Ebola crisis, Theresa started picking and selling cassava leaves on the local market but some days she didn't sell anything. Using a loan from a village savings group for older people, Theresa began to make and sell cassava cakes and then expanded to selling other small items that are popular in her village, like salt and pepper.

Now Theresa can pay for her grandchildren's school fees and uniforms. She was even able to save up for Christmas presents and like all good grandparents knew exactly what they would like:

"They like dressing up, especially on occasions like Christmas, so I bought them some dresses, and also prepared food for them. It made them so happy. They forgot for a little bit that their parents aren't around."

"I was extremely happy to see them play like other kids. They were happy, like any other child."

This Sunday, Age International celebrated the role that grandparents play in countless families around the world, and often in the most difficult of circumstances. From Addis Ababa to Zanzibar, grandparents love, care and want the best for their grandchildren.

For more information about how Age International supports grandparents around the world, please visit www.ageinternational.org.uk/what-we-do/grandparents/