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by Danny Kresnyak

Grandmothers and scrabble enthusiasts of Regina, gather to raise funds for a very worth cause. The Annual "Scrabble for Africa" fundraiser filled a church hall, with words of wisdom.

 Photo: Danny Kresnyak

 “I’m just not sure ninja is a word.”  Shirley Taylor looked at the board, her eyes tracing along a horizontal column of letters. The 74-year-old Grandmother of five and great grandmother of two, is a vibrant and talkative member of Grandmothers for Grandmothers. The group is a subsidiary of The Stephen Lewis foundation; they organized the Scrabble for Africa fundraiser.

“Its right there, Granny,” said Jenna, her 16 -year-old great granddaughter. The blonde haired teen scanned her finger along the pages of the scrabble dictionary lying open on the table “That’s 17 with a double word score.”

“Well it’s not any English I ever spoke.”

Taylor reorganized her lettered tiles and smiled. “Lucky me that we’re a team, or I’d be up the river.” The table was filled with Taylor’s kin. Her sister Anne and daughter Gina, Jenna’s mom, filled the other two seats. Together they are the Scrabbled Eggs, a dark horse favourite at the charity contest.

Twenty-two teams crowded the hall of Regina’s Massey Anglican Church. Men and women, spanning generations of family and friends gathered in teams of four. Scrabble ringers circulate the aisles, carrying mason jars full of change. The scrabble ringers are former champs and members of Regina’s city scrabble league. “For a loonie they will offer you advice. For a toonie they’ll do everything but put the tiles in place,” quipped Sheila Fahlman. She sits on the executive council of Grandmothers for Grandmothers Regina.

“Everything we raise gets donated to the Stephen Lewis foundation directly,” said Fahlman. “It gets the money on the ground, in the hands of those who need it.” The people in need are the grandmothers of sub-Saharan Africa. The AIDS epidemic has decimated the generational order. Child-fronted households, grandparent guardians and AIDS orphans are becoming common in the region. Grandmothers for Grandmothers were the brainchild of The Stephen Lewis foundation. The campaign began on International Women’s Day, March 8th 2006. Right now, there are 65 groups operating across the country.

The group held its first scrabble fundraiser in Edmonton in 2007. Regina has held one every year since, this year raising nearly $12,000. Fahlman said, a scrabble tournament is a fitting tribute to Lewis, and his love and use of language to foster social change. The money is raised through pledges, donations and the fresh baking and refreshments that fill the hall with a comforting aroma.

Scrabble for Africa has proven one of the Granny’s richest annual fundraisers. Young and old come out to play. Stacy Zummack, is a scrabble enthusiast. “I’ve played it for as long as I remember. When I was a kid we had French and an English version. The French didn’t get played often.” Her team, the Descrabblers, edged out the rest, and took home top prize.

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