Concert in Port Alberni supports grandmothers

An acoustic singer/songwriter with a passion for giving back will be performing a benefit concert in Port Alberni this week.

Anna Cole, member of the PAGO Grannies, has tickets for sale for a benefit concert being put on by Bev Zizzy on Friday, Oct. 28.

An acoustic singer/songwriter with a passion for giving back will be performing a benefit concert in Port Alberni this week.

Bev Zizzy, a musician from Regina, has connections to Anna Cole, a member of the local PAGO Grannies and has offered to perform as a fundraiser for the Grannies’ ongoing donations to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Zizzy, Cole’s sister-in-law, has an eclectic background but it all comes back to helping others. Music has always been a part of her life. When she retired from teaching four years ago, she started travelling all over the world, bringing her guitar with her to perform concerts. While in Indonesia, she spent six weeks immersed in yoga.

“I heard Stephen Lewis speak in person years ago, just days after he had returned from a trip in Sub-Saharan Africa and had witnessed first hand the devastation of the AIDS pandemic, sharing many powerful stories of the grandmothers he met who not only lost their own children, but were raising their own grandchildren while also battling poverty,” Zizzy said.

“I was deeply touched. I just feel grateful for all the choices I have had, and all I have been able to do in my life, and feel best when I get to give back something to someone. This purpose to my music makes it that much more meaningful.”

Cole agrees Zizzy is a giving person and believes in everything the Stephen Lewis Foundation is doing. In 2014, Zizzy offered to do a benefit concert at Char’s Landing when she heard of Cole’s involvement with the PAGO Grannies. That show was a success, raising more than $1,004 for the foundation, which helps African grandmothers raising their grandchildren, orphaned after their parents died of AIDS.

Cole became involved when Stephen Lewis himself gave a lecture in Port Alberni in 2006.

“At that time, my only grandson was nine years old,” Cole said. “Up until then, I had been aware of things going on around us, but it didn’t have an impact on me. He gave such a prolific speech and told us of kids at nine-years-old who were raising their siblings because their parents had died of AIDS and the entire country was in turmoil.”

The African grandmothers stepped up to raise the grandchildren, despite their lack of education. They were aging and were not equipped to go back to parenting, but the Stephen Lewis Foundation was established to help.

“My grandson was only nine years old and I couldn’t fathom that he would be able to step up and look after three or four siblings at that age,” Cole said.

Cole said the PAGO Grannies cannot change the world, but they can do many small things. Their projects over the past 10 years have added up. In total, the local chapter has raised $69,306 to date.

The concert, being held on at Char’s Landing on Friday, Oct. 28, will include Zizzy’s signature sounds of jazz and blues, which has been described as philosophical, positive and inspiring. The concert is scheduled for 7–9 p.m.

Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at Rollin Art Centre, Char’s Landing or by calling Anna at 250-724-7146 or Diane at 250-724-1566.

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