A group of grannies from Umtha Welanga in Khayelitsha left these shores for Durban last week to take part in International Aids Conference.Grandmother’s Gathering brings together grannies from all over the world who look after Aids orphans.Umtha Welanga is an organisation which deals with family programmes in Khayelitsha and nine of their grannies were invited to share their experiences of raising their grandchildren, some of whom have mothers who have died as result of HIV/ Aids.The conference starts today(Thursday) and ends on Saturday.They are accompanied by three staff members from the organisation. Nomvuyo Vivianne Mciteka, of Umtha Welanga, said the conference is organised by Steven Lewis Foundation, a Canadian based organisation, and it will be attended by hundreds of grannies from all four corners of the world.“The conference will help them a lot as they will learn from each other about their experiences of raising their grandchildren and also to network. They will also get advice on how to raise the grandchildren, some of whom end up as delinquents because of the absence of the biological due to the dreaded disease.”Mciteka said raising the children was not always easy for the grannies initially, but through the support they received from support groups they have managed to become stronger. We really appreciate them. They will be able to come back here and share what they have learnt with other grannies,” Mciteka said.The organisation deals with child and family programmes which consist of HIV/Aids issues and also foster parenting.The organisation has about 80 grannies in total. Rosemaria Mvuvu,67, is one of the grannies.She has raised her grandchild, from the age of four months after her mother, Bomkazi Mvuvu, 38, fell very sick because of the disease.Mvuvu praised the support she gained from Umtha Welanga which she said was the pillar of her strength to deal with the challenges she faced. “It was not easy to raise her at all. Her mother (Bomkazi) abandoned the child, now 21, in the middle of the road so that passing cars would crush her to death. She was only three months old then, but luckily a woman from the area saw her and ran to take her before the cars came. She (Bomkazi) was so troublesome and wanted to kill her child,” Mvuvu said.As if raising the unwanted grandchild was not enough, Mvuvu went through the ordeal of raising her granddaughter’s three kid, who were born in 2010, 2011 and 2013.“I was angry before, because of all of that, but now I am strong and have accepted the situation. Umtha Welanga saved many lives including mine,” she added. Other organisations attending the conference include Grandmothers Against Poverty and Aids (GAPA), and Ethafeni.