In Sabie, South Africa a group of elderly “gogos” (Zulu for “grandmothers”) gathers each morning. Today Ellah and Mumsi peel and chop a mound of vegetables, put them in plastic bags and into the small deep freeze. Sarah Lelukini, a diabetic, is having her blood sugar and blood pressure monitored, as are 40 other gogos. In a small shack Mandu, Selina and Paulina cook the weekly hot meal in three large vats placed on gas burners.
What do all these things have in common? All were made possible through generous donations to Grannies à Gogo: the Vernon – South Africa Connection, which supports these bereaved African grandmothers, many of whom are caring for their AIDS-orphaned grandchildren. The funds have been used for the garden tools and seedlings to grow the vegetables, the deep freeze to store excess produce, the necessary medical supplies to monitor diabetes and hypertension, groceries to supply lunches, and a monthly supplementary food parcel to take home. The volunteer helpers are now enlarging the gogos’ vision of food with new recipes such as cauliflower with cheese sauce, and different ways of doing salads.
The gogos participate in exercises under the weekly direction of a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist, playing team games to promote group spirit and always end up in laughter. When the “poster gogo,” Inah Mashego, recently celebrated her 90th birthday, a real milestone for a gogo, she was honoured with a cake and a party. Inah said it was the first time she’d ever had a birthday cake. Funds are also used to transport the gogos to hospital when needed; for craft supplies, eyeglasses, groceries, and sports equipment, to name a few.
The Vernon group counts itself fortunate that they receive these frequent activity reports, as well as financial statements.
“There are many groups in North America who donate to the disadvantaged overseas and often have no knowledge of how the funds are used,” said Vernon group chairperson Sue Harnett. “For nearly eight years we have developed this relationship with our volunteer administrators. They let us know the details of what is happening in the gogos’ lives, send photos of their activities, and send us their accountant’s financial statements.”
Grannies à Gogo provides an opportunity for people to give an alternate gift to the person who “has everything,” showing that you’ve remembered them in a way that makes a difference in our world. To make a gift, go to http://granniesagogo.com/donate/, then click “this form.” When you send the form with your cheque to the address indicated you will be mailed a receipt (non tax-deductible) and a beautiful Grannies à Gogo card to present to the person being honoured. It’s a compassionate way of supporting the South African gogos from Vernon, both financially and in friendship.
Susan Fenner is publicity rep for Grannies à Gogo: the Vernon – South Africa Connection.