Children help clean up after their homework session. (Contributed)

Vernon’s Grannies à Gogo provides gifting opportunity to African grandmothers

Local organization’s help made possible through donations

In Sabie, South Africa a group of elderly Gogos (Zulu for “grandmothers”) gathers each morning. Today is the weekly visit of the physiotherapist and occupational therapist who lead them in rousing dancing exercise. Selena and Aniki 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 forty other Gogos. In a small kitchen it is Thabisile’s turn to make sandwiches for the Gogos’ lunch.

What do all these activities have in common? All were made possible through generous donations to Grannies à Gogo: the Vernon – South Africa Connection who support these bereaved African grandmothers in Sabie, South Africa, many of whom are caring for their AIDS-orphaned grandchildren. The funds have been used for garden tools and seedlings to grow 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 for each to take home.

When the Gogos head home after lunch, it isn’t long until 50-75 children show up for the after-school homework program run by volunteer administrator (and retired teacher) Vicky Bryant. They are fed soup and sandwiches before and after the homework session. Often children get little encouragement from their parents who themselves were often denied education during apartheid. Vicky is seeing wonderful progress in their school achievement as a result of this program.

This Christmas we encourage you to consider giving a donation to Grannies à Gogo to support the vulnerable Gogos and their grandchildren. All donations are wired directly to the volunteer administrators. You can send a cheque to Grannies à Gogo, Box 1652, Vernon, BC, V1T 8C3. Or go to granniesagogo.com/contact-us/ and donate through the PayPal button.

Grannies à Gogo receives regular reports and volunteer administrator, Myriam Bryant, wrote in a recent report, “We are planning to have a small Christmas party for the Gogos in the morning and the children in the afternoon.” It is so rewarding when the young people manage to improve their results or ask for extra lessons. But we had two heartbreaking situations recently. One of the Grade 11 girls was living with her Gogo who died suddenly last week, leaving the 17 year-old alone. We don’t know yet what will happen to her.” She adds, “And, secondly, two of the students lost their mother in a car accident.”

The Gogos participate in team games to promote group spirit and always end up in laughter. When 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 had 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. Chairperson for the Vernon group, Mary Stebbins, says, “There are many groups in North America who donate to the disadvantaged overseas and often have no knowledge of how the funds are used. For nearly thirteen 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.”

It’s a compassionate way of supporting the South African Gogos from Vernon, both financially and in friendship.

— Susan Fenner is the publicity representative for Grannies a Gogo.

READ MORE: VIDEO: The perils of indulging teenagers’ wish lists

READ MORE: Vernon organization aiming to help teens at Christmas

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Gogo Paulina and great-grandaughter Zara await sandwiches being served behind her. (Contributed)

A physiotherapist leads stretching and dancing exercise weekly. (Contributed)

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