North Okanagan Grannies à Gogo charity shifts focus

Over the years the Vernon group has wired more than $150,000 to their trusted volunteer administrators of the South African group.

Grannies à Gogo’s “Vernon – South Africa Connection” caught the imagination of Vernon supporters more than 11 years ago and continues to be supported as an admired non-profit charity.

Over the years the Vernon group has wired more than $150,000 to their trusted volunteer administrators of the South African group who report back bi-monthly with activities and financial statements. Some Vernon Grannies are paired with Gogos (Zulu for ‘grandmothers’) in personal letter-writing relationships and, in addition, some Vernon members have visited the Gogos in Sabie, South Africa.

Related: Tea is on at Vernon’s Trinity United Church

Related: Take a trip with Grannies à Gogo

The focus over the years has been on supporting these elderly women who suffered the oppression of apartheid, fought for democracy in their prime, and now, in their senior years, are parenting their orphaned grandchildren.

Now, through consultations with both Canadians and South Africans, there has been a subtle shift in focus to one involving the children. The neediest Gogos will continue to receive support while other funds will directly assist children who come to the After School Homework Program.

The After School initiative was started four years ago by volunteer administrator, Vicky Bryant, a former teacher from Belgium, who saw that children did not get help at home because many of their parents were denied education during apartheid. From the beginnings of a handful of children, the program quickly grew to over 70 students ranging from K – grade 12, many of whom are grandchildren of the Gogos. Bryant has spent hundreds of hours and her own money and research time creating supplementary study sheets to augment their daily homework. Additionally, the children are fed homemade soup and sandwiches upon arrival and departure.

Recognizing that the future of South Africa lies with its young people, Grannies à Gogo is now allocating a percentage of their fundraising to support this child-centred program.

“Nosipho, an orphan living with her gogo, started with the After School at the end of her Grade 7. She had failed all four terms but, nevertheless, was promoted to Grade 8 and high school,” said Bryant. “We pointed out the importance of first getting a good foundation and arranged for her to repeat Grade 7. With coaching from the Afterschool, she achieved an 80 per cent average, went on to high school, and successfully passed Grade 8 this year.”

Grannies à Gogo raises funds through entertaining events such as their recent Painting Party and Italian Meal which garnered $1,300 for the Gogos and children.

Their annual participation of handicraft sales at the Trinity Tea, Nov. 3, and the huge Festival of Crafts, Nov. 16 and 17 at Kal Tire Place. The well-loved Travelogue series of four tantalizing destinations will begin its ninth­­­ season on Jan. 11 at the Schubert Centre.

“The selfless hard work done by our extremely dedicated volunteer administrators in Sabie is awe-inspiring,” said Susan Fenner, who recently returned from a three-week visit to work with the Gogos and the After School Program. “And the energy, creativity and passion of the Vernon group as they go about their fundraising projects have created a bond few of them have experienced in other groups, unified in their common purpose.”

Related: Grannies à Gogo send love and support to South Africa

Related: Grannies à Gogo welcome the new year with Okanagan Reflections

Related: Photos celebrate ‘My Okanagan’

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