How South African grandmothers take care for orphans and vulnerable children

From Norbert Herrmann and Tshireletso Phatlhanyane, (was firstly published on the loveLife website)

Any mother’s heart will bleed as soon as she sees hungry children

Suzan is seventy-eight of age. Her husband was the nephew of Albert Luthuli, the first South African ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. That was in 1956. In 2010 Suzan Luthuli looks after Orphans and vulnerable children and teenagers. For this engagement she was honoured by the president of South Africa, in April she received the “Order of the grand councillar of the baobab”. Today I meet Suzan in the North-West province. She takes part in the annual all hands meeting with her colleagues. „goGogetters“ those ladies are called, aged between 53 and 86 years. They cannot just wait and see when children are suffering. “Any mother’s heart will bleed as soon as she sees hungry children, children that do not wear proper clothes, children that are left behind. “Onkabetse Mokgadi is one of Suzans colleagues, the same as Annah Dipholo, Miriam Sedimo, Sophia Tau, Xakwile Maxakane, Dikeledi Kasebidile. Each of these 50 goGos from North-West is looking after up to 90 children and teenagers. „Listening, taking their issues serious, and supporting them. Even sometimes you have to take them by their hands that are what these youngsters are lacking.” Onkabetse says.
The South African HIV prevention organisation for youth, loveLife, is organising the country-wide network of the goGos. Tshireletso Phatlhanyane of loveLife manages the goGos in the North-West province. „A goGo rarely gives their home for these children, this would be something they could not afford. But they do everything they can to enhance the living standards of these children and teenagers.” One key issue is the contact to public services, mainly to receive public grants. Even if there might be one parent, this one hardly knows how to deal with bureaucracy. A goGogetter can help here, most of them used to be teachers, nurses, social workers.

Most of them used to be teachers, nurses, social workers

Another key issue is bringing the youngsters back to school. Schools are relatively safety places, e.g. is the HIV prevalence of school attendances much lower than the prevalence in the group of people that left school early. However, a lot of these vulnerable children do need to earn money or do need to care for their siblings. What they would need is school uniforms, shoes, school material, groceries, money. Even if the public grants are coming in, this money seldom is enough to feed a family or a number of siblings. Here goGos take action. In their network of acquaintances, business-people and other persons in the community they ask for support. Hands keep clapping during the North-West meeting whilst the ladies tell their success stories: another family that receives groceries for three months, another 20 school uniforms sponsored by the local business store, another 10 children having birth certificates. Birth certificates are a prerequisite for going for public grants. „Yes, the goGos are old. They are old – and wise. They know how to deal with youngsters. My goGos won’t be fooled by anybody. They have the experience to speak to parents, principals, social workers” Tshireletso Phatlhanyane says. In some cases the goGos even have to work together with the police: when they report abuse. Then sometimes it takes time until something is done about it. This might end up in dangerous situations, when the abuser tries to deal with the goGo.

Yes, the goGos are old. They are old – and wise.

It makes sense that loveLife supports these single fighters, gives these goGos a home in the loveLife organisation. The goGos even get a small grant. Tshireletso explains: „goGos give help to OVCs, they open a door for them for a self-determined life. Thus loveLife is to support these goGos. For only strong teenagers manage to face dangers and risks, such as HIV and AIDS“. Three advisors of German Development Service from the fields of monitoring, counselling and knowledge management work with loveLife to keep this huge organisation on track. Every year loveLife trains 1300 young stipend takers on the field of HIV-education and health. Management and several additional skills are incorporated. Together with 5 selected volunteers these groundBREAKERS implement educational programs in their region, in schools, clinics, community centres and youth centres. At the moment more than 6000 sites all over the country are associated with loveLife. loveLife organises sport events, loveLife educates by the use of local and national radio programs. There are public service announcements from loveLife on TV. loveLife has it’s printed monthly youth magazine “Uncut”, it’s web page, loveLife is in facebook and loveLife has an own mobile portal Through loveLife’s call centre more than 100.000 callers find counselling and information. And – loveLife has it’s goGogetters.
During this weekend all North-West goGos meet at a idyllic resort in the Magalieberg mountains. Not for recreation, for training! They are being schooled in communication skills, they do role playing like community meetings and sessions in families. They get hinds to easily establish social networks as well as the skills to fill monitoring forms properly – with which the goGos can document their work. Special request of some of the ladies is knowledge on how to become self employed: We present a structure on how a business idea might work. There are numerous detailed questions by the goGos. As they prefer to speak seTswana the loveLife area coordinator Mantsho Batlhapimg translates. Some of the ladies think of having a soup kitchen or to build orphans homes. They write down every piece of information they get a hold of.
Morning, lunchtime, evening: as soon as there is only few minutes break, that’s when the goGos start singing and dancing and praying. Every lady will read her favourite verse from the bible, sing her favourite song – sometimes it is the loveLife goGo song stating: „You still can“. And they share their experiences and concerns. At the moment Suzan is talking, in perfect English: “No doubt it has been an enormous honour for me to go to Pretoria and to receive the Order. And I love to come here to you my sisters.” For Suzan this meeting with the colleagues is more than a meeting, it is exchange of experiences and source of the power that helps her to stand the past and the forthcoming challenges. That’s when she tells us about this seven years old girl she had to leave behind every time she has to go for travelling. The girl now stays with her father, the one who has been abusing her for years now. Suzans tune is very serious and strong. But the tears start running, from her’s and from the listeners‘ eyes.


1 Response to “How South African grandmothers take care for orphans and vulnerable children”

  1. 1 Nona December 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Wow, that’s what I was exploring for, what a material!
    existing here at this weblog, thanks admin of this web site.

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