MEET THE GOGO GROUPS !
Following Helen's successful 'gogo blanket appeal', Ronda thought our contributors might be interested to meet some of the gogo groups! Warts and All!
Our foundation group, from Chiawelo, some of whom also participated in the MedLemon knitting training with great relish, specially at tea time, is shown in the first set of pics. This was the day we handed all those scarves to them, which came from ............... someone whose name I cannot now remember !!! They were SO thrilled. The Chiawelo group is run by Johanna (Lolo, as Wandi calls her) and, along with a few ups and downs, they have become our mainstay in terms of stitching of blankets. There about 30 members of the group and they take bundles of squares to their homes to sew together, and then return them when ready. These ladies always neaten their blankets by crocheting around the edge, which makes them stronger, too.
The KasVan parked outside the Chiawelo Community Centre
Chiawelo Gogos with their scarves
Chiawelo - the oldest gogo
Chiawelo - Wandi and Lindi counting up the blankets
Chiawelo - common mode of transport (our supermarket chains lose thousands of trollies annually !)
[Pic of the trip made into Soweto recently to collect 90 blankets from the Chiawelo gogo group, drop another 10 bags off and deliver some other items to Wandi for a Sunday School distribution to be held on 18th by her friend Pastor Ellen in Tspepisong.]
Chiawelo - new bags delivered for stitching up.
Happy Gogo Group
Happy Gogo's is in the Dobsonville area of Soweto and was discovered by Wandi. This group has taught us quite a lot about managing our sewing requirements as they have been a handful !! Initially we found that they had taken the bundles of 35 squares and reduced them, making MORE, but much
SMALLER blankets. So having taken them 3 bags of 9 blanket packs, we arrived to collect them with R270.00 only to find that they had made 34 blankets and were expecting R340.00 !! Wandi and I stuck to our guns because some of the blankets were too small - we paid them R270.00 and left them to distribute those blankets themselves.
We decided to trust them second time around after carefully explaining, for the second time, how things should work. However on our return to collect the blankets, we found that the lady in whose house the group operates had stitched some beautiful squares together into a LARGE throw with which to adorn her sofa !! NOT a good idea, we thought, even though it looked wonderful ! Previously we had taken Ms Banda some cotton squares for her own use and to encourage her rather unhappy looking group of gogos, and she certainly did make a beautiful covering for her large double bed with those - as you can see. I am sure you will all agree that, with kindness and respect, we have decided we should give this group a miss in future. But we remain friends and they are frequently in contact with Wandi to try and obtain more squares !!!
Wandi has also found a group of women in Naledi who are newly involved in sewing blankets together and doing a wonderful job. She did appoint a woman close to home during this year, but discovered that she is a sangoma (witch doctor) and indeed, on a subsequent distribution to hand out her blankets we were both extremely uncomfortable with her antics !! Never a dull moment !
GIRL GUIDES IN SOWETO
We have a group of Girl Guides in Soweto who have been stitching up for us, but sadly returning such badly constructed blankets that they, too, will need to be re-taught before getting their hands on more of our precious squares.
Our newest and most prolific gogo group is in Evaton (there is going to be a full Report from South Africa on this group). We started with Connie's group and after a while the news spread and was picked up by one, Mabel, who is full of enthusiasm for Knit-a-Square and has joined us as a weekly volunteer. She is an amazingly well-organised lady and has literally dozens of gogo groups who are sewing hundreds of our blankets together - in the first five months we received 720 blankets via her groups, and at present they are working on another 600 odd blanket packs and their workmanship is very good. Mabel has helped us with distributions.
Lindi has several sewing groups operating in Tshepisong - those gogo groups prefer to see the blankets that they sew up being distributed within their own areas and indeed we have visited creches on their behalf, on several occasions - reports to come.
There is a new group in Kagiso, yet to get started - and interest is being shown from elsewhere in Soweto, too.
We need to be cautious that it is not simply the money they are after. Little as it is, the awful poverty across this country makes even R10 a desirable target.
RETURNING TO BASE !
Off-loaded the newly completed blankets with Mobutho's help (another small cost there!) because the KASvan will be having a rest next week while I am in the Cape. [Ronda is now back.]
The last series of pics are showing Wandi's quite amazing school uniform business which she runs in partnership with her daughter Khita (shown in one of the pics).
We are so delighted about this - Wandi has had an EXTREMELY difficult life and is so deserving of such good breaks. One day she may even decided to tell her story and describe the hardship and suffering she has endured - and still does in some areas, always in her gracious manner.