Susan’sBlog: Last Days

Have you noticed the elasticity of time? How it squeezes in on you when there’s so much to fill it with, and stretches when you cram more and more into it than you thought possible? Those have been my experiences these last several days. This last blog is an assorted catch-all of items not squeezed into previous blogs.  

Sarah Mkhatswa is one of the gogos who received a hand delivered letter. It’s from her Vernon partner Sigrid-Ann, and is translated and read by Rosy Malulka

Sarah Mkhatswa is one of the gogos who received a hand delivered letter. It’s from her Vernon partner Sigrid-Ann, and is translated and read by Rosy Malulka

Some of our Vernon area Grannies are teamed with a Gogo writing partner, several of whom have sustained the partnership for eight years. I brought about 15 of their letters to hand deliver … a “red-letter” day that thrills them. They love to get mail, but it’s difficult for many to write as it involves having some one write in English for them. But about six of them have asked for partners, saying they have a grandchild who will translate for them.

Joy Burton is a regular volunteer twice a week and has been since Sitabogogo’s inception eight years ago. She helps where needed but is often found assisting the gogos with various handicrafts, finding the beads or needles or wool or whatever they require – keeping them sorted out.

 

Volunteer Joy Burton (standing) helps the gogos with their various handicrafts. Here she discusses 88 year-old Inah Mashego’s crocheted bag.

Volunteer Joy Burton (standing) helps the gogos with their various handicrafts. Here she discusses 88 year-old Inah Mashego’s crocheted bag.

Doris Dhlamini has her blood sugar tested by Jonathan, who is pinch hitting for retired nurse Cornelia.

Doris Dhlamini has her blood sugar tested by Jonathan, who is pinch hitting for retired nurse Cornelia.

Once a week the gogos have their blood pressure and their blood sugar tested and recorded. Most gogos have diabetes and high blood pressure due to their very starchy diets. This procedure is usually done by Cornelia Lukhele who is a retired nurse, but she is due to have cataract surgery next week – one of the very few who has a medical aid plan. On occasion when an unusually high test result is found, Myriam drives the gogo to the hospital and often they are admitted for further examination and observation. Our Grannies à Gogo funds at work.

 

 

 

Our volunteer office manager, Myriam Bryant, sees a steady parade daily from the wider vulnerable population, They seek her help with bureaucratic barriers to receiving medical help, pensions, education and a plethora of problems.

Our volunteer office manager, Myriam Bryant, sees a steady parade daily from the wider vulnerable population, They seek her help with bureaucratic barriers to receiving medical help, pensions, education and a plethora of problems.

 

Some of the 50 kids in the Homework Program gather for a look at Susan’s goodbye message in a photo poster.

Some of the 50 kids in the Homework Program gather for a look at Susan’s goodbye message in a photo poster.

Goodbyes … they really choke me up. The 50 kids of the Homework Program where I helped out every afternoon (see blog # 7), touched my heart with all their scribbled messages and drawings of love and thanks and please-come-backs. They seemed to appreciate my impromptu speech about striving for excellence, about staying ahead of the pack at their (sometimes dismal) schools. The goodbye poster I made of photos taken of them over the past four weeks was a hit – they love to find themselves in photos. Don’t we all!

The toughest goodbye was with the gogos. Their sense of ceremony – singing, dancing, speeches – pulls at my heart strings and seems designed to turn on my tears. I officially presented the photo album (see previous blog #8) into their keeping, and Jonathan spoke to them about taking inspiration from it to do fundraising projects of their own. 

Presenting the photo album recording eight years of Grannies à Gogo fundraising for Sitabogogo, with Myriam Bryant, Cornelia Lukhele, Susan Fenner, Vicky Bryant.

Presenting the photo album recording eight years of Grannies à Gogo fundraising for Sitabogogo, with Myriam Bryant, Cornelia Lukhele, Susan Fenner, Vicky Bryant.

Charlotte Mushata, one of eight gogos having birthdays in Jan. and Feb, is delighted with a cloth shopping bag – a new tradition Vicky and Myriam are starting this year.

Charlotte Mushata, one of eight gogos having birthdays in Jan. and Feb, is delighted with a cloth shopping bag – a new tradition Vicky and Myriam are starting this year.

This occasion was also used to start a new tradition for 2014 – to recognize each gogo’s birthday with the gift of a cloth shopping bag. The cost of plastic shopping bags is a frequent extra expense for them and a blight on the environment where bags litter and blow in the streets. They applauded the idea.

The gogos gave me various gifts and one in particular, an African candle, served as a springboard for my thanks for the light and love they have brought into our lives in Canada …that sense of connection across cultures and continents.

A Sabie friend told me, in a story that is iconic of African attitude and optimism, that she had quickly run to a store while preparing for a party and asked if they sold ice. “Yes, ma’am”, she was told. So my friend asked for a bag of ice. Imitating the African accent complete with rolling ‘r’s, she said the reply was, “Sorrry, ma’am, the ice, it is as yet unfrrrozen.“ And so it is – life is fluid, for Sitabogogo and for Grannies à Gogo. We are not frozen into patterns. We are flowing, growing, together.

“Salani kahle”! – Goodbye ~ Susan 

Paulina Ndlovu, Susan’s writing partner, presents her with gifts from the gogos as they say goodbye after four weeks.

Paulina Ndlovu, Susan’s writing partner, presents her with gifts from the gogos as they say goodbye after four weeks.

 

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5 thoughts on “Susan’sBlog: Last Days

  1. Beautiful! You’ve got me in tears too. It will be good to have you home, Susan but how the Gogos and the kids will miss you! Well done!

  2. Beautifully, beautifully written, Susan. More damp cheeks here. You are going to be bringing tears to the eyes of your friends awaiting your return all morning as one by one they read your blog. Thank you for taking us with you to visit our volunteer administrators and helpers and our Gogos.

  3. Susan , thank you for this beautifully evocative report , and photos, It brought back so many good memories for me . Some of those Gogos don’t look a day older than when I left , and you my friend look younger !!!
    Love and Blessings
    Ginny xxx

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