When members of the Royal City Gogos wash their hands, they often imagine the challenge of this simple act in Africa. When they order groceries online, they’re reminded of the food-security challenges faced by grandmothers without disposable incomes or refrigeration to “stock-up” during a pandemic.
Through the Stephen Lewis Foundation, groups like the Royal City Gogos are raising funds for community-based organizations that are attempting to respond flexibly and holistically to issues in Africa. This includes delivering food packages and soap to grandmother-headed households and ensuring clients get a two- to three-month supply of antiretroviral HIV medications.
“As COVID-19 spreads across sub-Saharan Africa, our community-based partners are best placed to protect and support the most vulnerable populations,” said the Grandmothers Campaign website. “People affected by HIV and AIDS are particularly at risk, and must not disproportionately suffer the impacts of COVID-19.”
The Royal City Gogos raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, which supports community-based projects that work with African grandmothers and the children in their care. The funds go to a variety of initiatives, including grief counselling, school fees and uniforms, seedlings and house construction, micro-credit loans, and HIV education and testing.
Since 2008, the Royal City Gogos have raised more than $500,000 for the Grandmothers Campaign. Gogos work in solidarity with grandmothers in Africa, where millions of children have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.
With uncertainty surrounding their ability to hold their annual Artisan Craft Fair in November because of potential COVID-19 restrictions, the Royal City Gogos opted to hold a “craft crawl” sale at four outdoor venues in Queen’s Park neighbourhood on July 18.
Janine Reid, who founded the local group, said people came out “in droves” and helped the Gogos raise a net total of $23,000, which was beyond their wildest dreams. More than 400 people attended over the course of the day.
“In the morning people had to wait in line for up to 20 minutes, but they all wore masks and were patient and polite,” she said. “People said, ‘It’s so nice to be able to get out and shop again!’”
But the Royal City Gogos’ efforts to support families in Africa don’t stop there as several upcoming fundraisers are in the works. First up is Gin Happy Hour on Aug. 15.
“Lavish Liquid presents another mixology class, with partial proceeds to the Grandmothers Campaign,” Reid said. “This time we’re making cocktails with gin. Get all ingredients delivered to your door. ”
Gogos will be heading to New West Craft to sell their Christmas decorations and COVID-19 masks and to New West Farmers Market to sell their preserves and loaves. For more information (dates are still being finalized), go to www.royalcitygogos.org.
In September, community members can support the Gogos in the For the Love of Grandmothers Fitness Challenge, a virtual walk from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Johannesburg, South Africa. Details at www.fortheloveofgrandmothers.weebly.com.
Information about the annual Solidarity Cycle, a ride in the Fraser Valley, is available at solidaritycycle.weebly.com.
“It has raised $100,000 so far, and involves groups across the region,” Reid said. “We’d love more riders.”