“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families....”

--Psalm 68:5-6a

Need > Who Are Africa's "Gogo" Grandmothers?


Can you say "Gogo Grandmother" without smiling?

In Malawi, and many African countries in the Sub-Saharan region, "gogo" is the local word for grandmother/grandfather. The name makes us smile and hopefully energizes our concern for these African gogos, burdened with raising a whole new generation of orphaned grandchildren.

The devastation of the AIDS pandemic in Africa has changed the health and economics of nations. It has also dramatically altered the social and family structure. The most productive segment of whole societies--the 20 to 40 year olds--are dying, leaving millions of orphans.

Portion of a village survey sheet showing the grandmother's name and the names, ages, and education level of the orphan children she cares for.

 

It is estimated that by 2010, Sub-Saharan Africa will have 18-20 million orphans. Enough orphanages could not be built to accommodate the numbers. They would never be cost effective, nor culturally appropriate, because they remove the child from of his or her natural environment. The best and practical answer is to assist the grandmothers within the communities to care for the children.

Gogo grandmothers are the poorest of the poor (80 percent live in rural areas). They have lost their adult children who traditionally were to be their "social security", providing for them in their old age. Now, they have their orphaned grandchildren to raise, feed, educate and love. In African culture, the extended family is very important. Consequently many of the orphans end up living with their gogos in the rural area.

Most gogos live in mud brick and thatched huts, sleeping on grass mats on the dirt floor. They may have about half an acre of land on which to grow staple crops of maize, beans and peanuts. They rely on a good harvest to provide enough dried maize to last throughout the year. Most have no other income and many are at a loss to provide proper clothing, blankets and school fees for the children. Many of the orphans drop out of school before finishing elementary school. They are expected to work on the farms, and many girls marry very young.

What gogos need

A gogo's greatest need is two fold--both spiritual and physical. The example of Jesus was to minister to the whole person--body, soul and spirit. They need to understand the real love, peace and power of God as they care for their grandchildren. They need our prayers so that they will respond also to the wisdom of God's Word. Their grandchildren need to grasp the importance of purity and godly living and the need for reconciliation with their Creator.

They need very practical resources--a little commercial fertilizer goes so very far toward assuring a good harvest to feed them. Help is also needed in the form of blankets, clothing and supplies to keep the children in school.

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