Saturday, July 11, 2020

COVID 19: Barbara Halparin Tells How The GoGos Continue to Fund Raise

My friend, Bobbie Yoshihara, a life long Sewer/Crafter, has now joined the Richmond Branch of The GoGos. and is continuing to share her creative skills to fund raise for Grandmothers in Africa, who are raising their orphaned grandchildren who have lost parents to HIV/Aids. A fabulous quilter, she also makes a myriad of other projects, including masks, the proceeds of which she donated to the Gogos. Here is Bobby below and some of her creations.

I asked Darcy Bilinkoff and  Barbara Halparin to tell me more about the Gogos and what they are doing across Canada. It is clear that these Grandmothers motivate each other to move forward during COVID 19.

Thanks to Marilyn Wilson for the Covid 19 Interview inspiration.

Interview with Barbara Halparin

In 2006 the Stephen Lewis Foundation launched the Grandmothers Campaign in response to the HIV AIDS pandemic ravaging Africa. Millions of grandmothers, many afflicted with the disease themselves, and mourning the loss of their children, stepped up to raise their orphaned grandchildren. Since then the Stephen Lewis Foundation has partnered with more than 325 community-based organizations in fifteen African nations to support the grandmothers’ fundamental needs for housing, education, medical care, support groups, business skills, LGBTIQ awareness and much more. The principles of social justice, equality and partnership guide our process. 

There are over two hundred Gogos groups (gogos is a Zulu word for grandmother) across Canada dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the Grandmothers Campaign. Greater Van Gogos acts as an umbrella organization to support more than twenty groups in the Lower Mainland. We have two co-chairs, a steering committee, and representatives from six geographic “neighbourhoods.” We also have a regional communications team and a speakers’ roster, and we provide speakers’ training upon request.  

All of our groups are autonomous, each choosing its own meeting format and fundraising initiatives. Many of these involve attractive quality craft items such as jewelry, aprons, scarves, umbrellas, notecards and a variety of bags. Our handcrafted tote bags have become a recognizable signature product.  

Groups have also undertaken other types of fundraising events such as art auctions, African dinners, and concerts. Our latest area-wide endeavours include an annual 50 or 100-kilometer Solidarity Cycle, and the For Love of Grandmothers Fitness Challenge. 

The Coronavirus pandemic has challenged us to adapt and grow, and we have responded with enthusiasm and creativity. Many groups had already embraced technology by creating websites, and now continue to hold chapter meetings by Zoom. On-line events are springing up, with one group hosting virtual cocktail crafting workshops.  

With craft fairs on hold for the foreseeable future, one group is holding a ”craft crawl” in four limited venues.  Instead of tote bags we are making masks, allowing us to give back to the communities that supported us while continuing to join hands and hearts with our African partners. 

Our annual fitness challenge has morphed into an event called Gogos Go to Joburg, a virtual walk of 17,000 km through the fifteen countries in which the Stephen Lewis Foundation has partners. Participants engage sponsors, and gain 5 virtual km for every hour of physical activity performed. 

Our fourth annual Solidarity Cycle will take place, also with modifications. If we are not able to hold a group event, our sponsored cyclists will dedicate Grandparents Day, Sunday September 13, 2020, to individually completing their 50 or 100 km ride. 

What keeps us going with such love and determination? It helps to think about the many millions of African women who inspire us with their intrepid ability to rise to the multiple challenges of not just one, but now two pandemics: HIV AIDS and COVID 19. They are the best people to teach us what the needs are, and how best to respond to adversity with self-awareness, generosity, and empathy. It helps to track the incredible advancements that have been made in turning the tide of HIV AIDS since 2006. 

But the mantra that has kept us focused and committed from the very beginning is the one we think about when we are exhausted from only a few hours with our grandchildren:  

“We will not rest until they can rest.” 

Check us out at: 
Last year’s For Love of Grandmothers Fitness Challenge wrap up luncheon.

Inaugural Solidarity Cycle, September 10, 2017.

Tikun Olam Gogos: Paddles for Africa, an online art auction of mahogany dragon boat paddles painted by local BC artists 

Tikun Olam Gogos (my group): Totes and Masks

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