By Rachel Nielson
The first time that I saw Gogo, I was standing with my back against a crude brick wall, leaning into a pocket of shade under the hot African sun.
I heard her before I saw her. “Oh, thank you, Jesus! Oh, Jesus!” she was calling. And when she came around the corner, her wrinkled hands were clasped, her face tilted up toward heaven in praise.
She was wearing a navy stocking cap, a brown sweater and long skirt—and she reached out to each of us American visitors as if we were her family, squeezing our hands and whispering her thanks to God that we had come.
“Gogo” means Granny in Setswana, and, truly, this woman is a grandmother to everyone she meets. Her heart is full of love, Spirit, and nurturing. She has spent her entire life giving--and teaching others to do the same.
While raising her own kids, Gogo worked at a soup kitchen and started several preschools for vulnerable children in her community. Her children learned from her example to reach out to those in need. In recent years, her grown daughter Elizabeth has followed in her mother’s footsteps and started a “drop-in centre” out of Gogo’s one-room house. It started with 18 children, and it has now grown to 180!
What began in Gogo’s tiny house has expanded. They’ve been able to receive government funding, build a small preschool next door, and hire a staff of dedicated teachers and caregivers. Vulnerable kids from the community come to Gogo’s house every morning to receive a bowl of vitamin-fortified porridge, and then they come after school to receive a snack, help with homework, and instruction in singing and sports. It’s like a Boys and Girls Club—Africa style!
It has become a family affair, with Gogo as the loving matriarch, Elizabeth as the powerhouse director, and even Elizabeth’s sons as administrators and cooks. Three generations of givers.
Truly, this family has been transformed because of Gogo’s example —this family, and an entire community of children.
After spending a day at the “drop-in centre”—witnessing the hope in the children’s eyes, hearing their singing and joyful laughter—my American friends and I gathered around Gogo as she sat in a lawn chair in the shade, reading her Bible. She hugged each of us and took us by the hands, looking into our faces and thanking us for coming. I will never forget the feeling of her wrinkled hands, leathery from a lifetime of loving and serving. With tears in her eyes, she read scripture to us and then said simply, “I cry because I am rich.”
I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity that I had to go to South Africa to learn from this hero-mother.
**Want to help? Here's How!**
Since coming home, I have felt a deep desire to continue helping in South Africa through fundraising efforts for the amazing projects there. So I approached Power of Moms’ co-founders, April Perry and Saren Loosli, and asked them if we could host a fundraiser through Power of Moms, and they agreed. We want to help strengthen communities and empower families all over the world!
We chose a community that is in desperate need of our help—Maubane, South Africa, which is even more rural than Gogo and Elizabeth’s school—and we chose to fundraise to help them finish their community center.
This week at Power of Moms, they are hosting the “It Takes a Village” fundraiser: 7 of their best-selling programs are on sale for 25% off, and 85% of the proceeds will go directly toward finishing the community center in Maubane, South Africa.
Hi, I'm Jen! I adore chocolate, I'd rather read than clean my house, and I haven't seen my abs in I-don't-know-how-long. But I love my husband and kids to death and try to Raise The Good within myself and my family by making wise and uplifting media choices and having a deliberate family culture. You are probably doing the same thing. Let's share what works with each other!
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