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Malawi's poor village gogos are true heros
In Malawi, and many African countries in the Sub-Saharan region, "gogo" is the 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 HIV/AIDS pandemic dramatically altered the social and family structure. The country's most productive age group--20 to 40 year olds--was ravaged.
The tiny country of Malawi has 1.2 million orphans. Enough orphanages could never be built. The best solution is to assist the grandmothers in the villages to care for the children.
Gogos are the poorest of the poor. They have lost their adult children who traditionally were their "social security", caring for them in their old age. Now, they have orphaned grandchildren to love, feed, raise and educate. In African culture the extended family is very important. Consequently, most orphans end up living with their gogos in rural areas.
Most gogos live in mud brick and thatched roof huts--sleeping on grass mats on a dirt floor. They have about half an acre of land on which to grow staple crops of maize, beans and peanuts. They rely on a good harvest from the single growing season to provide enough maize to last all year. Most have no other income and many are at a complete loss to provide clothing, blankets and school fees for the children. Orphans regularly drop out before finishing elementary school. They are needed to work the garden plot, find firewood and water, etc. Many girls marry very young.
What gogos need
A gogo's greatest need is twofold--spiritual and physical. The example of Jesus was to minister to the whole person--body, mind and spirit. They need to understand the real love, peace and power of God as they care for their grandchildren. They need our prayers and the guiding wisdom of God's Word. The orphans and grandchildren need to grasp the importance of personal purity and reconciliation with their Creator.
Certainly, the gogos' and orphan's need is great for very practical resources--a bag of commercial fertilizer goes so very far toward assuring a good harvest. Also needed are blankets, clothing, fees and school supplies to keep children in school. Training for gogos in nutrition, hygiene and good parenting practices is also needed.