Granny Support Groups Programme

There are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa, about half of whom have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. As a result, thousands of grandmothers or gogos across our region are now the sole carer for their orphaned grandchildren and many are struggling to cope, physically, emotionally and financially with this enormous task... 

Many of the gogos HACT works with through our Granny Support Groups programme are illiterate and have no income other than their meagre state pensions with which to try feed, clothe and school anywhere between 1 and 20 grandchildren. In many cases, these grannies also have little or no knowledge about HIV/AIDS and due to the generational gap, struggle to talk to their grandchildren about sex, interpersonal relationships and other important issues that are crucial to them growing into healthy, well-adjusted and HIV-free adults.

The future of South Africa lies in the hands of our children, and since these children are increasingly being raised by their grandmothers, it is our grandmothers that need to be supported and enabled in order that they can provide a loving, stable home environment for our future leaders. The aim of our Granny Support Groups programme is therefore to educate, empower and uplift grandmothers who are caring for orphaned grandchildren in the Valley of 1000 Hills region of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, leading to better life outcomes for both the grandmothers and their grandchildren.

Specifically our one-of-a-kind programme aims to: 

  • Provide ongoing psychosocial support and encouragement to the gogos at a community-level through their weekly gogo support groups.
  • Develop within each of our gogos a sense of self-worth and help them realise a vision for their future and that of their grandchildren.
  • Provide stress-alleviation activities for the gogos to help them release and reduce the enormous stress they are under and which negatively impacts on their health, well-being and relationships with their grandchildren.
  • Educate the gogos about HIV/AIDS and equip them with basic parenting and communication skills so they can talk to their grandchildren about sex and other important issues.
  • Empower the gogos and assist them with food security through 33 granny-run community vegetable gardens.
  • Empower the gogos by providing intergenerational, income-generating opportunities for them and their orphaned granddaughters, including skills training in dress-making and other arts and crafts.
  • Encourage good health and physical fitness through the Gogolympics so the gogos can live longer, healthier lives and better care for and support their grandchildren.
  • Provide the gogos with trauma counselling to help them deal with their past struggles and losses in life.
  • Provide HIV/AIDS counselling and testing to the gogos and to their grandchildren, ensuring all gogos and their grandchildren know their HIV status 
  • Provide one-on-one counselling and support to those gogos who are themselves HIV positive or whom have HIV positive grandchildren, ensuring initiation onto treatment, disclosure and adherence counselling and support

HACT currently has 58 gogo support groups involving over 2000 gogos across eight communities

In addition to their weekly support group meetings, the gogos come together weekly to participate in a variety of sporting and outdoor activities. Some groups walk together, others play soccer and some even hold aerobics classes in their local community hall. The motivation behind this fit and active gogos’ movement is HACT’s annual Gogolympics event which takes place at the Molweni Sport Ground every year in April.

Through the generous support of our local and international donors and partners, we are able to assist our local gogos through the following activties:

  • Six week Basic Parenting and Children's Rights training courses which focus on educating the gogos about the different developmental stages their grandchildren will go through, and looking at different approaches and strategies towards issues such as discipline, having difficult conversations with grandchildren and supporting youth through the confusing puberty years. This course is very popular amoungst the grannies as they have the chance to ask any questions they may have related to their relationship with the grandchildren and the ways to best support them.
  • We run three community-based Sewing Schools which train grandmothers and also their unemployed, out of school grandchildren. Once they have completed their six month training course, the grandmothers are given a sewing machine to take back to their support group and train other grandmothers on. The support groups then start to create items such as clothing, linen, school and church uniforms to clothe their families and to generate an income. 
  • 33 community-based vegetable gardens that are run by the grannies in HACT's Granny Support Groups programme provide ongoing food security for over 2000 grannies and their 8000 orphaned grandchildren every month.
  • In April every year, HACT holds its annual Gogolympics event with over 1000 local grandmothers coming together to compete in soccer, netball and other traditional games and sports.
  • In August every year we hold a Dress Making Graduation Ceremony whereby all participants graduate from the dress-making school. This is a huge celebration that the community are encouraged to attend as it is the first and likely only time that the gogos have graduated from something - with the majority of them not having completed school nor tertiary studies. The gogos sew their own graduation hats and gowns and participate in a traditional dance competition on the day which is another way of encouraging movement and physical fitness amoungst the gogos.
  • In November every year we hold the Gogo of the Year event at which we honour our most active and enterprising gogos. This event is also an important part of our Gogo Support Groups programme as it serves to inspire and motivate all our gogos.
  • Each group is also visited regularly by HACT HIV Counsellors and Testers and a trauma counsellor, to ensure that all grannies and their grandchildren know their HIV status and have the opportunity to work through past trauma.

For more info on HACT's Granny Support Groups programme or if you would like to support our gogos, please contact our Marketing & Fundraising Department on 031 765 5866 / fundraising@hillaids.org.za