**This post was written by Sarah’s sister Rachel. Rachel is organizing a fundraiser for an amazing community center in South Africa called “It Takes a Village,” assisted by the fab blog Power of Moms. This cause is life changing and so incredibly important. Please keep reading to learn more!**
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—in essence, motherhood. Being near her, I thought, “This is why I came to Africa. I came here to meet Gogo.”
When I decided to go on an advocacy trip to South Africa, I was searching for a deeper understanding of motherhood. I couldn’t have put it into those words at the time—but now that I’m home, I can see more clearly what I was yearning for before I left.
I have always loved connecting with people in deep ways. I worked as a camp counselor for kids with disabilities in high school, spent a semester volunteering at an orphanage in El Salvador in college, and taught high school English for five years in my young adulthood.
And then, in 2011, my son Noah was born, and my life as a stay-at-home mother began.
After all of my experience with children, teaching, and service, I thought that the transition to motherhood would be easy. Famous last words, right?
I knew that it was a blessing to be able to stay home with Noah, but after years of connecting with people on a deep level, I felt lonely and unfulfilled much of the time. My baby cried a lot; my husband was in dental residency and we lived in a crummy apartment near the hospital without many other young moms around; and I missed getting to laugh with and learn from my students and colleagues every day.
I felt a bit trapped—not so much by my circumstances as by the dichotomy in my heart: I knew that my job as a mother was the most impactful role I would ever have, and yet I yearned for more.
Five years have passed, and we have since added another baby to our family, a spunky little girl named Sally. I have settled into my role as a mother much more, and I genuinely love spending time with my little ones while also writing for Power of Moms, teaching the teenage girls at our church, and reaching out to friends and family as much as I can.
My life is so good and so full. And yet, at times I still feel that pull in my heart—the desire to learn more, impact more, give more.
I decided to apply to go to South Africa because I knew that I would meet people like Gogo. I knew I would gain new perspective and come home with more clarity, peace, purpose, and drive.
I wish I could write a book about the incredible mothers that I met when I was there—because that’s what it would take, a book! Meeting these mothers, hearing their stories, and witnessing the unique and powerful contributions that they are making within their spheres of influence…it filled my soul.
I realized that what I am doing in my home with my children matters. My heart ached when I saw children who do not have loving parents to care for them. I saw the sadness in their eyes, and I heard from their caregivers about the ways that their mental and emotional development are affected. It made me want to be a better, more invested mother.
It also made me want to do hard things—to make sacrifices to extend my love beyond my own family to others who need “mothering.” I realized that I can involve my own children in this work. I can teach them to see a need in our community and the world and do something about it.
Granny Gogo was one of the best examples of this. While raising her kids, she worked at a soup kitchen and started several preschools for vulnerable children in her community. In recent years, her grown daughter Elizabeth has followed in her mother’s footsteps and started a “drop-in centre” out of Gogo’s humble home for children who don’t have anywhere to go while their mothers work long hours in the city. 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 also keeps them safe, because the children with no one to watch them after school are also sometimes at risk for sexual assault and are targeted by drug dealers who want to use them to sell drugs.
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 heroically, whole-heartedly embodies the old proverb “it takes a village” to raise a child.
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.”
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 to enrich and expand their program to help keep these children safe and nurtured after school.
**This week at the blog 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 ALL THE PROFITS from these sales go to help build a community center in Maubane, South Africa. Get all the details on the different programs HERE. If you decide to snag one for yourself or as a gift for another awesome mom in your life then don’t forget to use the code AFRICA (all caps!) for the sale price!!**
We hope that the ideas and systems in these courses will bless your family, while also bringing joy, hope, and strength to families in Africa. If you already own these courses, you could buy one as a gift for a mother whom you love, or you could donate directly to the project at this link.
There are three ways that you can help right now to protect the children of the Maubane, Africa community:
Purchase one of the Power of Moms online programs for mothers, and ALL of the profits will go toward finishing this building in South Africa. (See below for more details!)
Purchase the fantastic Printable Christmas Fun Kit from the blog Crazy Little Projects. You will get ten pages of games and activities, and ALL of the profits will go toward finishing this building in South Africa! (Click HERE to see more about the Christmas Fun Kit.)
Make a direct donation by clicking here.
We need $35,000 to get the roof on the building and finish the interior, structure, and plumbing for this community center. Once Maubane has a community center building that meets government requirements, they will be able to receive funding for Early Childhood Development, like Gogo and Elizabeth’s facility has received. They will be able to enroll more children in their preschool, run their program without the help of outside donations, and train their teachers in best practices for at-risk little ones. This funding will make all the difference for their community. It will not only enrich the children’s lives, but it will also keep them SAFE and off of the dangerous streets while their mothers work long hours to try to keep them fed and clothed.
Please visit the fundraising page right now to find a Power of Moms’ course (most under $30!) that will bless your family, while also blessing these beautiful children. Or you can donate directly to the project here.
I am grateful to have been a part of a trip that opened my heart to the everlasting impact that moms can have on communities. I came home with a deep desire to “be a Gogo“—to reach out to and mother children—my own, as well as others—because it really does “take a village” to raise, teach, and protect children.
QUESTION: How could you “be a Gogo” to the children in your community—your church, your neighborhood, your children’s friends, your own home? How could you show them a little more love?
CHALLENGE: Visit powerofmoms.com/africa and find a way that you can help empower this community in South Africa! Either by buying a program, donating directly to the project, or sharing the fundraising page with friends and family!
Photos by Shultz Photo School:Helping parents take better photos of their kids