/ 4 November 2011

LoveLife’s goGos get kudos

Lovelife's Gogos Get Kudos

Investing in Life Award
The loveLife goGogetter programme

Grandmothers usually offer love and support to young children and those working in the national loveLife goGogetter programme are no different. LoveLife is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to halt the spread of HIV and Aids among South Africa's youth.

Its goGogetter programme comprises a network of 530 grandmothers who support at least 5 000 orphaned and vulnerable children who are particularly at risk of HIV infection. These grandmothers are deployed specifically to ensure that the children remain in school.

A recent study of 800 households affected by HIV/Aids showed that 10% of girls and 5% of boys had dropped out of school to care for sick parents and siblings, or because of failure to pay school fees. GoGogetters help these and other children to pursue their formal education, which has been shown to reduce the risk of their contracting HIV/Aids.

The grandmothers also ensure that the children do not go hungry and have access to the government social grants due to them. They make sure their guardians feel safe, have a place where they belong and have a sense of self-worth.

LoveLife has been implementing the goGogetter programme since May 2008. It was initially a pilot project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation until the end of April 2010, which funded 500 goGogetters — as the grandmothers are called — to support teenagers and their siblings.

Given that orphaned and vulnerable young people have a significantly increased risk of contracting HIV/Aids and that the goGogetter programme was well established during the project period, it is now supported and co-ordinated by loveLife on a year-to-year basis. Grandmothers already bear much of the burden when it comes to caring for children in unfortunate positions.

LoveLife ensures that it extends support to the goGogetters by giving them a monthly stipend of R300 and a monthly travel and ­telephone allowance of R100. Other assistance includes access to counsellors or community workers who lead monthly goGogetter support groups to provide emotional support.

LoveLife provides a toll-free helpline, enabling them to speak directly to a social worker about any problems. LoveLife's peer educators, or groundBreakers, help the goGogetters to identify orphaned and vulnerable children who need help. The nongovernmental organisation's regional teams help goGogetter support groups to organise community events, such as public dialogues and youth festivals.

GoGogetters encourage community awareness and solidarity with the orphans and vulnerable children who have to overcome many challenges. LoveLife said it had witnessed a lessening in the vulnerability of children under the goGogetter programme.

The children are assimilated into loveLife's youth programmes where they develop coping, interpersonal, creative and leadership skills. These skills enable them to navigate life's challenges and become productive members of society.

The judges praised loveLife's strategic intervention, commending it for introducing support and structure to the elderly women who often have to take care of vulnerable youth without any reward.