(Photos by Eric Miller - permission needed for further publishing)
The day began with a buzz in the air. From the early hours of the morning grandmothers had started preparing for the celebration of the 10th year that their beloved organisation has been in existence. Grandmothers in the kitchen began preparing the feast, grannies at home began dressing in all the splendour of their traditional outfits and GAPA T-shirts.
Grandmothers walked from the corners of Khayelitsha to a meeting place on Spine Rd. City officials gathered around to make sure that the grandmothers received all the protection and respect they deserved. Placards were distributed reading messages such as “respect the grannies” , “God bless the grannies of Africa” “GAPA 10 years”. As if by design or the build-up of momentum the singing and marching began. Spectators gathered to observe grandmothers collectively making a statement in the streets of Khayelitsha.
Inside the GAPA centre the buzz grew and became louder as the marching grandmothers approached. The tent swelled with over 400 grandmothers, all burdened in varying degrees by HIV, poverty and social ills but today, as with so many days, they set their burdens aside and braced each other with hope, comfort and support. The celebratory spirit was facilitated by the Executive Director, Yolisa Vivienne Budaza.
The day continued with various supporters (Funders, volunteers, board members and community members) arriving to share in the solidarity. A Bonfire theatre celebration (http://www.bonfiretheatre.co.za/whoweare.htm) of the achievements of GAPA was facilitated. Tears welled as we saw drama pieces reflecting the GAPA stories of the audience.
Children of the GAPA aftercare entertained the audience with traditional dancing, all wearing GAPA shirts sponsored by the Global Fund for Children.
A keynote address was given by Prof Monica Ferreira who initiated the research back in 1999 that lead to the formation of GAPA. The message was clear: “Grandmothers don’t let anyone take away your hope and dignity”
The founder, Kathleen Brodrick, gave many thanks to various people within the organisation. Starting with the grandmothers and reminding them that GAPA belongs to them and that they should continue growing in their confidence of influencing the organisation. She continued to thank the management committee and the board members, ending with a thank you to the staff and in particular Althea Barry (Programme developer) and Yolisa Vivienne Budaza (Executive Director) for their dedication to the project. Vivienne has been a guiding light to the organisation, since 2007 GAPA has grown in leaps and bounds. Kathleen reminded the organisation that it was strong and that it was able to solve the various challenges it has had over the last 10 years. Vivienne, Kathleen, Althea and GAPA’s most senior grandmother ceremoniously cut a celebratory cake.
Tias Arms, a new funder to GAPA since 2010, handed over a gift of a new overlocker sewing machine to the grandmothers.
Gillian Warren-Brown and a group of grandmothers entertained the audience with Nia dance. Gillian facilitates Nia with the grandmothers every Tuesday at the GAPA health club.
Vivienne and Althea (on behalf of GAPA) proudly received a PEPFAR plaque from Cheryl representing the new funding received from the US Consulate community grants office.
The afternoon continued with many interactions, a delicious lunch and a gallery tour of the handicraft products created and produce grown by each GAPA group.
A lively atmosphere continued as the grandmothers took to the dance floor, really displaying “collective occupation” – a term shared by a GAPA board member, Frank Kronenberg.
Supporters were thanked with lovely gift bags, each receiving a GAPA shirt. Grandmothers were honoured with Gogo goodie bags sponsored by various people such as the Lions Club of Kirstenbosch and students/staff from ODU, AU and Cedar House.
The day ended with many happy thoughts and memories, but above all with the reminder that grandmothers continue to hold the torch as we march through the challenges facing our communities in South Africa.
We wish to thank the following people who joined us as guests:
Beryl Mohr from Bristol-Myers Squibb
Frank Kronenberg, Elewani Ramagondo and Isha who are board members/mentors
Prof Monica Ferreira
Prof Goerge Petros
Wilma Martin – friend of GAPA and volunteer in the kitchen for the celebration
Joanne Baker. Kim Carpenter and the Tias Arms group
Eric Miller – photojournalist
Ann Barr – Lions Club of Kirstenbosch
Cheryl Coetzer – Pathcare
Cheryl – Community Grants Office US Consulate
Bettina – past volunteer GAPA
And a big thank you to all our supporters who were with us in spirit!