International Women’s day

On 10 March we held a special day of remembering how important we are and women. This was held in the GAPA centre with grandmothers who were attending our health club.

The grandmothers identified that women were important because:
  • A home is not a home without a mother
  • Women carry huge responsibility
  • A gathering of women has strength
  • ]Where there are women there is value
  • A mother is the pillar of a household
  • Children without a mother are sometimes not properly raised
  • Women are important, they take charge of a household, even if a man is successful a woman is usually his support
  • A woman is like a hen who seeks food for the chickens, to feed them and protect them from vultures
  • A woman is needed in times of illness and death, she protects people in the house
  • A woman has a huge role in the house, even when a man is present she is the one who makes will come up with a plan
  • women are powerful on their own
  • Women are important because many women’s organisations are fully fledged because of the women present
  • During apartheid women were instrumental in confronting ‘straydom’
  • The value of man is enhanced because of women.
  • Women are powerful because they are adaptable to change. Even without education women learnt about HIV/AIDS and are teaching others
These were important statements for the grandmothers as many of them care for households of orphaned children on their own (without husbands). 
These women have endured the dangers of apartheid, the change from rural to urban lifestyle, poverty and the onslaught of HIV/AIDS.
This was followed by a moment of silence to acknowedge the years in which these women have remained strong. There was so much emotion in the room in which the grandmothers shared their heart-breaking stories of the challenges they face.
We wish to acknowledge the women of GAPA for the pillars of strength they are in the community
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Poem by Mrs A Mdaka

Depression is my name
Depression knows my name!
It knows every details
Even my weight down to scale!
It seems to know the route to my
As it calls me in my sleep
following my dreams as they go 
it feeds off my life support
and because of this, I know my life 
will be short
They don’t understand me. You see
and what we don’t understand we attack
killing everything about it that
sccares you
bit by bit if fades away
Until nothing but sadness and
damned faces are left
All thanks to theft
that came and swept away all
Permanent hybernation and all its
But as the struggle against
depression grows
more than not knowing who is the 
There is one thing that I can’t stand any
and that is…
In all the fairness and in all the truth
one question remains the same
Oh Great Depression!
How do you know my name?!!!!!!!!
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Invite to Media

African and Canadian Grandmothers to Unite in Symbolic
Solidarity Action on March 25 in Select Cities 
—  African grannies raising many of the 11.6 million AIDS orphans — 
Cape Town, March 19, 2009 – On March 25, hundreds of African and Canadian grandmothers will gather in different cities to perform a symbolic act of solidarity. They will do this to draw attention to the crucial role African grandmothers play in raising many of the 11.6 million children who have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS. They will also call attention to the need for increased funding for African grassroots organizations that provide critical support to grandmothers and their grandchildren.
In Africa, hundreds of grandmothers will gather in rural areas in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia Zimbabwe and Swaziland. In Canada, grandmothers and their families, friends and grandchildren will gather in public spaces in the following cities: Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Whitehorse, Hamilton, Orillia, Alliston and Halifax. 
In each location half of those in attendance will sit or lie down to represent the unprecedented suffering and loss caused by the AIDS pandemic for millions of African families and communities. After a short time, the rest of the group will begin to sing, dance and take the hands of those on the ground to pull them out of their individual suffering and offer them strength. The group will then form a circle while singing and dancing to show the power of communities to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic. 
WHO: GAPA – Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS
WHEN: 11h00
WHERE: GAPA centre, J415 Qabaka Cresent, Khayelitsha
Directions to GAPA
Take the N2 out of Cape Town towards Somerset West. After Mew Rd look for the next exit. This is exit No 29 (Spine Road). Take this exit off the highway.Turn right over the highway towards Khayelitsha. Proceed round the small circle to the first intersection. This is Lansdown Rd. Turn right and then 400 m along turn left at Lawulo Rd. The back of the GAPA centre will now be visible. Turn first left and then left again into Qabaka Cres to access the main gate of the GAPA centre.
WHY: This solidarity action was inspired by grandmothers across Africa who use song and dance to overcome their grief and build solidarity. Canadian grandmothers have raised more than $4 million for African grandmothers and the children in their care through the Stephen Lewis Foundation ( 
GAPA is funded by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in Canada. 
GAPA is a voluntary organization that implements programmes to support grandmothers affected by HIV/AIDS in urban and rural communities to continue with their lives and to cope better as providers of care and support for their infected children.
Programmes include:
support groups and cooperatives
educational workshops
Aftercare facilties
Pre-school bursary schemes
Note to Journalists: The solidarity action will begin at 11h00 a.m. sharp. Media should arrive early to set up for photos.
Media Contact:   Vivienne Budaza. Tel: 021 364 3138.
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Keeping track of our compliments

The aftercare is becoming more and more loved by children.

Just last week one father came to tell us that: ” Last year his child was in a different aftercare and didn’t like going but this year now that he is in GAPA aftercare his child is loving aftercare”
Children love the ‘Makhulu’ – Grandmothers and often draw them pictures to tell them this.
This is just evidence that we are growing from strength to strength.
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American International Health Alliance Volunteer Memoir

February 27, 2009
By: Aliza Waxman

I was sent over from the USA by the American International Health Alliances HIV/AIDS Twinning Center as an Organizational Development Specialist. I have been volunteering at GAPA for the month of February working to strengthen the capacity of GAPA via the use of internal resources. Below is a copy of an email that I wrote to my family back in American during my first week with GAPA.

I started work on Monday at GAPA, Grandmothers Against AIDS and
Poverty. GAPA was started as an initiative to support grandmothers who have been affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. When I met the grannies, they introduced themselves to me by their individual Clan names, which is a more respectful way to address ones elders.

The organization is located in the J section of Khayelitcha, one of the
most famous townships in South Africa. Khayelitsha is unbelievable. It is filled with formal and informal settlements. The informal settlements are compact with small metal shacks that are shoved together in very dirty and densely packed areas. Many homes have no running water and most homes do not have toilets. Recently, the government set up port-potties in the informal areas, three-homes/ toilet. Up until recently, it was 10-homes/ toilet. There is an estimated one million people living here in dire conditions. There is trash scattered all over the place. I drove by a dump yesterday where a cow was munching on garbage. I could go on for hours about how the people of Khayelitsha are neglected, but I would rather speak about the beauty of the place. As I said in my last email, alot of the corruption, crime and danger that permeates through township life is the direct result of the breakdown of the community structure.

What is incredible about these grandmothers is the traditions that they are trying to uphold, to bring the broken youth back to life. These women are so strong, such powerhouses. If you could only hear their stories, you would be utterly amazed. These Gogo’s have been to hell and back but they pray to God throughout the day, with smiles on their faces, thanking him for the strength he has given them to survive and attempt to uphold a broken society. And I mean it when I say, these women are genuinely some of the happiest and most positive women I have ever met, they actually remind me of my grandmother. I heard a story of how a young man came to the grandmothers begging them for help and confessing to them all the crime he had committed and horrible things he had done, but that he was desperate and hungry, and the grannies were all crying and took him into their arms, even though they personally suffer as a direct result of the “tsosti’s”, thieves that live in this society.

Even though I am in a statistically dangerous place, I am so protected by these women, who know the streets and are so respected, no one will mess with them. They sing the most beautiful prayers every morning and cook us the most delicious local African lunch. They warn me that I will get very fat from their food as it is mostly comprised of white
carbohydrates, but I am so grateful for the good food, which is such an important part of their culture. This organization is so incredible. These women are so organized, driven, powerful and for one simple reason, the programs are entirely community driven. GAPA is driven by the grandmothers for the grandmothers, who are trying to create a truly sustainable livelihood for themselves. I am in love with the grannies and I refuse to see this organization lose funding.
The grandmothers started an after school care program for the vulnerable children in the community who have been orphaned by AIDS and have no one to look after them after school, where they have been the victims of many horrific forms of abuse. The grannies teach them traditional stories and music, strengthening the Xhosa culture, which advocates for peace, love, family, strength, standing together as a family and community, and caring for one another regardless. I learned a beautiful African phrase. “Inimba” it is XHOSA word which represents the love a parent must have for a child regardless of how sick they are, how troubled, disabled etc. This tradition has clearly upheld in
a society where people dedicate their lives to caring for their children who have been sick with aids.

These grannies have no husbands to support them. Many of them lost their husbands back in the homeland, in the eastern cape/ Transkei , when their husbands migrated to the cities in search for work, they never came back. They have been responsible to care for their children with no help or money. Many of these women lost their children to AIDS
and now care for their grandchildren that are dying of AIDS. They are entirely on their own and this organization was started so that these grannies could look after one another.

These women have shown me that strength can be sought out in any situation and I feel their strength emanating through me, it’s an incredible feeling. Their positive attitudes makes working with them so inspiring. I also have never had the experience of working with all women, it’s really amazing. The environment is so feminine, so strong. Yet not in
the modern feminist way. These women all cover their hair and where long skirts, but they are some of the strongest women I’ve ever met, both mentally and physically. They could bring anything to life, because they are filled with so much of it. I feel the presence of God amongst these women.

I am filled with so much love

Aliza Waxman

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Everyday needs…

Our aftercare is brimming full with new children. We’ve had 30 new admissions this year, bringing our total to 129.

This is stretching our resources such as space and teachers to the limit. Most of the new children are from Grade R to Grade 3 which means that Mrs Mavilo and Mrs Ngewu have classes of 30 children each. Last year they were comfortably teaching 20 children but this year their skills are being stretched.
Our major concerns are that we have a small space for 129 children and that its not easy to care for so many children, leading to increased chance of fighting and injuries amongst the children. These are vulnerable children who need the individual care from the grandmothers, however this vision seems to be slipping from reach with the overwhelming need.
And yet…more parents are requesting admission for their children. 
We decided that we would have a cut-off number but what do you do when mothers break down crying in disappointment and worry about where to send their children?
The seriousness of the need was depicted just yesterday.
I assisted Mrs Mavilo is setting up a painting class for her children. Their little faces lit up when they saw the paint and it was quite a challenge to expect them to sit down while we organised things.
As the children engaged in this activity I noticed one little girl sitting on the edge not participating. She was not making eye contact with anyone. I immediately recognised this girl to be a new admission who sat crying three weeks ago because she was embarrassed about her shaven hair. Her mother had shaved her hair in an attempt to cure the fungal infection that was spreading on her scalp. When I went forward to hand her a paintbrush, thinking that she was perhaps she was shy to ask the other children for one, she started crying. I was at a loss, not understanding isiXhosa is such a challenge! Once Mrs Mavilo had caringly asked her what was wrong we discovered that she had not eaten food all day because there was no food at home. Fortunately we provide food for the children at GAPA and thankfully she was soon playing around with the other children after some bread and juice.
This just drives home to what extent the services we offer at GAPA are needed in the lives of these vulnerable children.
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On February 8, 2009, ten GAPA grandmothers and three GAPA staff members attended the visit by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Michel Sidibe, hosted by the Treatment Action Campaign and Médecins Sans Frontières at the Ubuntu clinic in Khayelitsha, to honor his inauguration and visit to South Africa.. There was a panel of speakers including Barbara Hogan, the health minister of South Africa, as well as HIV positive members of the Khayelitsha community who spoke about the anti-retroviral treatments they had been receiving from the local Ubuntu ARV clinic.

Dr. Sidibe came to South Africa to learn first hand about the scope of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, some of the programs and responses, and to better understand the successes and future challenges that are faced by HIV/AIDS programs in South Africa. The event was primarily informed by the local Khayelitsha community, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in South Africa. In 2007, antenatal HIV prevalence was 30.2%, and 31% of all adults on antiretroviral therapy in the Cape Town metropolitan area are treated in Khayelitsha. The TB incidence rate reached nearly 1,600 per 100,000 in 2006, and TB/HIV co-infection is close to 70%.

The panel representative from the Treatment Action Campaign turned to the health minister and boldly stated: “When Barak Obama was inaugurated he stated that surely it was an exciting historical moment, but there was a huge task ahead for the USA. Well, Ms. Hogan, we may have achieved great success in the rollout of ARV therapy, but we have a long way to go!” This statement elicited a roaring !isXhosa! cheer from the crowd. It was a powerful statement, reminding all that many people in South Africa and worldwide still do not have access to treatment, a right that is stipulated in the UN Millennium Development Goals. But there is hope. And at this particular event, hope was radiating from the community.

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new year at GAPA

2009 is now in full swing at GAPA. All the grandmothers are back from their visits to their homes in the Eastern Cape, all the grandchildren are back at school and now grandmothers that are caring for tiny children are looking for financial assistance that will enable them to register the children at the nearest creche or preschool close to their homes. What a sigh of relief they give when they receive a bursary from GAPA. It is really tiring work caring for lively preschoolers everyday all day and all night. Any one who has had the pleasure of looking after grandchildren will know how nice it is when they can go back to their parents and give granny time to put up her feet and relax. Unfortunately grandmothers that are the sole custodians of their grandchildren have no such respite. This is why GAPA runs a bursary scheme. It costs up to R150 a month to keep a child in a preschool. At these creche/preschools the childen receive a meal, socialisation and school preparation.

For any more details of the scheme, a quick phone call to our office 021 3643138 will provide info.
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