To Supporters of the Gogos and Mamas: Making the connections –

Merle Conyer Workshop Merle Conyer Workshop

A special story from Merle Conyer who offered a much appreciated self-care workshop to 12 Khulumani group facilitators in September 2014 which included crafting blankets to represent symbols of the sources of nourishment that enable the facilitators to keep on keeping on.

In 2014 I returned to my birthplace South Africa after a long absence, and wanted to honour the transition of the past twenty years and the people who contributed to this.

A proposal I had written found its way to the desk of Marjorie Jobson who is the national director of the civil society organisation, Khulumani Support Group. This eventuated in a 3 day residential retreat with twelve African women who are facilitators with Khulumani and carers within their communities.

During the retreat each woman adorned a blanket with meaningful imagery. The unique and practical objects serve as precious reminders of strengths, connections and relationships that are meaningful and helpful on a journey towards their own self care, recovery and healing.

Each woman shared the meaning of her blanket with the group. When one of the lady’s, Gladys, revealed what she had created there was a large beaded banner with the words “Gogos and Mamas”. Below the words were images of men and women representing those who had been cared for, supported and enabled through Gogos and Mamas. Gladys spoke about her gratitude and the positive rippling impacts from being part of this group.

I had heard of the Gogos and Mamas (in Sydney, Australia) as I have known Michelle Favero since we were teenagers … when the penny dropped I felt amazed by the serendipity and overwhelmed to witness the benefits first hand.

The message I share with you is that Gogos and Mamas is profoundly touching the lives of people in South Africa. The apartheid years were brutal, and life is still very hard for many people. The women I met were often caring for others such as orphaned grandchildren and living day by day with financial hardship and social insecurity, at the same time as contributing towards strengthening and healing within their communities.

Through this serendipitous and chance encounter I am able to convey to you that the funds raised for Gogos and Mamas truly make a difference in the lives of the people you touch.

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