By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Local women — many are grandmothers — will be holding garage sales in Rancho Bernardo and Poway on Saturday to help grandparents raising their orphaned grandchildren in Africa.
The Gogo Grandmothers San Diego North County Inland chapter is holding the garage sales as its first fundraiser since forming last November.
The garage sales will be 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 5 at 12022 Avenida Sivrita in Rancho Bernardo and 14249 Palisades Drive in Poway. Both are members’ homes.
Among items available will be antiques, baby and children’s clothing, collectibles, designer clothes, curtains, home goods, furniture and crafts. There will also be African-style items, including story necklaces chapter members recently made, said Leslie Lewis, the U.S. Coordinator for Gogo Grandmothers.
Lewis said all proceeds will be sent to the Simiyoni village in Malawi, Africa, which the local chapter adopted. The money will help grandparents caring for their grandchildren, who in many cases were orphaned due to AIDS.
They will use the funds to grow crops and equip a preschool the U.S. organization helped establish for children 2 1/2 to 7 years old, Lewis said.
The school, she said, is one example of the organization’s success, since five years earlier the children were taught lessons sitting on the ground under a mango tree. Later they moved into a stick structure and now 85 students are in a regular building.
She said children who attend preschool in Africa have a higher retention rate in school and are more likely to pass the secondary school entrance exam.
Gogo Grandmothers, part of the non-government organization SAFE (Sub-Saharan Africa Family Enrichment), was founded in 2006. It sponsors 10 villages between its chapters in four states.
Lewis said the villagers are very poor, with 90 percent growing what they eat and 7 percent having electricity.
“There is almost no irrigation and they are dependent upon the rain (to) grow what they eat,” Lewis said. A grant the San Diego chapters obtained is helping the gogos (term for grandmothers) grow soybeans so they can augment meals, which consist mostly of maize (a dried, ground corn). There is typically no meat available and eating a small amount of fish is a rarity, she added.
The American women are teaching the African grandmothers how to cook various dishes with soy — a new plant for them, which adds protein to their diets and counteracts the malnutrition and stunted growth experienced by 50 percent of the children, Lewis said.
Another benefit of growing soy is the ability to now rotate the crop with the maize, therefore letting the soil naturally replenish its nutrients via alternate growing seasons, she said.
The local chapter meets in a Rancho Bernardo member’s home at 10 a.m. on the first Monday of the month. There are no dues and the 18 members are focused on having the group be a service/charity organization, Lewis said.
“Fundamentally, we are a grandmother-to-grandmother connection between grandmothers, and sometimes grandfathers, in Malawi caring for orphaned children,” Lewis said. “The grandmothers and others here ... pray for them and provide assistance to them.”
For details, call Lewis at 760-500-4311 or go to