Wednesday, 16 October 2019
This morning I was delighted to visit the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (HACT), this is always such an inspiring project to visit as they really do think outside the box when it comes to supporting individuals and communities who are coping with the impact of HIV Aids.  GAGA is one of the sponsors of a bed in the 24 bed respite unit situated in the heart of Hillcrest in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.

However, the work of HACT does not start and end with the respite unit.  Those of you who followed the blog in January may remember the home visits and the GOGO support initiative.  Well, you'll be pleased to know Mr Mshengu is still driving his patients every day to their hospital appointments in Durban and carrying out his home visits.  Remember Victor?
Well he's doing so well, still living independently and has not had the need to be readmitted to the unit since January which is great news.  He is hoping for a place at a new elderly care home for 2020, we wish him the very best of luck in that move.

The GOGO support initiative continues and has moved into a family strengthening stage, whereby to Gogo's (Grandma's) and grandchildren come together to talk openly about subjects that concern them.  A marvellous example of this was when HACT visited a community deep in the Valley of 1000 Hills in KwaNyuswa.  A Gogo said that no projects had every visited there before and they were so cut off from support and facilities.  The HACT team set up under the shade of a tree and started to talk to people about family strengthening though conversation.  One of the subjects chosen was bullying and everybody discussed it.  Afterwards a 7 year old boy opened up to his Gogo to say he had been bullied at school for two years.  He'd never told anyone.  The Gogo said she knew his behaviour at home had become worse but she didn't know why.  Now, they have talked about it and the Gogo walks the boy to school and he can now talk about the day and be open if he has been bullied and the Gogo can support him.

After catching up on the news with Candace and Claire we went along to the Respite Unit and met some of the team there. This is Candance and Sister Sphe the Nursing manager in front of the artwork created by the staff and patients for Mandela's birthday this year.

I was also delighted to meet this gentleman who, after nearly six weeks in the Respite Unit had recovered sufficiently to be discharged today!  As a discharge gift, HACT likes to give something special that has been donated and what could be more special than this beautiful crochet blanket that I was privileged to bring out to SA with me on this trip. We get some fantastic donations at GAGA HQ but it is always very special when we learn a story behind a particular piece.

This is Vera, the lady who made the crochet blanket.  
Vera’s daughter Andrea was one of the founding members of the Click and Chatter club at Holy Trinity in Stratford upon Avon.  Holy Trinity is where Shakespeare is buried and it has a long association with the great and good of Stratford upon Avon!  It is also one of the places we yarnbomb in December (as well as the big tree in the Bancroft Gardens).  Andrea sadly passed away from breast cancer earlier this year, but she had already roped her mother into supporting GAGA, as she did, with crochet squares and beanie hats.  Whilst Andrea was ill, Vera was busy making her crochet squares for a blanket for GAGA.  Her granddaughter Abi (Andrea’s daughter) told me that it was a great comfort to Vera to have a focus whilst her daughter (Andrea) was so unwell and it was a great comfort to Andrea to know that her Mum was continuing to support a project and charity that she was so passionate about.  When Andrea passed the blanket was not complete, but Vera told her granddaughter that she was determined to finish it in honour of Andrea and wanted it to come to GAGA so we could pass it on to someone over here who needed the love and comfort that was in each stitch.  Well Vera, I am delighted to say, this gentleman was overwhelmed with his gift and everyone at HACT sends their sincere thanks to you for your kindness.  Rest assured that your blanket will be cherished and offer comfort for many years to come.