I should have been writing this update having just returned from a monitoring and evaluation trip to our funded projects in South Africa and instead I am writing from my home office!  Following the lockdown in March I vacated the office at Big Red Recruitment’s premises and relocated GAGA UK to my home! That is not the only thing that’s been really different about the last four months!  So, what have we done differently?

  • Worked from Home
  • Virtual Fundraising
  • Virtual Challenge Events
  • Sent Relief Shipment & additional funding
  • Increased skills and knowledge through training and virtual conference attendance
  • Increased donor communication and networking for awareness

We’ve moved from community fundraising, the events and fete’s we normally keep busy with over the summer to virtual fundraising with a series of virtual pub quizzes (you can see these on our YouTube channel if you missed them in April & May, you can watch them here and even doing a little bit of retail, selling our lovely shweshwe bunting on FaceBook marketplace.

Person in lion costume 2.6 Challenge

I also took part in the 2.6 Challenge in April, this was a challenge set by the organisers of the London Marathon who asked people to design a challenge and raise money by doing something daft related to the number 26!  I worked out that my staircase was 2.6m high, so I decided to climb it for 2.6hours on Sunday 26th April…. dressed as a lion! It was a jolly hot day and I managed 416 flights in 2.6hours!  It was a super fundraiser and thank you to all of you who donated to this fundraiser, I was so inspired I continued to climb the stairs every day for the following week and on Sunday 3rd May I completed 2,267 flights which took me to the equivalent of Uhuru Peak on Kilimanjaro!  You’ll see from the picture that the lion’s snout looks a bit wonky!  That’s because I had to remove the wadding as it was difficult to breathe through it during the ascent!  Overall just over £2,000 was raised from this event and the Board decided to use the funds to support the team at 1000 Hills Community Helpers (1000HCH) by providing additional PPE and infection control supplies to support their outreach work.

 Staff at 1000HCH with PPE

The healthcare projects 1000 HCH & Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust responded quickly supporting the communities in the Valley of 1000 Hills by carrying out Covid-19 screening and distributing food parcels in the rural communities. The work there never stops, this whole community faced severe food shortages as lockdown meant many were not allowed to travel to their jobs or lost their jobs because of concerns over transmission of the virus.  Many of these families were living hand to mouth in good times and therefore really suffer in bad times.  Russell at the Gogo Lunch club has continued to support the elderly and vulnerable in his community as much as possible across this time, switching from weekly lunches (due to restrictions on gatherings) to providing food parcels in a safe, socially distanced way. We’ve kept in touch with the healthcare projects your donations support throughout the lockdown and as I write there is a shipment on route to Inchanga containing children’s cardigans, sweaters, hats, scarves and gloves as well as some blankets and quilts to help to keep the vulnerable children warm as winter sets in.  All of these items have been lovingly crafted and donated by GAGA supporters and as I am not travelling to South Africa for our regular monitoring and evaluation trip this summer, we used the budget to send the relief shipment – it worked out at less than 50p per item, so we feel we got good value for money and the lovely knitted clothes are on their way to the people they were made for!



Education projects in both South Africa and Tanzania closed down in March and have only just started to re-open.  KYGN in Tanzania did a wonderful job preparing home schooling packs and the vulnerable girls who live in the safe house were rehomed with the teachers.  Unfortunately, Tanzania was hit by torrential rain in April and the area around KYGN suffered severe flooding and damage to infrastructure like roads and bridges as well as the school buildings. The Rotary Club of Stratford upon Avon generously supported KYGN with some emergency funding to help to restore the classrooms damaged by flood water and we were delighted to receive photographs of the first days back at school for these pupils.  School life will look very different for a number of months but it is encouraging to see the children in their masks and the sanitisation stations placed at the entrance to each of the classrooms.  Unfortunately it has not been possible to reopen the creche and preschool which used to be known as First Step Right. This reopened in January, having undergone a big refurbishment by the owner and landlord of the property and we were excited about the prospect of some of the original teachers establishing their own not for profit company and operating this as an early childhood development project called “Svunokuhle”, which translates as “from little seeds mighty trees grow”.  However, in late June we held a consultation with the property landlords and they expressed their concern over the Coronavirus risks of operating a creche facility in such close proximity to their meat processing plant.  As you will no doubt have read, the virus seems to spread rapidly in the cool, moist conditions of such a facility and this was seen as too severe a risk to mitigate.  It is hoped that the building will be reopened at a future time as a community hub, but for now we are supporting the staff to find alternative positions and the children and their families to find alternative day care.  It is very sad that the project that started as First Step Right and that meant so much to GAGA supporters and the charity team has fallen as a casualty of Coronavirus.  However, there is significant cause for celebration of the hundreds of children who benefited from their attendance at First Step Right over the years.  The project saw many success stories of pupils going on to achieve well in secondary school and provided a sound start to their education that they otherwise would not have had. 

The Board of GAGA would like to thank every donor and supporter of First Step Right and assure you that the project will be wound down carefully, ensuring the assets of the project are distributed in a way that continues to benefit the community of KwaXimba.  We will keep in touch with the owners of the building and bring you news of any new developments.  If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 01789 414088.

What’s Next?

Next week I will be launching GAGA UK’s participation in the Prudential My Ride London virtual challenge event!  They’ll be something for everyone, so if you are a genteel cyclist or a “head down” serious “MAMIL*” please watch your email next week and get involved if you can! 

(*MAMIL = Middle Aged Man in Lycra)

I will also be launching the Remembering Tree Project in August, hoping to make it bigger and better than ever as we use it to not only Remember loved ones but also to Celebrate the amazing achievements and community spirit seen both here in the UK and in South Africa during the Coronavirus Crises. Just today we heard hints that life could be closer to “normal” by December and we want to make sure that our colourful yarnbombed trees are looking splendid in time to welcome the winter staycationers to Stratford upon Avon.  I know many of you have been busy with your knitting needles and crochet hooks throughout the lockdown and I will be soon be inviting you to get involved with the 2020 Yarnbombing project!   


We are always keen to keep in touch with you all as much as possible, across the website and social media as well as through the quarterly newsletter on email or in the post.  Please don’t forget you can change your communication preferences at any time, either by emailing us on [email protected], going on to the website or clicking the link at the foot of any email you receive from us.

If you don’t already, please follow us on one or all of your preferred social media platforms, we’re on FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn!


Fancy getting involved?

There are lots of ways you can support the work of GAGA UK.  Although we are slowly returning to physical retail please don’t forget that if you are still using the internet for some of your purchases you can raise extra funds for GAGA UK AT NO COST TO YOURSELF! Simply sign up to a charity linked online shopping portal, we are registered with Give as You Live, Easyfundraising and Amazon Smile – just search for “Goodwill and Growth for Africa” or click here where you’ll find links to all of the online shopping portals. All the pennies really do add up, so please don’t think your contribution would be too small to make a difference!

 Regular donations are very important to us, as it means we can plan ahead.  A BIG THANK YOU to all of you who have kept up you regular giving across this difficult period.  If you are considering making a regular donation, please contact me on [email protected]

£5 a month can provide COVID-19 safety kits for a family of four (face masks, gloves, disinfectant and hand sanitiser)


It seems I was overly optimistic when I wrote “I hope that by the time I come to write the next newsletter we have the worst of this situation behind us” back in March. The South African and Tanzanian governments implemented lockdown swiftly and strictly but now that these restrictions are being eased, and as autumn gives way to winter in the southern hemisphere, the infection rate is increasing sharply.  Much as we fear a second-wave in the UK, it seems inevitable that globally humankind will be wrangling with this virus and the social and economic impacts of the virus for a long time to come. We hope that you are your family have been and continue to be safe and healthy.


If you have any questions about the projects we support or anything GAGA related then please drop me an email at [email protected]