Saving orphans and staying fit at the Gogo Olympics


Cwengi Myeni has spent her life serving others. For 30 years she lent her nursing skills to the community of Hillcrest. She watched the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS destroy her people. The plight of those afflicted by the disease spurred her to extend her generosity into retirement, as she joined the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust in her late 60s. Her house calls to those in need revealed to her an entire group of people working for the sake of others well into their later years. Myeni has since brought these benevolent spirits together with the Gogo Olympics – an annual event focused on keeping the elderly healthy and well.

Many grandmothers of children orphaned by AIDS are forced to become parents again. For the majority, who are barely managing on modest pensions, the sudden burden of care can be debilitating. Myeni has seen cases of single grandmothers providing for up to ten children. Already working through the Centre to implement a home-based carer training programme, Myeni started a Gogo Support Group project that has grown to serve 2 000 grandmothers.

She has succeeded in marshalling the community to aid the elderly who do so much for its children. Her venture has developed into a rounded lifestyle support structure for the gogos that assists them in caring for their grandchildren and helps with additional income generation. A quintessentially South African expression of joy, the Gogo Olympics caters for the sustaining of their mental and physical wellness, with more than 1 000 grandmothers coming together for the light-hearted sports day. Myeni’s legacy is heart-stirring, and she is far from done with writing it.