Granny Power

Never underestimate the power of Grannies to change the world. No need to look further than New Westminster for proof. The Royal City GoGos are one of the most successful fundraisers in Canada, when it comes to raising money to help African grandmothers look after children orphaned by AIDs. Their funds are distributed by the Stephen Lewis Foundation to “carefully selected community organizations in 15 African nations”, according to Janine Reid, the Royal City Gogos' founder.

In this documentary, you get a glimpse of these women at work over the course of 2020, a year that has had considerable restrictions because of the pandemic. But with their unabashed creative energies and strong work ethic, they have put on many events that have still brought in considerable funds – more than two-thirds of what they normally make.

The Royal City Gogos was started by their Janine Reid in 2010 and they have grown from a group of 10 to over 60 in those years, and have made a half a million dollars in that time. This documentary delves into why it is this group is so successful.

First and foremost, it seems they never let up. They had to scrap their main fundraising event, a Christmas Craft Fair, usually held just before Christmas at an indoor location. No matter, as the women start making their one-of-a-kind goods in January, they had plenty of things to sell by summer. Undaunted, they had an outdoor craft fair in front of three homes in the beautiful Queen's Park area in July, which involved epic work to borrow and bring tables, chairs, tents and display frames for setup. “It was like the Normandy invasion,” says Janine Reid.

And it is no ordinary craft fair. The goods are high quality. Everything made displays fine craftsmanship, is often made from upcycled goods and there is something for everyone, including your pets. You can buy beautifully hand-knit blankets, swirled wool-felted cushions for your home, and plenty for your kitchen – pot holders, aprons, and more. There are bird feeders and decor for your garden. For the fashionistas, there are gorgeous purses, scarves, necklaces, hats and more. For your little ones, stuffies and ballet tutus. There are cat and dog toys and whole lot more. And of course, their signature tote bags, which are super sturdy, beautifully designed and colourful, were also featured.

If that wasn't enough work, over the fall, they had their “Solidarity Cycle”, their “Pledge Walk, a Christmas bake sale, and most fun of all, a Scavenger Hunt just before Halloween. Teams signed up and they had to criss cross the city to find locations based on riddle clues, where they had to do crazy things before moving on to the next location– all outside and Covid-safe. Most were in costume, which added to the fun and colour, and of course, there was a ghoulish outdoor Haunted House on the way.

What makes these women keep at it. Well, it seems they have created a circle where friendships are made and strengthened. For these retired women, it is often find it difficult to connect with others and the Royal City Gogos fills the gap. And they are all bound together in this cause: As Janine puts it, we want to “live lives with meaning and significance”; to do something that benefits the world. And who better to help than other grannies, who are forced to bury their own beloved children and to start to raise young ones again.

By: Susan Millar

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