In one part of the world where mothers don’t have warm blankets for wrapping their newborn babies, the Valley Go-Go Sisters are filling the void.
It started with Joanne Gillies, the daughter of Go-Go Sister Luana Gillies. While studying at the University of British Columbia, Joanne took up an educational placement as a midwife during the summer of 2012 at a hospital in Masaka, Uganda — a town with a population of about 74,000.
“(My daughter) made me aware that there was a severe shortage of blankets for new babies,” said Luana. “I responded by putting out a call for donations to my family, fellow Go-Go Sisters, and friends.”
Luana was able to round up about 400 blankets that summer. She then packed them, flew to Uganda, and met up with Joanne.
“About half the blankets supplied the nursery in the hospital and half were sent home with newborns,” said Luana.
And the hospital has been able to count on more than a one-off donation, as Luana has been collecting, sewing, and crocheting blankets ever since. As a member of the Go-Go Sisters, she was able to recruit even more help.
“The Go-Go’s are one of many groups of grandmothers across Canada, working with the Stephen Lewis Foundation,” she said. “(The foundation) supports African grandmothers who are the linchpins of survival for families ravaged by HIV/AIDs.”
The latest round of clothing was collected mainly by Go-Go Sisters Florence Raven and Shirley Dahl. Val and Wes James also added to the load. They spent about six months accumulating the stockpile, said Florence.
“I love doing it,” Florence said. “It relaxes me and I like helping other people.”
As for Shirley, she started stockpiling blankets as soon as she learned of the need.
The blankets are heading to Africa in May, and this will be the third shipment the Go-Go Sisters have made. More than 400 blankets were delivered to Uganda in 2012, and a large collection from Shirley travelled over with student midwives last year.
Luana said the British Airways airline is offering the university students compassion fares, which allows each of them three free items of luggage with no size limit. Bob Piche has collected the hockey bags from the Silvertips Oldtimers Hockey Club to help transport the sizeable quantity.
Anybody in the valley who would like to send blankets to Masaka can get in touch with Luana at 250-342-9600.