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Temecula-area church women helping African grandmothers


07:47 AM PDT on Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Special to The Press-Enterprise

In Malawi, Africa, it takes a village of poor elderly women to raise their orphaned grandchildren. In America, a group of women from Rancho Baptist Church in Temecula have found creative ways to fund raise for Gogo Grandmothers, a nonprofit that supports the women who live halfway around the world.

Leslie Lewis, the U.S. coordinator for Gogo Grandmothers, said the partnership began when her organization introduced the church’s widows’ group to the idea of helping “gogos” — which is the country’s word for a grandmother — who were suffering.

Dorothy Sheldrake, of Winchester, said when the widows heard about the cause they realized they were ready to reach out and do something for someone else.

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Diane A. Rhodes / Special to The Press-Enterprise
Friends of the Gogo Grandmothers work on holiday crafts to benefit African villagers. From left, Mary Waller, Dorothy Sheldrake, Sue Halderman and Michelle Hunter.

“Now the support in the church has grown and become intergenerational,” said Lewis.

Sheldrake said her church began sponsoring Kawiya-Tadziwana — a village with 51 gogos — about a year ago.

“We are the eighth church to adopt a village and make a commitment to help that village,” she said. “Each month we have an hour of prayer for the villagers and then have a business meeting.”

The village also meets monthly so gogos can learn about nutrition, hygiene and child care.

“The relationships built through prayer and fundraising for them, amazingly empower these aging grandparents to care for each other and their vulnerable grandchildren — Malawi’s next generation,” said Lewis, of Escondido. “They are the ones caring for 80 percent of the 1.2 million children orphaned, mostly by AIDS, in Malawi.”

A new DVD, “Orphans and Their Gogos,” has been released and can be viewed online at

“Even though it is for children, it gives a peek into the village life in Malawi,” said Lewis. “The children at the end are all from Rancho Baptist Church.”

John Clemente, 11, raised $30 for the villagers by selling some of his car collection.

“It’s good to donate,” said John, of Temecula. “I’d do it again.”


Money raised through projects, such as the craft boutique, provides fertilizer for crops, blankets, mosquito netting and other necessary items that are purchased by the organization and sent to the villagers who create a wish list.

“We made pot scrubbers and sold them as ‘net for netting,’ ” said Linda Clemente, of Temecula. Her children and friends help with the craft workshops as well as the “Coins for Corn” project, which has raised about $2,000 since March.

Lewis said village children used to learn school lessons while sitting under a mango tree but now a shelter has been constructed for them. They are now able to eat porridge each day and the preschool was given a piece of land by the village’s chief to use as a communal garden.

“All of this because a small group of women at Rancho Baptist said ‘yes’ to sharing,” said Lewis.

The Holiday Boutique will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 9 at Rancho Baptist Church, 29775 Santiago Road in Temecula.

For information, call 951-926-8186 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              951-926-8186      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or go to

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