What started out as heartbreak and loss ended up bringing a dream to life that has gone on to benefit gogos – grandmothers – by helping them to do things they were not able to achieve in their younger years.
Thoko Matjokane, the chairperson and founder of the non-profit organisation Gogo on Tour, lost her brother and sister before their planned vacation. But she had a dream in which her late brother advised her to carry on their plans.
Matjokane took the trip to Durban and when she came back she devised a programme for senior citizens to actively experience the country for which they had sacrificed so much. She rallied six of her friends and they used their pensions to start the initiative.
Gogo on Tour, established in 2012, has grown in leaps and bounds in its three years of existence. Already it has over 60 000 active members. There are no registration fees to join or travel costs to enjoy the trips.
ENJOYING THEIR GOLDEN YEARS
Khensani Matjokane, Matjokane’s daughter and the managing director of Gogo on Tour, explains: “I believe we need to take care of the elderly and let them experience simple things that are fulfilling that they never got to experience because of all their sacrifices for their families.
“With the rise of HIV/Aids in our communities, children are orphaned and gogos must step in and assume the role of parent once again. They become the breadwinners on the grants they receive, and therefore their golden years become a myth or wishful thinking.”
Khensani still does not know how they get to make things happen, but they are never without. “I’m glad I have a strong support system to make this initiative work,” she says. “My friends know I will call them and ask if they could just give me R2 000 so I can get a bus for a trip and they oblige.”
The initiative requires funding to succeed, she adds. The money is used for travel insurance, transport, accommodation, on-tour health care, food and entertainment. They are also used for the daily running of the organisation’s office and website.
Khensani’s face brightens when she speaks of how the fulfilment of seeing an old woman smiling from ear to ear while sitting in a Jacuzzi, and a pensioner’s amazement after her first massage. “Those reactions are the ones that will always make me feel good about doing this. Having them discover something nice in their golden years is so fulfilling to the soul.”
The “one foot in the grave” mentality needs to be eradicated from the minds of senior citizens, she adds, and giving them an enjoyable holiday goes a long way in doing this.
In 2013, the Department of Tourism signed a memorandum of understanding with Gogo on Tour. This along with an endorsement letter issued to the group includes a work plan that details the relationship between the two parties.
What she loves about Gogo on Tour is that it is all inclusive, Khensani says. “I received a call from a lady in Kyalami asking if she could join the group and I was gobsmacked because I [wondered] why she would want to join this initiative. Then I realised that it was about being around your peers. And because she has had the opportunity to travel she could add to educating the other gogos about its pleasures.”
AVID COMMUNITY MEMBER
The elder Matjokane has long been a community leader in her hometown of Soshanguve, in Gauteng. She is a former executive member of the South African National Civic Organisation; and she has sat on the board of trustees for the corporate social investment division of South African Breweries, facilitating the first Kick Start programme that helped young black business owners in the small, medium and micro enterprises sector find funding and mentoring.
In addition, when the price of bread began rising, Matjokane founded a community bakery that sold fresh bread at a reasonable cost and provided bread for impoverished families. In 1995, she was elected to sit on the first black city council of Pretoria, known as the Northern Metropolitan Sub-structure, where she served her community until she retired in 2000.