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Connecting continents

As a grandmother of four – including granddaughter Evelyn, born just over a week ago – Donna McBride knows first-hand the joy of a grandparent-grandchild relationship.

So when the South Surrey resident was searching for a way to give back after retiring from a career in nursing a few years ago, she found something that struck a chord with her.

“Once I retired I was looking around for something to get involved in, and here it was,” McBride said of the Oneness Gogos, a group of around 50 local women who support the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

The Gogos – which is African for ‘grandmothers’ – have raised more than $85,000 for the foundation since the group launched in 2008. The money helps grandmothers in Africa who are raising grandchildren orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and goes towards things like food, school supplies, seeds and grief counselling.

McBride had an opportunity to visit Africa in 2007, when she went on a safari in Kenya and Tanzania, and said she instantly felt a connection to the land and its people.

“Once you go to Africa, you just want to go back.”

She said there is a distinct bond between Canadian grandmothers and their African counterparts, many of whom have upwards of 18 or 19 orphaned grandchildren to care for.

“They’re very family oriented,” she said. “They don’t want to let their grandchildren go.”

One area of the Gogos’ work that McBride has been heavily involved in is advocacy. She has helped lobby the Canadian government for support in the Global Fund to treat AIDS, and pushed for legislation that would let generic drug companies manufacture and send antiretroviral medication to Africa to treat HIV/AIDS.

“We know that antiretroviral drugs work, we just need to be able to get them there at a really low cost,” she said.

Next up for the Gogos is a Walk-a-Thon at Crescent Park on June 4 at 10 a.m. They’ll also be out in force at the Spirit of the Sea Fest later this summer, selling hand-made crafts and jewelry.

For more information, email

In honour of the group’s work and their African “sisters,” McBride chose to share a recipe for African squash coconut soup, served with Mbatata (sweet potato) biscuits. For the biscuit recipe, see online under Lifestyles at

Squash Coconut Soup


1 Tbsp butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1½ cups cooked squash, diced and cubed

2½ cups chicken stock or water

1½ cups milk

¼ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

1 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

1 cup coconut milk

½ cup cream

dash of chili powder


Heat butter and cook onion until soft and brown. Add squash, stock, milk, spices, lemon juice and salt; simmer for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk and simmer for another two minutes. Puree soup in blender or food processor or in batches as desired.

If soup is too thick, add more coconut milk.

Mbata (Sweet Potato) Biscuit


1 ½ cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

½ cup milk

½ cup melted margarine or butter

2 ½ cups sifted flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix and beat together sweet potatoes, milk  and melted butter or margarine. Sift and stir in remaining ingredients. Turn onto floured board, kneading lightly, and roll out to a half-inch thickness. Cut with 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter. Place biscuits on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

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