East London – A group of 42 gogos have discovered you can have your cake… and eat it, thanks to their phenomenal crafting success.The group, headed up by 74-year-old Vivian Citeko as its project manager, was created just over a year ago.Citeko said she became involved when on one Wednesday, which is pensioner's day at the mall, she noticed a group of women eating cake at a big table at Pick 'n Pay."I longed to be near them and I asked them what is going on here. They told me, 'We are old citizens and we come on Wednesday to enjoy cake'."Citeko was invited to sit down and enjoy the eats, and so she became part of this senior sisterhood."We conversed and got to know each other better."However, Citeko says, the women decided that although the tea time treats were delicious, more needed to be done."We suggested we cannot sit idle and eat cake – we are going to get fat. We must do something with our hands and feet."This was when the crafting programme began.Multi-skilling each otherThe group of 42 women now gather at an East London mall to stitch, sew, knit, crochet, bead, and even garden.Wendy Zitha, marketing manager of the shopping centre, suggested that she could teach the women to crochet."I brought some crochet needles and taught them the basics," explains Zitha.Soon the women began sharing their knowledge of all sorts of crafting practices."They were multi-skilling each other."The women began creating all sorts of products, including woolly blankets, jerseys, scarves and other winter wear, as well as seshweshwe outfits and traditional beadwork jewellery.(Pic: Supplied) The group is now a registered non-profit organisation.Their products are sold at the mall, with the profits put back into the group.Support systemThe participants in the group come from a variety of backgrounds, including domestic work, teaching and nursing.The youngest member is 50 and the oldest 85."The 85-year-old is very strong and very good at everything she does," said Zitha.Some among the women who have arthritis have seen an improvement in their condition and attribute this to the work they do with their hands.Both Zitha and Citeko agree the women form a caring supportive system for each other.(Pic: Supplied) "Before, they were just sitting at home, doing nothing and [they were] tired of the grandchild nagging that they want this and that," explains Zitha."Now they have a place to escape to...and be with others."Citeko adds that they offer each other advice.Grand plans for 2017"We share our problems and discuss what to cook. Because we are senior citizens, we must eat what will build up our strength."The gogos have grand plans for 2017 too. They recently planted a vegetable garden at the back of the Pick 'n Pay in the shopping centre."We worked very hard, planting spinach and cabbage."She hopes they will be able to add this fresh produce to the range of goods they sell to customers at the mall.Another extension of the project for the new year will be passing on their skills to the youth.Citeko laments that the present generation is not like the elders, "They take things for granted".She hopes passing on their crafting skills will also impart life lessons to the youth."You can take a piece of cloth and sew it into a dress. You can take a plank of wood and make a guitar."We are showing them that when you are creative, you can create something from nothing."'I want to know everything'Citeko's personal favourite craft is knitting."I specialise in blankets," she says, adding that her preferred colour palette is earthy tones including browns and beiges.Previously, Citeko worked for the municipality and even served as a councillor. Although now a pensioner, she says her husband, Jimmy, is so proud that she has continued to be involved in helping people."You feel better when you work for people," says Citeko.She says the programme has given her confidence. "I am talkative now because of the people I meet at the project. I want to know everything. I am curious with anything that is happening."'These are my people'While the work makes her feel great, she says the satisfaction they bring to their customers is better."I like to see someone happy," she said, attributing their success to God.(Pic: Supplied) The fierce loyalty to the group is illustrated by an anecdote which Zitha shares.When one of the women was hospitalised, she sent her daughter to tell the group why she could not attend the session.When the group went to visit her, she introduced them to her family in a very special way."'This is my principal and this is my chaplain and this is my school and this is where I go and study. These are my people', the woman proudly declared," she said.Although the crafting now takes centre stage, Citeko confesses she still can't say no to a slice of carrot cake during the group's tea time.