Nyanya means “grandmother” in Swahili. And in whatever language, grandmother means love and support. In Africa, that love and support often means caring for grandchildren who are orphaned by AIDS.
To help those grandmothers provide for themselves and their grandchildren, journalism instructor Mary Martin Niepold launched the Nyanya Project, a nonprofit agency, in 2007. Through the program, volunteers teach grandmothers in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda — who live on less than $1 per day with no government assistance — how to earn sustainable incomes.
This fall, Niepold was named a 2009 Purpose Prize Fellow, an honor for social entrepreneurs over 60 who use their experience and passion to take on society’s biggest challenges. “For me, the honor of being named a Purpose Prize fellow really goes to the African grandmothers,” says Niepold. “They provide love and sustenance to their families and AIDS orphaned grandchildren under incredibly harsh circumstances. They inspire me.”
Niepold has taken several groups of students and others to Africa during the summers to help with the program; the next trip is planned for July 2010. “The participants will train the women in business skills and mushroom farming in the slums of Nairobi,” says Niepold. “They’ll also help out at the Pre-School Center and visit with grandmothers who earn extra money near Mt. Kenya by sheep breeding.”
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