The Nyanya Project was conceived by Mary Martin Niepold, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Wake Forest University, after she visited Kenya in the summer of 2007. During her three weeks of volunteering at AIDS orphanages, Niepold kept asking: What about the Grandmothers? Who’s helping them? Kenyans repeatedly said, no one, not even the government.
In 2007, Niepold met with Samuel Gichere, who at the time was Kenya’s Chief Economist for the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, who confirmed that there were no existing government programs designed to help grandmothers.
Within months, The Nyanya Project was incorporated and became a registered 501(c)(3)organization, and four grandmother cooperatives were established in Kenya. The Nyanya Project partnered with existing organizations in African countries to implement the specified programs.
While in Tanzania, Niepold met with former Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye, who is assisting in the development of Nyanya Project cooperatives in that country.
The Nyanya Project strives to help grandmothers keep their orphans loved, fed, clothed, educated, healthy and safe. This model of sustainable economic cooperative is being developed as a prototype that can be replicated in villages throughout Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania, and, hopefully, throughout Africa. A preschool where grandmothers work and their orphaned grandchildren attend free has been operating since 2008 in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. By 2012 the preschool had become almost completely self-sustaining, a remarkable and unique achievement for any ngo in Africa. In addition, other young mothers and grandmothers witness the strength and success of the TNP grandmothers and are inspired in their own lives.