Volunteers and Grandmothers Together

Trip of a Lifetime

By Bett Hargrave

For my 75th birthday,  my  husband generously offered to send me to Africa, accompanied by our three grown daughters.  Since our daughters are spread out all over the world and lead busy lives of their own, the logistics of making this happen were difficult.  However, we persevered and this dream trip of mine came true in the summer of 2009.

We were extremely fortunate to piggy back our trip to Kenya with Mary Martin Niepold’s annual visit  for The Nyanya Prroject  and this made the experience so much more meaningful than an ordinary tourist trip.  Of course, we took in some of the usual adventures there;  a Safari in the Mara,  Karen Blixen’s house and the David Sheldrick Elephant Preserve were among our favorites.

However, it was the nyanyas (grandmothers) of The Nyanya Project who made our trip exceptional.   We visited a mushroom growing program, a sheep farm and the opening of the preschool in Kibera, the slum section of Niarobi with almost 2 million inhabitants.  I’ll never forget while we waited for the dignitaries to arrive for the ceremony (they were very late as usuall), the spirit and joy that emanated from the faces of the grandmothers and their children.  They sang, they clapped, they tried on the donated glasses we had brought for them and giggled as they admired themselves in the mirror.

At the sheep farm near Mt. Kenya, we attended one of the grandmother cooperative’s bi-monthly meetings and saw first hand how significant the group is to these rural women who have been isolated for years.  There we met Mary Wanjiku, who had started walking across the country to retrieve her two orphaned grandsons when their father, Mary’s son, died of AIDS.  Their mother had died of AIDS two years earlier.  As Mary walked down the mountain, women saw her and gathered enough money to buy a bus ticket for the longest part of her journey.

This trip was life changing for me.  I came home with vivid memories of these strong African nyanyas who, although poor in material things, are so much richer in spiritual gifts than many people I know .  I felt honored to have met them and grateful to The Nyanya Project for its important work in Africa.

Bett Hargrave in Africa

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