In Uganda, many parents count on their children to care for them in old age. Many parents are subsistence farmers and have no way to save for retirement. They rely on their children to build them a new home when their current home becomes unlivable. In the devastation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, an estimated 63,000 people have died from the deadly epidemic leaving behind 1.1 million children. Normally in Uganda, these children would be taken care of by their aunts and uncles. However, HIV/AIDS took so many lives that entire generations of families were lost, which meant that grandmothers were the only family left to care for these orphans. Now, instead of being cared for as they age, the grandmothers we work with are raising their grandchildren. Many are too poor to feed their grandchildren or to send them to school.
Nyaka’s Grandmother Program was designed to empower these grandmothers to provide safe, stable homes for their grandchildren. The program is made up of 92 self-formed Granny Groups serving a combined 7,004 grandmothers in the rural southwest districts of Kanungu and Rukungiri. Any grandmother raising an HIV/AIDS orphan is welcome to join a group. The groups have elected leadership, which is chosen from within their individual Granny Group. There are also elected regional leaders who give support and training to several Granny Groups. The groups are given additional support and guidance by Nyaka staff, but with an emphasis on the grandmothers as decision makers. They determine who among them receives donated items, attends training, micro-finance funds, homes, pit latrines, and smokeless kitchens. This unique model is devised to empower the grandmothers to share their skills, give emotional support, and escape poverty.