Name: Josephine N.
Country of Origin: Kenya
Most of my life I have been defined as my parent’s child. My mother and father each have a special title as my parents. I think that is quite special. I was named after my Grandma, and since I was born, there has always been a special connection between us. She bought me the first blanket I was swaddled in at the hospital, and always has delicious treats just for me when I go to visit her. She taught me how to cross the road, and to pray every day. On our local roads, you have to know how to do both at the same time.
As an adult, I have lived away from home for long stretches of my life, at boarding school in high school and then at university. I can happily say my bond with my Grandma has only gotten stronger over the years. You see, she takes her role as chief adviser in my life very seriously. She is never shy to speak – especially about the justice, concern for the welfare of others, the need to avoid societal ills and maintain respect for yourself. At every event, whether it is at school or at home, at tearful goodbyes before a long plane ride, or a shared sweet potato and a cup of tea, she is the chief guest. Her blessings are precious to me, as is her wit and humor.
Today’s world moves incredibly fast. Being multilingual and tech savvy have replaced fireside chats and family time for many of my peers. Grandma, though she speaks only our vernacular fluently has blended tradition with technology. She liaised with my cousins recently to video-chat with me while she was visiting relatives abroad. She conducted the meeting as if I were sitting right by her side, and I felt immediately warmed even though I was sitting in a chilly air-conditioned space a continent away. She sees the potential for her and other grandmothers in her village to keep in touch with family in real time with such an innovation.
Grandma is indispensable in her community, and has a busy calendar with women’s meetings and church involvement. I am often told I cannot sit still without doing something. I like to think it is because of her energy that I want to be involved with my community so much. Her vision for our homeland is larger than life, and from her, I understand so much about society and leadership. It is because of her, that I realize the wisdom of our elders is a critical part of our heritage.