Keeping up with her American counterparts in newsworthiness, Kenyan Sarah Obama, the President-elect’s stepgrandmother, “flagged” the 2008 World AIDS Marathon on December 1 in Kisumu, Kenya. By holding up the Kenyan flag and then waving it down, she officially launched the 26.2-mile race. Mama Sarah also cut the ribbon at the ceremony for the new park which the Kisumu World AIDS Marathon Group donated from funds received from last year’s marathon.
The third wife of Obama’s grandfather, Mama Sarah is not a blood relative of the President-Elect, but he calls her "Granny Sarah." Since she speaks Luo and only a few words of English, she communicates with her eminent grandson through an interpreter. Like any other granny, she is a fierce defender of her grandchild, and during his campaign she protested attempts to portray Barack as a foreigner or a Muslim, saying that while her husband, Obama's grandfather, had been a Muslim, "In the world of today, children have different religions from their parents."
At 86 Mama Sarah is still going strong, tending her own small farm and raising chickens. Mama Sarah was happy to leave her village, Kogelo, to go to Kisumu to take part in the marathon, saying, “I feel greatly privileged to be invited because my grandson is very concerned about the ravages of HIV.” One reason that the Richard M. Brodsky Foundation and its fellow sponsors have held the World Aids Marathon in Kenya for the past few years is that, aside from arguably being the unofficial world capital of running, Kenya is one of only two African countries that reduced the rate of new HIV cases between 2003 and 2005.
Besides sponsoring the marathon, the foundation raises awareness about AIDS and offers many kinds of help, including giving medicine to and hosting dinners for AIDS orphans; providing meals, lodging, and entry fees for Kenyans unable to afford the marathon entry fee; funding orphanages, AIDS and cancer research, and help to people living with HIV. As Foundation president Richard Brodsky says, “We offer the orphans a window of hope.”
I met Richard at a local 5-kilometer run here on Long Island, read his moving book about his own life as a person living with HIV, and am greatly impressed by the efforts he has made to help vanquish this deadly epidemic. For more information about his foundation’s work and the World Aids Marathon and to donate, go to www.worldaidsmarathon.com.
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