The mood was so infectious that Dr. Sarah Obama, 94, aka Mama Obama, a champion for girls, widows, orphans and other vulnerable groups in Kenya and the step-grandmother of U.S. President Barack Obama, shyly joined in the merriment.
The senior stopped by Knights Table, an organization serving Peel’s homeless, hungry and those experiencing poverty, to a crush of people attracted by the Obama connection.
“He was one of the brightest people I ever knew,” she said. “As far as the junior Obama goes, he’s an intelligent and passionate man that you can count on. What’s more, he’s humble and full of love. That love showed when he came to visit me in a dilapidated house in Kenya.”
Declaring this would be her last international travel, Mama Obama said she was handing over the baton to her daughter Marsat Obama who will now run the day-to-day activities of Safeguard Orphans and Widows Organization (SOWO), a NGO established by the mother.
Although she never attended school herself, Mama Obama became a champion of schooling when she realized education ultimately led to empowerment.
“I did not go to school,” she said. “But I know school is all it takes to empower women and that’s why I am interested in the girl child and her right to education.”
Mama Obama has won various international awards including the United Nation’s Women Education Award in 2014. She was also awarded the Doctor of Letters Degree Award for her work.
In his presentation about SOWO’s work, Dr. Kenneth Kambona, a development expert and member of the Sarah Obama Secretariat, said the matriarch has “Dr.” in front of her name and is more deserving of the honour than anybody else.
However, the “Obama” name has been single-handedly responsible for transforming the remote Kenyan village of Nyangoma Kogela (ancestral village of Barack Obama Sr.) overnight. The village was electrified and the roads paved 24 hours after Obama was sworn into office, a member of Mama Obama’s entourage told The Guardian
“They say if you want to walk far, take your people with you,” said Dr. Kambona. “It’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, imagine what would have happened if this 94-year-old had not taken a 9-year-old boy to school and reared the father of the world’s most powerful man.”
The event saw artists and community members share their experiences.