CHARLOTTE – Mooresville resident Samantha Cernuto helps bring the Nyanya Project to Charlotte next week.

The Nyanya Project is a nonprofit organization focused on empowering African women left caring for grandchildren orphaned by AIDS. By providing business training classes and childcare during the day, the project helps grandmothers form working cooperatives that generate the income necessary to provide healthcare and education for their grandchildren.

“It’s not about hand-outs,” Cernuto said. “It’s about setting up preschools and business training centers.”

Cernuto, now a business major at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, is a graduate of Southlake Christian Academy in Lake Norman. “Going to Southlake, I was always trained with the service mindset,” she said. “And when I went to college, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.” She interns for the project, working closely with founder and Wake Forest professor Mary Martin Niepold.

Beginning Oct. 14 at the Wachovia Gallery in Spirit Square, The Nyanya Project presents “The Roots and the Light,” a photography exhibit highlighting the struggles of African grandmothers. The exhibit opens with a reception Oct. 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. and runs through Oct. 22. A second reception, Oct. 17 from 3 to 5 p.m., is scheduled to discuss “Grandmothers Clubs” support groups and to generate interest and support for a Charlotte-based Grandmothers Club. The Grandmothers Club in Lexington offers financial and emotional support for the grandmothers in Africa and has more than 40 members. Nyanya Project founder Mary Martin Niepold will discuss the opportunity to participate in its emerging network of Grandmothers Clubs at the Oct. 17 reception. Both receptions are free and open to the public.

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