Obama's Step-Grandmother Continues Educating Young Kenyans : Goats and Soda Sarah Obama, 94, received an award from the United Nations on Wednesday, and hopes to raise money during the trip to build a school and hospital in her home village.

Obama's Step-Grandmother Continues Educating Young Kenyans

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Sarah Obama is visiting the United States this week from Kenya. She received an award at the United Nations for her work to help young people in her country get an education. She is also here to raise money for the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, which hopes to build a school and a hospital in Mrs. Obama's home village of Kogelo. Over the years, Mrs. Obama has also worked to help AIDS orphans and widows. That last name is familiar, of course. Sarah Obama is President Barack Obama's only surviving grandparent. She is his step-grandmother, the second wife of the president's grandfather. The woman he refers to as Granny in his memoir "Dreams Of My Father." Sarah Obama joins us in our studios. Thank you so much for being with us - wait, (speaking Luo).

SARAH OBAMA: (Laughter) (Speaking Luo).

SIMON: Edo Komanu (ph) is Luo. And there my vocabulary runs out. So we're going to turn to Debra Akello, who's executive director of her foundation, to help us translate. Ms. Akello, thank you for being with us.

DEBRA AKELLO: Thank you.

SIMON: Mrs. Obama, I hope you don't mind if we tell people that you are 94 years old.

OBAMA: (Speaking Luo).

AKELLO: (Translating) I say that. I don't mind. I'm proud of my age.

SIMON: When you were growing up, was it unusual for women to go to school to get an education?

OBAMA: (Speaking Luo).

AKELLO: (Translating) It was very hard for women to get an education. Only young boys or men were allowed to go to school.

SIMON: How do you help young women go to school now?

OBAMA: (Speaking Luo).

AKELLO: (Translating) Right now, what I do is I help the orphans and widows, especially the young girls, who have been orphaned by their parents dying of HIV. So I am their sole parents right now. So I help them pay school fees and also get them the things that they need, like sanitary towels, books, necessities like pencils, school uniforms. That's what I do.

SIMON: Have attitudes changed in Kenya towards young women going to school?

OBAMA: (Speaking Luo).

AKELLO: (Translating) I say yes, things have changed a lot. And now young girls are going to school. And I encourage them, even the ones who have had families at a young age, I encourage them to go to school so that the cycle of poverty can end.

SIMON: Yeah. I gather you used to take the president's father to school.

OBAMA: (Speaking Luo).

AKELLO: (Translating) I used to ride him to school on a bicycle because I didn't want him to be late. The school was far away, and for him to be on time and not to be punished for being late - I had to take that responsibility to make him just focus on education.

SIMON: Mrs. Obama, I wonder, do you ever say to a young Kenyan go to school, get a good education, look what can happen when you have a good education. Look at the president of the United States.

OBAMA: (Speaking Luo).

AKELLO: (Translating) Yes. I tell them how important school is and what school can do for you, what doors it can open for you. And an example, of course, is my grandson.

SIMON: Are there any youngsters you can tell us about back in Kogelo you think we would enjoy meeting, enjoy hearing about?

OBAMA: (Speaking Luo).

AKELLO: (Translating) Yes, there are so many kids that I've helped educate, some of them at Nairobi University, Moi University and also Bondo universities. These are orphans who have helped pay for their school fares. And now it's my joy to see them at the universities about to graduate. There are a lot of success stories, and it just makes me happy and it keeps me going.

SIMON: Sarah Obama and our interpreter Deborah Akello who are visiting from Kenya. Thank you very much for joining us.

OBAMA: Thank you.

SIMON: (Speaking Luo).

OBAMA: (Laughter) (Speaking Luo).

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