Former President Barack Obama is mourning the loss of his beloved grandmother Sarah Obama, known as Mama Sarah, while celebrating the rich legacy of love and giving she left behind. She was 99.
“My family and I are mourning the loss of our beloved grandmother, Sarah Ogwel Onyango Obama, affectionately known to many as ‘Mama Sarah’ but known to us as ‘Dani’ or Granny,” he said in a statement. “We will miss her dearly, but we’ll celebrate with gratitude her long and remarkable life.”
Mama Sarah spent decades raising money to educate girls and orphans, and was honored by the United Nations for her work in 2014. Barack Obama first met Mama Sarah, who was his grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama’s second wife, during a 1988 trip to his father’s home country.
She became a celebrity in her own right after her step-grandson visited Kenya in 2006, two years before he was elected to his first White House term and while he was still a US senator for Illinois.
He wrote that Mama Sarah’s stories about his father “helped fill a void in my heart” and called the family matriarch “strong, proud, hard-working, unimpressed with conventional marks of status and full of common sense and good humor.”
“Although not his birth mother, Granny would raise my father as her own, and it was in part thanks to her love and encouragement that he was able to defy the odds and do well enough in school to get a scholarship to attend an American university,” Obama said in his statement. “When our family had difficulties, her homestead was a refuge for her children and grandchildren, and her presence was a constant, stabilizing force.”
Mama Sarah spent her life in the western Kenyan village of Alego, where she raised eight children in a home without electricity or indoor plumbing, Obama said.
Obama last traveled to Kenya in 2018 to promote the opening of a sports and training center that his half-sister, Auma Obama, founded through her charitable foundation, The Associated Press reported.
Mama Sarah promoted education for girls and orphans in her village, a mission similar to that of First Lady Michelle Obama. According to The New York Times, “The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation helped provide food and education to children who lost their parents — providing school supplies, uniforms, basic medical needs, and school fees.”
“I help the orphans and widows, especially the young girls who have been orphaned by their parents dying of HIV,” she said. “I am their sole parent right now, so I help them pay school fees and also get them the things that they need, like sanitary towels, books, necessities like a pencil, school uniforms. That’s what I do.”
The former president’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., worked as a top economist for the Kenyan government and died in car accident in