In 2010, I experienced the devastating loss of my grandparents. My Nana died two weeks after a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer of the uterus and 13 days later, my grandfather joined her in the beyond. It was devastating to me for I grew up mouth to ear, constantly kneeling at their feet listening to their wisdom, learning about our Caribbean culture, and dreaming with them beyond walls and waters. They graced me by pouring into me all their deferred dreams and ambitions. They assisted my mother, Dr. Gail Henderson, who took the word "can't" out of my vocabulary, and helped raise me with the belief that there are no limits and the expectation to transform each space I enter with humility, as a fully self-aware human. It is in their honor and continuing encouragement of my mother, that I am possessed with the mission to amplify the voices, advance health equity, and support the dignity of seasoned women.
Quite simply, my grandparents’ death shifted me and rearranged me into living a new life of service and advocacy. It started with my investigation into how Nana’s symptoms went undetected, though she was a cancer survivor and regularly visited her gerontologist and oncologist. With her healthcare providers refusing to even meet with me, and in the spirit of Benjamin Mays, righteous indignation was my fuel to begin my journey. Doors opened for me with the 2012 Presidential campaign when discussing policy to highlight and promote, my constant question was, “what about older women?” The lack of consideration and answers confounded me. No matter how I advocated, I knew elder voices would be muted until I found a way to earn my way into the decision rooms. I felt the only way to do that was organic. Thus, through a framework of cultural humility, I became an EMT, at the same hospital in Hampton Roads, Virginia where my Nana was diagnosed, to immerse myself in the grassroots community, and to observe the treatment of elders within the healthcare environment.
With the invaluable support and example of my mother, I decided to go to public health school in order to gain needed experiences to fight for the dignity and voice of my seasoned sisters. With practical and educational experiences under my belt and with answers less than acceptable regarding my Nana’s healthcare, I founded Project Nana to equip seasoned women with information, provide safe space, and honor and save their lives. With gratitude to George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health, Sentara's Virginia Beach General Hospital, Bethel AME Church, Macedonia Baptist Church, Elite Women's Care, and Mid-Atlantic Women's Care, as well as other area providers, we launched our first Project Nana workshop in 2018. Our movement's geographical scope has expanded to serve the US, we are growing, and with your support, our journey continues.
~ With humility, Vanessa LaTanya Hill, Founder
Project Nana, Inc. (PN) is a boutique nonprofit with an innovative approach to advancing health equity for post-menopausal women. We call them seasoned women. Through creative workshops, advocacy, training, research, and community engagement, our health goal is to reduce late-stage diagnoses of women's cancers and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Learn more about our approach here.