Meet Martha: From Orphanage to University with THRIVE

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“I would love to share my journey with THRIVE. I think a lot of people will see that with good guidance you can go to great lengths. I really do get all the motivation from my Mentor. I really am lucky. 

If I wasn’t a part of the THRIVE program, I really doubt that I would have come this far. This program has taught me a lot of responsibility and accountability in terms of how I reason with people; I do things with the help of my Mentor, so without her I would be lost. 

THRIVE is an amazing platform that has helped me grow and become this independent young lady that stands before you and I honestly hope that it can help other people out there and be their guide.”

– Martha, THRIVE participant

A determined 19-year-old, Martha lived in an orphanage from age 11. She completed high school with a designation that would qualify her for university admissions and wanted to continue her studies. She had dreamed of becoming a journalist—hoping to share people’s stories with the world.

However, applications were costly, and she wasn’t able to afford them on top of supporting herself. She aged out of the institution without linkage to work or higher education—a reality many young adults face growing up in institutionalized care.

THRIVE, a pilot project that would serve as an extension of the Spence-Chapin Granny Program, launched in 2022, shortly after Martha’s discharge from the orphanage. The THRIVE initiative was created for young adults just like her, and acts as a bridge between institutionalized care and independent living, serving young adults from the age of 14 through 21. It connects young adults living in institutionalized care to Mentors and to vocational, life skills, and other training programs, giving them the opportunity to grow their skillsets and explore career pathways.

Martha enthusiastically joined the program, excited to finally receive the support and care she deserves.

Quote from Martha, THRIVE Participant. "I think that a lot of people will see that with good guidance you can go to great lengths. I really do get all the motivation from my mentor. I really am lucky."

Through the THRIVE pilot project, Martha began receiving a stipend, a critical component that helps participants build a savings safety net for transitioning to independent living. This stipend allowed her to save for university applications, rekindling her hopes and dreams.

While awaiting her application results, Martha’s Mentor guided her on networking and professional exposure, ultimately helping her secure a job shadowing opportunity with a journalist in Johannesburg.

Today, Martha is studying at the University of South Africa (UNISA), pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Leadership and Citizenship, and is on her way to achieving her dream. She attributes much of her success to Spence-Chapin’s THRIVE program.

The Granny Program

Just like Martha, each child in the welfare system in South Africa deserves a dedicated caregiver. That’s why we created The Granny Program: connecting loving caregivers with children in institutionalized care.

As these kids grow, their grannies grow with them—providing valuable mentorship and guidance throughout their lives. THRIVE is an extension of the Granny Program, allowing young adults the same level of support we give children around the world.

We currently have over 500 children receiving the love of a Granny, and 11 orphanages benefitting from the Granny Program. We hope to continue expanding this resource and helping more kids reach developmental milestones and achieve their dreams!

To find out more contact us at

212-400-8150 or email us at info@spence-chapin.org.

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