RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — To say what NIA doesn’t do is a lot simpler than listing everything it does.
“Nia is, the word itself, is Swahili for purpose,” explains Lindsey Bryant, one of the project coordinators.
Nia started in 1992 at St. Paul’s Baptist Church with a vision that all residents of Greater Richmond live with purpose, peace and prosperity. Nia is comprised of several programs focusing on health through education, awareness and outreach. It works with other faith and community groups to achieve the mission.
“They cross all generations,” says Gregory Jones, whose men’s group has benefited from Nia’s support. “It is very relative in our community.”
Jones credits Nia with bringing topics like violence and HIV Awareness to the forefront, encouraging the men in his group to discuss these issues affecting too many in the African American community.
Nia is motivated to take action because of statistics. Bryant says only 12% of people in the United States are black, yet this population made up 44% of all new HIV cases in 2010. It’s why Bryant says screenings are a big part of Nia’s efforts. “We reach thousands in which we offer HIV testing at no cost.”
13-year-old Trinity Smith says many of the health programs that Nia supports throughout her church and community have taught her to truly respect herself. She wears a pendant that says True Love Waits.
“You don’t want anybody to disrespect you, and you don’t want anybody to be mean to you, and when you respect yourself you won’t let them do that to you,” Smith describes the lessons she has learned.
Her mother, Martina Jones Smith, is active with Nia’s programs, making health a focus for all ages in Richmond. “Just making sure that we give them the tools, the necessary tools they need to adapt to today’s society.”
In addition to its HIV/AIDS campaign, Nia offers programs throughout the year that stress heart and prostate health, parenting and other issues.