Tusaiwe Munkhondiya was 16 when she became pregnant with her son Jeromy, who is now six.
After some ‘very hard years,’ the single mum was kicked out of her home at the age of 18.
While this was a challenging time, Tusaiw decided to start a non-profit organisation called ‘Empowering Young Mothers’ in Malawi.
Through her organsiation, she was able to get together with other young mothers and inspire them to aim for success, and she even started a preschool to help them.
But Tusaiwe soon noticed that some of the children were struggling to bring in food and afford the $1 school fee – so she decided to take in one of the children herself.
Her first ‘adoption’ was a five-year-old whose mother had passed away and his family could no longer look after him.
She reported this to the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare in Malawi and has since built a strong relationship with them.
‘When I started looking after the first child, I contacted the government to inform them,’ the 23-year-old, from Mzuzu, Malawi, said.
Now, Tusaiwe currently cares for 33 children in total – ranging from six months old to 17.
She continues: ‘As it is very complex to adopt, I keep the government regularly updated on who is in my care.
‘The children are all looked after by my “institution”, which is me. However, I will be their mother and look after them for as long as they need me.’
Each child has a different situation: some have been abandoned, many are orphaned, and others live on the streets with no family or home.
‘I am a mother to the children 24 hours a day, but we’re all best friends,’ Tusaiwe adds.
‘I love having fun with them, making TikTok videos, watching movies and spending quality time with them.’
Tusaiwe was taken in by her grandparents after being abandoned by her mum at just nine months old. As a result, she now suffers from PTSD.
She also launched ‘You Are Not Alone’ (YANA) in May 2021 to give other abandoned children the love and support that she wished she had received.
This organisation supports nearly 300 vulnerable people in Malawi, in Southeastern Africa. YANA runs a special needs school, two preschools, a vocational school for women, as well as two support groups for the elderly.
A team of 18 people work for YANA in various capacities, from teachers to housekeepers to administrative assistants.
Tusaiwe explains that it is ‘almost impossible’ to get financial aid from the government, so YANA is funded by donations from individuals and companies worldwide.
While Tusaiwe is very proud of her achievements, she admits that sometimes things are difficult.
‘Sometimes we don’t have enough money to feed them, and I feel like giving up,’ she adds.
‘I feel inspired when I think about my son. He is the reason I am doing this and making the world a better place.’
In five years’ time, Tusaiwe hopes that her organisation will have its own village that they support, teaching people valuable life skills and providing them with food.
‘I hope that people with connections can keep me connected,’ she adds.
‘I have built everything myself – I come from nothing so I need to be constantly building and improving.’
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