Meet the amazing 23-year-old woman who runs three schools, an orphanage and cares for over 30 children.
Tusaiwe Munkhondya is the founder of non-profit organizations ‘Empowering Young Mothers’ and ‘You Are Not Alone’ (YANA), providing help and support to vulnerable people across Malawi.
Munkhondya became pregnant when she was 16 and is a single mother to her son Jeromy, who is now 6.
After a few very difficult years, she was kicked out of her home at the age of 18, which inspired her to start “Empowering Young Mothers”.
Her organization allowed her to get together with other young mothers and inspire them to strive for success, as well as start a kindergarten to help them.
Munkhondya noticed that the children were struggling to bring food or pay the $1 school fee, so she took in one of the children herself.
His first “adoption” was a 5-year-old child, whose mentally ill mother had died. His family could not take care of him, so Munkhondya took him in.
She reported this to the Malawi Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and has since established a strong relationship with them.
Munkhondya, from Mzuzu, Malawi in southeast Africa, said: “When I started looking after the first child, I contacted the government to let them know.
“As it is very complex to adopt, I regularly update the government on the people in my care.
“The children are all cared for by my ‘institution’, which is me. However, I will be their mother and take care of them for as long as they need me.”
Munkhondya is currently caring for 33 children, ranging in age from just 6 months to 17 years old.
Every child has a different story. Some were abandoned, many are orphans and others were street children without families or homes.
Munkhondya calls her orphanage “a home” or “a family” to ensure her children don’t grow up with the negative stigma associated with institutional living.
Her second organization, YANA, was founded in May 2021 and supports almost 300 vulnerable people in Malawi with a special school, two preschools, a vocational school for women and two support groups for the elderly.
Munkhondya has a team of around 18 people who work for YANA in a variety of capacities, from teachers to cleaners to administrative assistants.
She described that getting financial help from the government is nearly impossible, so YANA is funded by donations from individuals and corporations around the world.
Munkhondya shares her daily life on social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, so people can see the progress people are making thanks to YANA.
She emphasized that her role is to be a mother to each of the children, to support and love them unconditionally.
Munkhondya said, “I’m a 24-hour mom to kids, but we’re all best friends.
“I love hanging out with them, making TikTok videos, watching movies and spending quality time with them.
“I’m very strict about school. Education is really important, so I make sure they study well.”
Munkhondya was abandoned by her mother when she was 9 months old before being taken in by her grandparents, and now suffers from PTSD.
She started YANA to give other abandoned children the love and support she wished she had received.
Although Munkhondya is very proud of her accomplishments, she admits that sometimes things are difficult.
“Sometimes we don’t have enough money to feed them and I feel like giving up.
“I feel inspired when I think of my son. He’s the reason I’m doing this and making the world a better place.”
Munkhondya plans to look after the children for as long as they need, making sure they are confident and educated enough to fend for themselves.
She said: “I’ve only had a few children in my care for about a year so it’s hard to see what the future holds.”
Munkhondya hopes that in five years her organization will have its own village that it will support, teaching people valuable life skills while nurturing them.
She said: “I hope people with connections can keep me in touch.
“I built it all myself – I come from nothing, so I have to constantly build and improve.”
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.