She is yet to start a family of her own, but the 29-year- old has taken the role of a mother and is custodian to over 100 children. In this interview with Paida Mpaso and Rachel Kachali, she talks about so many children looking up to her.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Tionge Dorothy Chimamba and I come from Mkokoko Village, Mayani, in the area of Traditional Authority Tambala in Dedza. I am the last born in a family of seven children. I was born in a Christian family belonging to the Church of Central African Presbytery (CCAP). Some of my siblings are married; others are not but live their own lives.
Where did you do your education?
I did my primary at Chimutu Primary School and then got transferred to Nambuma Primary School. From there I went to pursue my MSCE at Likuni Girls Secondary School. After a year, I did a secretarial course at St. Thomas and then obtained my diploma in business administration at Malawi College of Accountancy.
You are executive director of Che-Jika Private Schools. Tell us more?
Indeed, I work with orphans and vulnerable children. These children are grouped into two; some are aged two to six and are in nursery school. Some range from seven years and above. These are in primary and secondary school respectively. Those in primary and secondary school learn at Che-Jika while those in nursery school learn at Chimoka Village.
We understand you also take care of the elderly?
Yes. They cheer the children after classes. The elderly people are 27 in total. I provide them with sugar and rice monthly for them to sustain their lives. These people live in Chimoka Village.
How do you identify these children?
For me to get in contact with these children, I go through chiefs who live in these villages, right in their communities. These chiefs are the ones who identify them according to the number of orphans needed and then they are registered. Even before the children register, I also follow up to find out if the children are indeed orphans. If need be, we also discuss with some guardians about the children themselves.
How do you support these children?
The main support I provide is free education from nursery up to secondary. Looking at the food shortage in their homes, I also provide them with porridge almost every day. I help them with school uniform and other clothes, give them exercise books and other necessities. I feel it is important for them to sustain their lives.
How many children are benefiting from this?
There are 190 children in total whom I support; 120 are in primary and secondary schools while 70 are at nursery school. I started with 45 orphans; most of these were my relations. However it gained momentum in 2011 with the number rising to 120 but the school has over 400 learners.
Are you founder of the memorial centre?
Yes. When my mother died, I took over and after some time in 2010 I opened the foundation. Due to lack of funds, the children are currently learning with other children at Chejika Private Schools.
How are you managing the two schools?
It is not easy, but with the grace of God, I manage.
Which areas are these children from?
They are from Chimoko, Senti, Mtsinza, Mgona and Kauma areas in Lilongwe. By vulnerable I mean most of these are street kids who have in one way or another been victims of abuse.
What motivated you to begin taking care of orphans?
My late mother had a soft spot for orphans and the vulnerable in that she used to stay with a good number of them in our home. She assisted them with free education and basic needs. As a last born I stayed with the orphans and since I was helping my mother run the centre, after her death, I decided to open a foundation in her memory and I named it Christina Chimamba Memorial Foundation.
What the concept behind the foundation?
Malawi is one of the countries with unprecedented increase in the number of vulnerable children due to the prevalence of HIV and Aids. Children are taking roles of adults such as heading families while many are dropping out of school due to lack of support. It is very common to see street kids roaming the streets even at night, and they face all kinds of abuses ranging from rape to risky jobs such as removing sewers with bare hands among others. If left without help, the nation could be breeding thugs. We need to change the trends; hence, my memorial foundation initiative.
What drives you?
Taking care of these orphans and the vulnerable makes me want to go on in life. By doing so, I know I am giving a second chance to these people to be better citizens. I have strong passion towards them and it is my goal to see them achieve something for their future.
Are you married?
I am engaged and live with the 25 children my mother left. I call them my own.
What are your dreams?
I have a big dream for these children. I wish to have land and build a home for them where they will be staying together as a community. This could help me look after them properly and I could save a lot of money.
Where do you get the funds to support these orphans?
Well-wishers. The nursery school was built on land given to me by group village head
(GHV) Chimoka. Since I have no place to shelter these children, they go back to their guardians.
Any last comments?
I love children and if there are more out there, please, let them come and we will share the little I have.