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Putting a smile on hundreds of children

Some of the children Temwani help

Temwani Chilenga

Temwani Chilenga is a teacher by profession and philanthropist who was recently awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light in recognition for her exceptional service of improving access to education for vulnerable children. Chilenga was also, in February this year, recognised at Pan African’s Women of Substance Awards for her humanitarian work. Here is her story as told to MATILDA MAJAWA.

At only 25 years old, Temwani Chilenga has surely become a force to reckon with.

With her salary as a primary school teacher, she has, since 2018, helped over 1000 homeless and orphaned children access education by providing them with necessities such as shelter, books, shoes and food.

“I started helping vulnerable children in 2018 after I was deployed by the government to teach at Chambu Primary School in Area 25, Lilongwe. I identified some homeless orphans and needy learners. I felt bad about their situation so from my salary, I was buying them school materials before I decided to reach out to other people for help,” Chilenga said.

Growing up, Chilenga never had everything she wanted as a child and therefore, understands how it feels like to have nothing.

“My parents tried their best but they could not get me everything I wanted so I really know how it feels like not to have something you really want,” the award winner said.

Despite not having her biological children yet, Chilenga has, since 2018, become a mother to the motherless.

The fourth born in a family of six children said she started off by just providing the needy children with basic needs until she realised she could do more to make their lives comfortable.

“I started posting on my Facebook account until I managed to come up with a home for the orphans through the funds I raised from well-wishers,” Chilenga said.

Today, Chilenga has built a home for the children and gives them the love they deserve.

“I registered a charity organisation called Zoe Foundation where we keep 95 orphans; 55 girls and 40 boys,” Chilenga said.

Being a primary school teacher has surely not stopped her from lighting up her candle and reaching out to those in need as evidenced in the recent recognitions she has gotten from Queen Elizabeth II and Pan African Women of Substance Awards.

Her humanitarian work has certainly been noticed in the country and beyond.

“I really feel happy about the awards. I did not see it coming and I was not expecting it because whatever I do, I do not expect anything in return instead I just want the orphans and other children to get what they need,” the humanitarian said.

She however, dedicated the Points of Light award to the children she serves and the people who have helped and supported her cause.

“I dedicate this award to the children, the volunteers from the community and all the people who have supported the children in whatever way. You do so much for these children because on my own I can’t manage. Thank you for everything you do and please, keep supporting the children,” Chilenga wrote on her Facebook page.

Chilenga, who did her primary school at Kachanga primary and secondary school at Our Lady of Wisdom and Maranatha Academy, said she was never at peace seeing children suffering.

“My heart wasn’t at peace seeing the children suffering so as a human being, I thought of doing something and I believe that human beings were born to help one another,” she said.

The philanthropist said she enjoys what she does as it puts a smile on the children.

“I enjoy interacting with little children. They respect me as their teacher and they know that teaching and learning time is different from chatting time. I just take them as my own,” the young lady with a motherly heart said.

However, answering the plea to her calling was never easy as she faced backlash after she expressed her interest in serving others.

“Some people thought that I was wasting my time when I started helping the children while others talked a lot of negative things. Others even tried to pull me down,” the award-winning humanitarian said.

Nonetheless, Chilenga decided to focus on the bigger picture which was helping the needy children instead of every Jim and Jack.

“I just ignored everything and focused on the children and people who encouraged me and supported me,” she said.

Chilenga would not have been making news on social media if she listened to the negativity and today, her perseverance paid off.

The 25-year-old has achieved so much within a space five years.

“My major milestones include building an orphanage, knowing and learning from others, bringing back children from the streets to schools and running a free nursery school for the needy,” she said.

When asked how she manages to take care of the 95 children she keeps at the orphanage, Chilenga said the community in which she operates has played a huge role in volunteering at the organisation.

“I have volunteers who help me. Two teachers from our school and others are people from the community. I don’t have money to pay anyone so, I told people to volunteer and lucky enough, they accepted,” she said.

Chilenga said well-wishers have also played a role in making sure the children are well taken care of.

“I ask for help from well-wishers through Facebook and sometimes I use my salary to support the children,” the mother to 95 children said.

Together with the children, Chilenga said they grow their own vegetable garden.

“We grow our own vegetables to make things a bit easier for the children,” she said.

Chilenga said she follows certain principles that have helped her in the quest of helping others.

“I trust God, I work hard, I ignore gossip, negative people and I don’t compare myself with anyone,” she said

The Development of Aid from People to People (DAPP) Dowa Teacher Training College alumnae advised her fellow young women to be vigilant.

“Work hard, ignore gossip and negative people, never look down on yourself, be kind without expecting anything in return and God first in everything you do,” she said.

During her free time, Chilenga reads books and plays games from her phone.

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