While most 23-year-olds are still living their best lives, Tusaiwe Munkhondya is busy raising 34 children.
Anyone who has kids will tell you, it’s not child’s play. Yet this young woman is doing it and making it look so effortless in her TikTok videos.
Munkhondya is the founder of You Are Not Alone (Yana), an NGO that was founded in 2018 as a refuge for special needs children. Her 4-year-old son Jamie is also a special needs child.
Munkhondya’s need to protect these children, and her own, is driven by the fact that her biological mother abandoned her when she was nine months old, leaving her to be raised by her grandfather in the village of Mudundunzi in Malwai.
In one of her posts, she revealed that she was raped as a 6-year old.
“I never talked about it because I was shy and I always thought that it was my fault because instead of fighting back and scream I froze. I always wished I told my mom; last time it happened, I reported it and I was told grown women don’t get raped.
“That turned me into the child activist that I am. I will keep on mentoring and supporting a girl child.
“I consider all the kids I care for as my own; they are my own family, because I know how it feels to be alone.
“It was easy for me to create Yana to care for the children because I wanted to give them something they had been denied, love. I wanted to give them love and acceptance, something I had never experienced,” shares Munkhondya.https://www.tiktok.com/@tusaiweyana/video/7096514874339101957?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&lang=en
“The household is self-functional, because the age appropriate children help with chores in the house but the young ones always want to help.”
She adds that allowing kids to do things together is teaching them a lesson about always helping each other.
“I just provide love and do things that they once hoped to do with their own parents.”
In one of her TikTok posts, the 23-year-old shares how no one in her village is willing to care for blind and deaf children so she’s committing herself to learning Braille and sign language.
“Life demands social support, luckily I have a friend who works as a counsellor. I visit her once a month so that I can be healthy enough to raise my kids and build better relationships with them. It’s incredible how much support I have,“ the mother says.
When she feels overwhelmed, she goes to church.
Social media is always branded as something negative, but Munkhondya is disproving that narrative.
Munkhondya praises social media and the good deeds of others, saying, “The advice and words of encouragement from strangers all over the world assist since I don’t think there’s an easy straight way to parenting. Each kid needs a different kind of attention”.
She reveals that their village chief notifies her when there is a child that needs help.
Munkhondya has accomplished her objective of purchasing land to construct a home for the kids, who presently reside in a three-bedroomed house.
She expressed her gratitude, saying if donations weren’t made to her Go Fund Me page, she and her children could have had to live on the street because the owner of the house they live in might visit soon.
The children Yana houses are those who have been abandoned by their parents, orphans, kids who were living on the streets and teen moms.
Yana has children ranging in age from 7 months to 20 years and they all sleep together on mattresses in the dining room.
She confesses that it took a while to secure money because she was struggling to feed her family with the income from her small business. It wasn’t until 2021 that she finally received funding from Fun that Counts, which gives recipients a monthly stipend to help with living expenses.
Despite extensive economic and structural reforms to support economic growth, Malawi is still among the world’s poorest nations.
Nearly 80% of the workforce is employed in agriculture, which is a sector of the economy that is highly vulnerable to external shocks, particularly climate shocks.
Munkhondya, who lives in a less developed area of Malawi, says she has encountered a number of problems, including ongoing blackouts and a lack of water. Sometimes she wakes up at 4am to prepare food and lunch boxes for all 34 kids and wash the laundry outside instead of using a washing machine.
“A typical night routine begins with cooking dinner outside which takes 2 hours to prepare. Put kids in bed at 7pm although babies have their own sleeping schedule. I always make sure that I prepare everything before time for the unscheduled baby cries at night”.
Birthdays are special for a lot of people and you wouldn’t want anyone forgetting yours, right, so for all 34 children a birthday is celebrated. One person on TikTok asked how she was even able to remember the children’s birthdays and she responded, “We have a book of names and birthdays.”
Munkhondya’s days are divided according to the needs of the kids in the programme. On Mondays, she teaches at preschool in her village that has 80 pupils.
On Tuesdays she continues to secondary school with special needs pupils; Wednesdays at the special needs school; and on Thursdays, she assists with the music programme.
On Friday, she helps teach young mothers how to best navigate the challenges they are faced with.
“I will still adopt more children if the need arises,” she said.