Othakarhaka founder, Ida Puliwa Mwango
* Alongside social media influencer, Pemphero Mphande and Courageous Msasa — founder of Courageous Kids Foundation in Chilobwe
* The awards honors Malawians that impact communities and societies they live in and celebrate people while they are alive
* The beauty of it is that I never even knew of the existence of these awards, let alone that I had been nominated
* I was so humbled that what we do at Othakarhaka is being widely recognized, such that people can freely offer their vote of confidence
By Duncan Mlanjira
Mulanje-based Othakarhaka Charity Foundation, which won the grand prize of K5.5 million of the Old Mutual Malawi’s best short video documentary in the #Sisonke competition last year, was amongst the the recipients of Award of Excellence presented in July.
This is a newly-introduced award scheme, being overseen by Young Achievers Development (YAD), which was introduced by the organisation’s founders to celebrate the effort and positive contributions that brings change to the society.
The recognitions, to be held at special gatherings, will be done on every 6th of July — the country’s Independence Celebrations — to recognize Malawians that impact communities and societies they live in and to encourage more to learn to appreciate and celebrate people while they are alive on the development and greatness they are doing.
When reached out to recently, after she posted a picture of herself with the award, Othakarhaka’s founder and Executive Director, Ida Puliwa Mwango said she was taken by complete surprise when she was invited to receive her award at Golden Peacock Hotel in Blantyre.
“The beauty of it is that I never even knew of the existence of these awards, let alone that I had been nominated,” she said. “I was made aware that independent judges had been monitoring various social and economic changers who have made an impact in their societies.
“I was so humbled that what we do at Othakarhaka is being widely recognized such that people can freely offer their vote of confidence to be considered for nomination of such a prestigious award.
“We don’t take this for granted — in fact, it has given us more energy and confidence that we are on the right path in creating a conducive environment for the community that we live in,” she said.
She won the award alongside 12 other awardees that included social media influencer, Pemphero Mphande and Courageous Msasa — founder of Courageous Kids Foundation in Chilobwe.
The categories of the awards included Entrepreneurship, Arts, Umunthu, Humanitarian, Environment, Innovation just to mention a few — and other awardees were Schizzo Thomson, Kondwani Kachamba Ngwira, Felie Malola, Tusaiwe Munkhondya, Kondwani Sibale, Vasco Hamid, Brenda Mhlanga
Courageous Kids Foundation looks after orphans at the youth-led residential home and academic institution that takes care of 70 street-rescued vulnerable kids, situated deep inside Chilobwe Township at hard-to-reach area of Naotcha.
Othakarhaka Charity Foundation came to prominence through winning Old Mutual’s #Sisonke competition — a Zulu word for ‘we are in it together’ (‘tili limodzi’ in Chichewa) — which invited the public to submit simple videos that highlight how everyday heroes and heroines are making a positive impact in their communities in the fight against the pandemic.
The #Sisonke was a Pan-African campaign in four of the countries that Old Mutual international operates in — Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
YAD has now come to the fore to brighten young achievers prominence through the Award of Excellence and at the colourful ceremony at Golden Peacock Hotel, guest of honour, Hitesh Anadkat commended YAD for organizing the program, saying if the country is to achieve more in different areas, there is a need for people to start recognizing individuals who are always puting other people’s effort at heart.
Anadkat emphasized that achievers can do so by reaching out to people with their resources with the aim of improving people’s lives as well as contributing to the development of the country.
Othakarhaka — Lhomwe for ‘Passing on Kindness’ — continues to achieve to uplift lives of many people in Mulanje. It was founded merely a charity group in 2012, but has made many strides that include alleviating underprivileged people’s economic and education challenges as well as encouraging farmers to practise agro-forestry which resulted in thousands of trees planted in short period of time.
Some of its academic products are at Mzuzu University, Chancellor College, Kamuzu College of Nursing, Holy Family Nursing College and several at Comboni Technical College.
This charity also provides palliative health care to members of its community. It has a newly-built office complex — along the road to Phalombe at Chambe in the area of senior Chief Mabuka — with one wing dedicated into a fully fledged health facility complete with a lab, a pharmacy, consultation and treatment rooms.
It is being managed by the founder, Ida’s husband, Ted Mwango — a nurse by profession — in liaison with voluntary visits from specialist medical practitioners from Mulanje District Hospital.
The partnership with Mulanje District Hospital is very strong in that it referred its cancer patients for home based palliative treatments but now, while still being a referral, Othakarhaka offers the health care and referring complicated cases to the government hospital.
It also offers screening for cancer signs for prostate and breast cancer for its communities members as well as teaching them how to detect cancer signals.
Orthakarhaka is a story of pure passion and dedication that started when Ida met Virginia-based Professor Marquita Hill, who offered her a scholarship to pursue her academic dreams after finishing her Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE).
In an exclusive interview last year, Mwango explained she was engaged as an interpreter for Dr. Marquita Hill when she and her group visited her area for a youth support camp by Young Christian Association of Malawi and in their interaction, she shared with Hill of her dream to study ICT.
She narrated that they kept in touch when Hill went back to the US, who then went on to pay for her IT studies at the Polytechnic Continuing Centre and when she graduated, Mwango assured Hill that she was going to repay her kindness — “not direct to her but to someone else” — thus her foundation’s identity, Othakarhaka — ‘Passing on Kindness’.
From the first cohort of learners it has assisted, two went to Chancellor College; two to Mzuzu University; another to Kamuzu College of Nursing with several others enrolling at Comboni Technical College and in order for the learners never to be distracted, Othakarhaka engages mentors to guide and monitor their academic progress and they managed to set up a community library at their office complex.
Girls who were forced into early marriages are encouraged to go back to school but those that are older and had already had more than two children are trained in tailoring and other skills.
After their course, they are given a sewing machine as well as other related materials and they are encouraged to refund for the sewing machines after 10 months so that others can benefit from them in the spirit of ‘passing on the kindness’.
Othakarhaka Charity Foundation is a registered nonprofit making organization under the Trustee Incorporation Act currently affiliated to Council for Non-Governmental Organization of Malawi (CONGOMA) and almost at an advanced level, as of last year, to get certification with Non-Governmental Organization Board (NGO).
Its active volunteer base of close to 5,000 operate in 29 villages in the area of senior Chief Nkanda and some few villages of Mabuka in Mulanje District, covering an area of approximately 48,000 people.