Malawi’s “SuperMama,” Annie Chikhwaza, (founder of the world renowned Kondanani orphanage), in Laguna Nov. 5
Photo by Cathleen Falsani
Annie Chikhwaza in the main house at Kondanani Children’s Village
Annie Chikhwaza is the founder and director of Kondanani Children’s Village, a large orphanage in Malawi (Central Africa). A country the size of Pennsylvania (with a population of 14 million), Malawi, like much of sub-Saharan Africa, has been ravished by the AIDS pandemic.
An estimated 1 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Malawi alone and an estimated 60,000 children – many of them AIDS orphans – live on Malawi’s streets.
The need to care for these children – physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – is beyond urgent. But it’s not overwhelming. One person can make a difference.
How do you lift an entire nation out of stultifying poverty, disease, a political culture of corruption and despair? One child at a time is Annie’s answer.
Annie Chikwaza will share her story at a free event from 7 to 10 p.m. this Friday, Nov 5, at saltfineart gallery, 1492 S. Coast Highway.
It has been said that Annie is a force of nature. A living inspiration with one of the most powerful stories you’ll ever hear – an unrivaled tale of heroism, sheer chutzpah and faith. She is undoubtedly, “SuperMama”.
Annie emigrated from her native Holland to South Africa when she was 21 (on a steamer ship on her honeymoon.) After raising a family, becoming an ordained minister and pastor, and escaping an abusive marriage, she moved to Malawi in the 1990s, married a native Malawian and eventually founded Kondanani in the poor, rural farm country outside Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi, which is consistently ranked among the very poorest nations in the world.
Despite unthinkable personal and societal adversity, including a savage machete attack by an angry mob (led by her second husband’s adult children) that nearly took her life not long before she founded Kondanani, Annie has prevailed. She is a champion for the most vulnerable and voiceless and a leader in Malawi on issues of children’s welfare and women’s rights – a model for people of good will everywhere who refuse to sit passively and watch as others suffer needlessly.
Annie welcomed the first baby to Kondanani on 7 Nov 1998. Today more than 150 children, ranging in age from newborns to early teens, call Kondanani home. It is easily the finest and largest orphanage in Malawi.
Kondanani’s commitment is to raise children from infancy until they are married, in keeping with the tradition of Malawian families. The children’s village also employs more than 100 local Malawians and a staff of educators and child experts from around the globe.
For a number of years, Kondanani has had an agreement with the Dutch government to facilitate Holland-Malawi adoptions. Annie has been instrumental in opening Malawi to international adoption, most recently helping pave the way for American families – including a family from Laguna Beach – to adopt Malawian children.
Annie’s story is largely unknown in the United States, but Kondanani may be familiar to some Americans as it was the orphanage from which the pop singer Madonna adopted her youngest daughter, Mercy (aka Chifundo James), in 2009.
On June 1, 2010, the High Court of Malawi approved Maurice and Cathleen Possley of Laguna Beach’s adoption of their 11-year-old son, Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David Possley. The Possley’s was the first American adoption to successfully test the case law made in Malawi court by Madonna’s adoption of Mercy in ’09. (The Possleys are both journalists and authors. Maurice won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his investigative work at the Chicago Tribune. The family relocated to Laguna Beach in July 2009.)
Currently, Annie is overseeing the ongoing expansion of Kondanani so that the children’s village can welcome many more orphans as soon as possible. She arrived in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 17 and will be visiting friends, supporters, government officials and religious leaders in the Midwest and elsewhere before arriving in California on Nov. 1.