How have you been doing since the last time we spoke via insta live?
Time has been flying since we last spoke. I’ve been immersed in working with the local team to prepare for school fully reopening. While my kids went back to school in the UK. Our Malaika team spent a lot of time preparing for and hosting three virtual webinars. Where our girls had a chance to tell their stories to their supporters worldwide, hosted by June Sarpong, Eve and Thandie Newton, respectively.
I’m also in the midst of several really cool campaigns with local fashion designers. It benefit Malaika, so I guess you could say I am keeping active! For example, Malaika is in the midst of the #imwithHURR campaign. A collaboration and charity wardrobe sale with Hurr, Charlie Collins and a whole collective of amazing, powerhouse, fashionable women. One hundred percent of proceeds go to Malaika.
Were you able to fully get back to work?
I have not been able to have all my normal in-person meetings. Or trips to forums and summits abroad that are typical this time of year, but I’ve kept working virtually. I talk to our team in Congo, in the US and elsewhere every day. And I stay up to date with my work through phone calls, email, video chats. And basically any and every form of communication. I did a few socially distanced shoots, and it was fun to have a creative work outlet as well.
I know you guys put a program in place for the school during covid were you able to accomplish what you wanted to do?
We accomplished a lot during Covid! We were able to distribute food and other essentials to nearly 5,000 people, while also giving out masks while educating the community about Covid-19 safest health and sanitation practices.
Several of our girls, with help from their teachers and members of the Covid19DRC initiative. Also have created more than 1,200 face shields using 3D printers. Which were distributed to medical workers at more than 60 area hospitals.
Additionally, our teachers distributed homework packets to our students throughout the lockdown, which students completed and returned for feedback. One of the most amazing accomplishments to come out of this time was that our 6th grade girls, and 8 very bright Year 5 girls, studied hard at home (in difficult circumstances with no electricity, internet or support) and had a 100 percent pass rate for the national exam! That’s amazing.
Where can people donate or how can they still support?
We’re still in the midst of our Back To School fundraising campaign. Which means to help us meet unexpected needs that arose due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a few ways you can support. From a new pair of shoes for a girl’s commute to school on foot or a teacher’s salary here. Or, make a donation or sponsor a girl at https://malaika.org/donate/
You didn’t get the chance to spend the summer in Congo with your family like you do every year. How did it affect you personally?
It was extremely hard for me to not go to Congo this year. Not only do I have so many relatives there, but I know our students and staff personally. And they have become a real extension of my family. I miss them so much. It was very difficult to not be physically with them during such a trying time.
We also lost three beautiful girls, Leya, Little Noella and Esther Annie. This was devastating for myself and for our Malaika community. Every time we open a new class and welcome new girls, I meet every one of them individually. This year I couldn’t, and that was really sad. I’m really counting down the days until I can go back again (and my kids are too!).
Were the girls happy to get back to school?
School reopened officially on Monday, Oct. 12, and everyone is ecstatic about it! Students and staff alike are overjoyed to be back at Malaika. Our school and community center are such a haven of education, health, personal attention, nutrition, friendship and care. It was hard for the girls to be away. And they could not stop smiling and laughing when they were together again.
What changes have you implanted in the school daily life?
In order to keep safe and healthy, we’ve implemented new regulations. Including regular hand washing with soap and mask wearing, among others.
What are you the most proud of about the school especially during these hard times?
I’m so proud of how our students and their families have stayed involved with Malaika this whole time. Despite the fact that their homes have no electricity, no running water and resources are scarce, our students were really diligent about completing their at-home work. They’ve sought out any educational opportunities available to them during this time and have worked hard to stay on track. It’s really amazing. I’m also so proud of Malaika’s amazing team for doing everything they could for students and the community during lockdown.
How do you like all these interviews Online? or do you miss traveling for work?
So many interviews online can end up being more tedious and tiring than in person sometimes! I am grateful for technology, since it’s allowed me to stay involved with my work and with Malaika. I do miss traveling for work. But on the other hand it has been very special to have all this extra time with my family. My family is everything to me, so i’ve loved being home to make breakfast for my kids in the morning. And spend the day with them and tuck them into bed at night.
2020 is almost coming to an end, any excitement coming for 2021?
We have a growing student body as this year comes to an end, and that’s pretty exciting! We’ve also nearly completed construction of two new classrooms, and we’re always strengthening and expanding our programming. I can’t wait to see what amazing things our girls and their communities will accomplish next year.