Amidst the poverty and despair prevalent in Ndirande, the popular high-density township that defines the abyss of urban poverty, a 50-year-old woman shines as a beacon of hope. For the past 22 years, Josephine Mussa has been caring for disabled and orphaned children in the township, using her meager resources to make a difference where it is needed.
The person who coined the phrase that nothing good comes from Ndirande was a despondent narcissist who had never been to the township.
Or, if they did, they did not get to meet Josephine Mussa, the 50-year-old Ndirande resident who has cared for over a thousand disabled and orphaned children in the township for the past 22 years.
Traditionally, Ndirande, the sprawling township famed for its notoriety and extreme poverty, is no place for goodness.
Which is why Mussa’s story seems surreal and out of place.
On any given day, her compound teeming with a handful of children undertaking various activities around the yard. On a school day, nursery rhymes ring out of a classroom at the deep end of the compound where about a hundred orphans and disabled children attend free classes.
Today, her house is home to 18 children of varying degrees of incapacities and another 88 who attend nursery school. Several of them are wheelchair bound.
Of these 18 children that she has adopted and raises, she flatly refuses to point out which two are her biological children.
“It would be difficult for me to start differentiating because some of these children do not know that I am not their biological mother because they came here when they were really young. I am the only mother they know and they even use my name,” she says, pointing to the fact some of them, now in their early twenties, came to the centre as three-ear olds.
Mussa explains that a good number of her dependants have gone on to wean themselves off her, with some of them finding jobs and starting their own independent lives.
“But they always find come back to see me because this is the only home thy know,” she says.
Despite the enormous task on her shoulders, there are no complexities or hidden ambiguities about Mussa’s story—just simple manifestations of grace and faith.
Mussa’s calling came by way of a misfortune.
“I had a son Patrick who got disabled after a battle with malaria. As a result of his disabilities, I was referred to Cheshire Homes and Malawi Against Polio but unfortunately, he passed on,” she says.
As a result of her encounters with the two disability institutions, Mussa decided to take it upon herself to serve the disabled population in her community.
“What I experienced at the two places was touching. To care for a child who is disabled is a difficult job. You have to change their nappies, feed them and basically take care of their every need because they are incapable of taking care of themselves. I really to not know what I was getting into but since this came as a calling, I went in with all my heart,” Mussa narrates.
And so, on 7 August 1997, she opened up the doors to her modest home in the Matope area of Ndirande and set up Chikondi Disability and Orphan Care Centre, with the initial vision of admitting the early learners into nursery school for free and offering after school support for primary and secondary school learners.
While she started the centre purely as a disability day care centre, the community was soon taking orphans to her.
For the past 22 years, she has used mostly her own resources to run the institution, trying varying types of businesses to keep her afloat.
She currently makes plastic baskets that she ships out mostly to Mzuzu to compensate the volunteer teachers.
Mussa’s dream is for setting up a vocational training school for the hundreds of her former dependents who completed secondary school but have no resources for further training.
“We had an elderly British donor who constructed several rooms in which we intended to set up a tailoring school and a welding school. But in 2007, she died of cancer and we have been unable source funds to realise the vision,” she says.
“The least we can do for these children is to equip them with a set of skills so that they can be able to fend for themselves and live economically independent lives. But if we had a vocational school here, it would benefit the entire Ndirande population because there are a lot of school leavers just loitering around, just being a nuisance. A training institution would give a lot if these kids something to do.”
Mussa’s mission is driven by the philosophy that one does not have to have much in order to share or give.
“There is a lot of work here. There are children that we take care of whom we literary have to take care of—we bath and feed them—and these are the ones that need the support of all us as Malawians. We have no donors and some days are really difficult but since I have dedicated myself to this cause, I just look up to God because he knows everything,” she says.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :