Our Founder Noëlla was host of the recent Cinema for Peace New York 2012 event.
The aim of the Cinema for Peace Foundation is to highlight and support film projects which center on humanitarian and justice issues. Noëlla took this valuable opportunity as host of the event to ask for peace in the DRC, as well as emphasizing the importance of empowering children through education.
Our Founder, Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, spoke about Malaika at the Opening Plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative. She later participated in a discussion about the DRC.
Anthea is GMF’s Advisory Board Secretary.
Anthea currently attends Pepperdine University, where she will obtain her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology, in addition to her MA in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University’s Teachers College. A firm believer in education as the tool that will set one free and an advocate of the women’s empowerment movement, Anthea lends her previous public relations and event planning experience to Malaika with great strides.
We would like to thank our volunteer Anthea for her dedication and amazing work!
Holly Rilinger, a fitness expert and former WNBA player, who joined our team to create a physical education program for the girls at the Malaika School, recently visited the DRC.
My trip to the Congo started out as what sounded like an interesting project. It ended up being something that changed the course of my life. When I agreed to create a PE program for GMalaikaMF I took a couple seconds and my inside voice said “you don’t know how to do that” and my outside voice said “yes”. It’s amazing how powerful that word can be.
With the help of Elizabeth Right, we created the first PE program these girls would participate in through their schooling with Malaika. On numerous occasions the fear of being able to properly execute the project crept into my head. I kept telling myself (and Elizabeth kept telling me) “You have a lifetime of experience in sports and fitness. YOU CAN DO THIS!!”
I’ll never forget driving up to that school. I saw the girls playing in the field. One by one they stopped what they were doing. Some smiled and some just ran to where the car was pulling up. They stood on the steps of the school and sang to me in their own language the most beautiful welcome song, as tears rolled down my face. I knew at that moment that they would have my heart not only for that week…but forever.
I realized on this trip just how much I have to give. My life’s journey has such purpose now because I know what I can give back. Growing up playing sports has given me so many opportunities and taught me so many lessons. Sports taught me how to win and lose. It taught me how to be a leader, be led and how to be part of a team. I learned that discipline, integrity and heart are important not only on the field, but in life. To be able to share this gift with 150 little girls who otherwise would never have the opportunity is a GIFT.
These little girls had such light in them. By giving them what I can give, they helped my light shine brighter. I will thankfully never be the same.
Our dedicated volunteer Chloe describes her first trip to the Malaika School:
After over a year of working closely with Noëlla, the different members that make up our team of exceptional volunteers and the hardworking staff at Malaika School, I was finally able to make the trip all the way to the rural village of Kalebuka.We drove down the dusty dirt road to the school and I took a tour of the classrooms before the girls had arrived. But I could feel the energy in the air already, almost as if the walls were buzzing of the sounds of an active classroom full of young minds. I was instantly impressed by the entire school staff. Nothing would be possible without them. It is an understatement to say that I have been inspired by their work ethic, their commitment and the chemistry they have with the school.
Among many things, I spent the week visiting Malaika’s wide network of supporters. It seemed as if the entire town had welcomed us into their arms. The school stands about 30 mins drive from the city center, but the entire community is part of it. Their is such a sense of local ownership, responsibility and respect. It must always be a mutual effort, to have the involvement of the local community completely changes the dynamic of a non-profit initiative like this. It becomes more than a charitable gift, but rather a group project.
It was almost as if I was seeing old friends after a long absence. I recognized the faces of the girls as they came walking through the gate skipping and holding hands, wearing their crisp new blue and white school uniforms. All the colors come together at the school in such a powerful way. The bright multi-colored chairs in the classrooms, the pictures on the walls, the deep red of the clay bricks, the bright whites of their eyes as the girls gaze intently at their teacher at the front of the room. Each one has such a passion for life, such a purpose that was searching for an outlet, and its here, at these desks and in this playground that they will discover who they truly are. To me, the most powerful lesson, above multiplication tables and the ABC’s, is finding out who you really are in the world. And the gift of being able to thrive as that person – there is no greater gift in life than that.
Noëlla and Malaika have given me a similar opportunity. I grew up in Africa and my father spent his childhood years in a small town just a few hours away from the School. Although I live what seems a lifetime away in New York City, I never forget what the true source of my passion is. I was reconnected with a powerful opportunity to immerse myself in what I love most. I cant say thank you enough for giving me a chance to breath it all in for myself.
Holly’s Sport for Africa program is something that I have been passionate about for some time. I am deeply moved by sports and run marathons as a hobby. Running such long distances can be daunting, intimidating and painful. I often fail along the way and I often want to quit. The challenges we face in pursuing the most perfect version of ourselves is what defines us. Developing the Malaika School from a single brick to the campus that stands tall above the trees was surely a challenge and we continue to face obstacles. But more than ever, we have been graced with the generosity and compassion of so many individuals across the world. Each step forward is a step in the right direction, a step towards a greater achievement that will last long after the race is over.