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M’manga: Mentoring youths for better future. By Brenda Buliyani

Image taken from The Nation

The Bible in Romans 8: 28 says: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”.

This could not be too far from the truth in the case of young psychologist, Chilungamo M’manga.

Due to that fact, she believes that God allowed her childhood experiences to work together for her good in shaping her for the assignment He has given her.

Born on 17 April in Zomba, she is one of 11 children born to Retired Colonnel Raleigh M’manga, and retired teacher Matilda M’manga.

She has a twin-sister, Chifuniro, and the two are the last-born children in the family.

When Chilungamo’s parents retired from work at Zomba Barracks and went to settle down in their Sangala Village, Traditional Authority Malemia, Zomba, the twins were only three years old.

“I grew up in the village until my older sister came to take us to Lilongwe, to stay with her. Life was better in the city and the education, too. My grades improved and I became one of the best students upon graduating from Mphungu Primary School in Area 12, I was selected to Likuni Girls’ Secondary School where I sat the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) in 2005,” she recalls.

After a year of waiting for results, she was selected to Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), where she pursued Bachelor of Social Science, majoring in Psychology.

She immediately started working at Blantyre International University (BIU) as a junior lecturer in Counselling Psychology.

She was there between 2012 and 2013, and later moved to Chancellor College in 2014 as an assistant lecturer before becoming a full lecturer in the Department of Psychology.

After two years of teaching, she travelled to China to pursue a Masters in Developmental Psychology—from 2016 to 2018.

Upon completing her studies, she came back and continued to teach at Chancellor College until January this year, when she joined Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCH) as a lecturer of Psychology in the Department of Behavioural and Biological Sciences.

She confesses that growing up away from her parents was a challenge, and as a young girl, she felt emotionally deprived.

She recalls that there were so many moments when she felt she needed to talk to someone about some things she was going through—someone who would understand what was going on in her mind—such as her fears, her dreams and her curiosities.

Unfortunately, she says, she felt like no-one seemed to really understand what she was going through.

To make matters worse, she and her twin-sister were selected to different secondary schools.

“Whereas I went to Likuni Girls, she was selected to Malawi Army Secondary School. But, by the grace of God, I received Jesus Christ while in Form One. Things had become easier.

“My whole life had completely changed. I was more at peace and assured of my bright future,” says the young woman who is also a pastor at the Fountain of Victory Ministry.

She has no doubts that these experiences shaped her for what she is today. Moreover, she developed a passion for young girls; and would get bothered every time she saw a young girl struggling.

“I felt like there had to be something I could do to help. I went on with my life, still with that desire and passion to help young girls overcome different challenges. When I became a lecturer, I felt like I finally had the opportunity to live my passion.

“So, apart from teaching, I would also take time helping my students — offering counselling sessions, giving them direction whenever possible and inspiring them to become more in life,” M’manga explains.

In 2019, is when she started feeling strongly that she needed to come up with an initiative that would cover the gap that existed in most youth organisations—one that would also allow her to use her professional skills as a psychologist.

Malawi has many initiatives that target the youth and provide them with resources such as bicycles, school bags and tuition fees, to improve their living standards.

But despite these efforts, young people still have difficulties meeting academic demands, being resilient toward life’s challenges, and in their decision-making, which has a great impact on their lives.

That is how she founded the Mentor-to-Mentor Initiative (MTM). This is an initiative which mentors and empowers young people using psychosocial interventions [psychological and social].

“I had discovered that despite all the material assistance that the girls we were dealing with would get, they still lacked ambition, vision, resilience, realisation of their potential and positive behaviour for success.

“So, I came up with an initiative that focused on mindset change, that would in turn result in real change and empowerment in their lives. The initiative started as for girls only, but we found out that the boys needed such a programme, too, and we incorporated them into the initiative,” she says.

Currently, without any funders, they use their pocket money to do the little that they can manage.

“We have a group of 30 female and 10 male mentors, who give a membership fee of K2 000 per month. So, that is what we use, and when need arises, I take from my own pocket to support certain MTM work, just so it can still progress,” she says.

She adds that she has approached a few organisations to partner with them and help the initiative advance its vision, but she has not succeeded.