Faith Masupa Kalungia had the shock of her life when she visited the Lusaka Central Prison in Zambia in 2012 to donate clothes and blankets to the female inmates.
“The first thing that caught my eyes were children. I did not know there were children growing behind bars. They were all different ages. Others were four months like my baby at home. Others were even, I think a day old.
“Others were toddlers, so they were playing around. The place was muddy, it had rained and the kids did not have shoes. I didn’t know what I can say. All I knew is my hair stood so tall, you know?,” she told the BBC in an interview in 2018.
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Some of these children, otherwise known as circumstantial children, are born behind bars while others were living with their mothers who are serving sentences in rather pathetic conditions, Kalungia recalled.
“Because of their environment, they actually behaved like prisoners and I thought if we can provide education, we can transform the mindset of the children in prison and they can come out of prison, reintegrate into society as responsible citizens,” she said.
These thoughts gave birth to the Mother of Millions Foundation (MoMF), created by Kalungia in 2013. For over five years, the foundation has been looking after female prisoners and their babies in Zambia’s prisons while helping them reintegrate into society after their release.
In effect, Kalungia and her organisation work to protect the rights of these incarcerated women and the children incarcerated with them, but this has not been without difficulties.
Being a public relations and marketing practitioner with so many years of work experience and having a full-time job, many wondered why she would quit her job to start a charity. Others asked where she expected to get funds from for such a venture.
But such comments did not let her down. She was rather motivated and satisfied, knowing that a child’s rights are being advocated for.
“Just to know that a child can go to school. Just to see that smile on a child’s face. I got the payment. I did.”
When she began her organization, Zambian officials gave her a part of the Lusaka central prison’s dining hall to set up a class for the children. Kalungia furnished it with chairs, tables, and created a warm environment for interacting with children. She then employed two teachers to take care of these children, a Zambia Daily Mail report said in 2015.
“The teachers are able provide an atmosphere which takes the children away from the prison environment between 08.00 to 16.00 hours. During this time, the children are kept in a warm family environment where food and other necessities are provided,” the report added.
Occasionally, prison officials also allow Kalungia to take a child for a treat outside of the prison grounds, where they are usually elated about their new surroundings.
Soon, mothers of these children started sharing their problems with Kalungia, especially on how they were going to start life from scratch once they were out of prison.
Kalungia would pay attention to their concerns, and once they were released, she would offer lessons to them, particularly business skills on how to be able to make it in life. She would take care of their children as well.
As of 2016, she was giving them education and play in her home, as her organization is supported by donations and had then run out of cash. Kalungia would then drive the released mothers to a nearby education centre for their classes.
For the children and mothers who were still behind bars, Kalungia was in 2016 planning to build about six classrooms and a skills centre in prison to cater to their needs.
Kalungia has, over the years, received various awards for her benevolence, including the Driver of Change award for Gender Mainstreaming in the Media by Gender Links for Equality and Justice.
Kalungia had previously volunteered and worked with social and non-governmental organisations which included Zambia Christian Alliance for Children and Joy of the Lord Christian School as a volunteer teacher, working with orphans and children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
As a volunteer teacher, she was trained by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as a Peer Educator on HIV/Aids and tuberculosis. Her involvement in various voluntary social work developed her passion for establishing the Mother of Millions Foundation.
Besides, growing up, Kalungia dreamt of owning an orphanage. When she was just 14, she convinced her parents to adopt street children and send them to school so they could have a better future.
Today, she is not only taking care of women inmates and their kids, but also taking children off the streets of Zambia and giving them a better life and education.
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Video credit: DW