With a lifelong love for helping children and a vision for making a difference in the lives of vulnerable families, Montréal native Cheryl Walker dreamed of working in African communities, giving tirelessly of herself for the good of others. She married a Congolese man, Lambert Laki-Laka, and soon after they started their family. When Lambert got a job offer for a company in Congo in 2004, they hardly hesitated. They sold the house they had just built and moved to Pointe-Noire with their three young boys. They figured life is short and they didn't want to let fear stop them from making a difference.
Their initial move to Congo was a contrast between utter beauty and extreme poverty; it was especially difficult for Cheryl to see so much suffering. With total culture shock and facing sickness, isolation and one challenge after another, the family returned to Canada while Cheryl was pregnant with their fourth child.
Back in Canada, both Cheryl and Lambert started noticing their heartstrings pulling… They couldn't go on and live their lives in the comfort of Canada and turn their backs on what they had seen in Congo. A new sense of purpose was taking root.
With a conviction that their mission was to see the Republic of Congo a better place for abandoned and vulnerable children, the Laki-Lakas met with government officials and obtained authorization letters from them to function as a charity organization. With a renewed sense of purpose and direction, they attracted a great team and became a registered charity in Canada that year. The organization's areas of focus narrowed to concentrate primarily on orphaned children and vulnerable women, and in June 2014 Mwana Villages opened its first Mwana Refuge.
Mwana Villages is the story of a simple hope turned to action: helping one child at a time. "Mwana" is the Congolese word for "child," and the commitment to see the beauty and dignity of every life, particularly the lives of the orphaned and vulnerable, is what has both driven and shaped the organization it is today. Read more about our co-founders and their personal experience of heartache to determination.
2010 Following a research trip to Congo to discern areas of most significant need, co-Founders Cheryl (Canadian) and Lambert (Congolese) Laki-Laka along with a small team of board members formed Canada-based nonprofit Mwana Villages. Partnered with local pastor to build Siloé shelter for street children.
2012 Laki-Laka family moved to Congo with their six children as self-supported missionaries. Mwana Villages began supporting holistically marginalized and vulnerable families in the community.
2014 Opening of Mwana Home, refuge for orphaned and vulnerable children. Hiring of full Congolese staff as caregivers, house manager, and community liaison
2015 Mwana registers as a U.S. nonprofit; Mwana engages in groundbreaking discussions with governmental and judicial representatives in Congo to address systemic fraud, child trafficking, and to present best practices for high-standards ethical holistic orphan care.
2016 Ceremony for inaugural site of Mwana Villages in Bouansa, future self-sustaining farm site; Donation of two parcels of land in Nkayi, Congo; Invited to replicate childcare model throughout the country.
2017 Purchased land in Pointe-Noire for our permanent Mwana Refuge and country-wide hub; Five children joined their forever families through adoption; Doubled our number of children and families served from the previous year.
2018 Mwana France officially registered. We welcomed 21 children in six months, primarily from the local hospital NICU.
Since Mwana Villages’ founding, we have served over 185 vulnerable children in the community; 70 adults (primarily vulnerable women) toward family preservation; and 67 children in full-time care in the Mwana Refuge.