Annie Chikhwaza (born 26 May 1944, in Burgwerd) is a Dutch missionary known as a 'Mother of Malawi' for her work with orphans in Africa through Kondanani Children's Village, an NGO, which has been called "a five star orphanage" and "a centre of excellence" in a Channel 4 documentary. Many of the orphans are survivors of HIV/AIDS and Chikhwaza has built a village at Bvumbwe in Thyolo District of Malawi which includes an infant care facility, children's homes, nursery school, primary school and farm.
Early life and career
Born Antje Saakje Terpstra in Friesland in the Netherlands, the eldest daughter of a family of five children, she was trained as a psychiatric nurse in the Netherlands before moving to England in 1965 where she married David William Robson in March 1966. She and her husband moved to South Africa the same year and they had four children before they divorced in 1982. In 1980 she started Rhema Alexandra, an organisation aimed at helping to alleviate poverty in what was a volatile township, in the Johannesburg area. In 1993 she married Lewis Chikhwaza, a Malawian pastor and moved to Bvumbwe near Blantyre where she continued to help the poor and started a nursery school. In 1996 she sustained a brutal attack on her life which made headlines in the Malawian media. Malawi News Online reported: "The Dutch woman married to Pastor Lewis Chikhwaza of the Bible Faith Ministries of Blantyre sustained multiple injuries when a horde of angry villagers descended on her executing instant justice." Though she nearly died, Chikhwaza survived the attack and went back to South Africa to recuperate but returned to Malawi 18 months later. Standing with an HIV/AIDS-infected baby, she felt the call to start an orphanage and she and Lewis founded Kondandani Children's Village in 1998.
Kondanani Children's Village
Cross International describes Kondanani as "a Christ-centered orphanage that cares for children from birth until they are fully grown, educated and ready to launch out on their own. Most of the children are AIDS orphans" The Christian relief and development organization also presents a video of the children of Kondanani singing the orphanage anthem, 'Children of Destiny'. Christian television network, GOD TV supports Kondanani and describes its founder: "Annie Chikhwaza is a dedicated caregiver who at a time when other orphanages would not admit babies because of the cost, embarked on admitting these little ones so that they would not be left to die. Now with well over 100 orphans in her care it is heart-rending to see how these children are blossoming and developing skills which will give them a brighter future." The orphanage is financed by family trusts, charities such as Cross International and GOD TV and has received local support from The Press Trust in Malawi.
Journalist Jacques Peretti describes his visit to Kondanani in The Guardian: "I am directed round the immaculate dormitories and play areas and dining hall and creche, walking down pristine paths bordered with stones and flowers... It is all absolutely and undeniably fantastic. It looks like a 19th-century public school in a British colony in Africa - which is pretty much what it is. Everywhere across Malawi, children sit quietly by the roadside, waiting for life to do something terrible to them. Here, they run up to you speaking perfect English, each more impossibly charming and clever and funny and take-home-able than the last."
Chikhwaza has featured on television internationally. The Dutch TV station, Evangelische Omroep (EO) broadcast a documentary on her life, Annie Terpstra, mem in Malawi, and she was featured in an episode of The Helping Dutchman. GOD TV aired a series of weekly interviews with her on In Depth with David Aldous and the work of Kondanani has featured on Behind the Screens with Rory & Wendy Alec.
When American celebrity Madonna went to Malawi to adopt a baby in 2008, Kondanani became the target of global media attention. Her adoption of a baby girl from the orphanage was initially rejected by a Malawian Court, causing controversy and Britain's Channel 4 focused on Kondanani in a series entitled Madonna and Mercy: What Really Happened.
Dan McDougall of the Sunday Times visited Kondanani in 2011 and interviewed Chikhwaza as part of an investigation into good and bad aid to Africa. His article 'Ambition impossible' was critical of Madonna's adoption of Mercy and the termination of her project to build a school in the country, while acknowledging that "there are successful orphanages in Malawi" and referring to "Annie Chikhwaza, who operates the highly regarded Kondanani Children’s Village orphanage".
In a video accompanying his Sunday Times report, McDougall also observes: "With fundraising comes accountability, this raises the concerns of NGO workers on the ground, including Annie Chikhwaza, who runs a wonderful orphanage called Kondanani, which in fact was an inspiration for Madonna. Annie told me that she was very concerned about celebrities starting charities and then spreading themselves very thin and therefore losing control. Annie’s orphanage is successful because she controls it with a rod of iron, every single penny is accounted for. That's why it is a successful charity because in Africa you have to keep a tight watch on things... Donors who give money need to know exactly what has happened to it."
Biography and speaking engagements
Chikhwaza has travelled to the USA, UK, the Netherlands, Australia and South Africa as a guest speaker. She has spoken in Laguna Beach, CA, and in April 2013 she visited the UK where she spoke in several churches as part of her 'Mother of Malawi' Book Tour. In 2014 she visited Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane and was interviewed by several Australian radio stations including ABC; and Sight Magazine.
Chikhwaza has been criticised for undertaking international adoptions including that of Madonna's adoption of Mercy James from the orphanage. However she believes that no child should be denied being brought up in a home with their own parents if that option exists, even if it is an international adoption. In addition to caring for 181 children at Kondanani Chikhwaza she has arranged several adoptions mainly from her homeland, working through the Malawian Courts and Ministry of Social Welfare and a Dutch Adoption Agency. Dutch TV have covered the story of Jan en Esther Ekkel-Vorstenbosch who went to Kondanani in 2008 to adopt a Malawian boy in their series 'A Good Start'.
- "Rev. Annie Chikhwaza is founder and director of Kondanani, a ministry that offers a home and hope to hundreds of children left orphaned by the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The ministries of Kondanani are located near Blantyre, in Malawi. Archived February 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Faith Christian Fellowship (FCF)
- "Annie Terpstra, mem in Malawi", Evangelische Omroep, (EO), Tuesday February 12, 2008.
- on YouTube
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-14. Retrieved 2012-02-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), Faith Christian Fellowship (FCF)
- 'Annie Terpstra, mem in Malawi' - "Annie Terpstra was born in Friesland during the war, the eldest daughter of a family of five children. Annie goes to work at Sun and Shield, a psychiatric hospital in Amersfoort. She leaves for England as an au pair. She meets a man and after three months she marries him. They had four children, but marriage is not a success from day one.", Evangelische Omroep, (EO), Tuesday February 12, 2008.
- "Malawi News Online, 19 October 1996"
- 'Annie Terpstra, mem in Malawi' - "Annie's life is no longer safe. She is surrounded by fifty wild men and women with knives and axes, she thinks that her end has come. After a long recovery period in Johannesburg she comes back stronger than ever. As she stands with a baby with AIDS in her arms, she knows that she has a great role to play.", Evangelische Omroep, (EO), Tuesday February 12, 2008.
- - 'Kondanani Children's Village - Blantyre, Malawi'- "The AIDS pandemic has orphaned more than 1 million children in Malawi. Support a Christ-centered orphanage — Kondanani Children’s Village — where 130 orphaned and abandoned babies receive the love and care they need to thrive." "Cross International"
- on YouTube Cross International
- 'Kondanani Childrens Village - Psalm 68:5 - A Father to the fatherless' - "Annie Chikhwaza is a dedicated caregiver and the founder of Kondanani who at a time when many other orphanages would not admit babies because of the cost, embarked on admitting these little ones so that they would not be left to die in the villages. Now with well over 100 orphans in her care it is heart-rending to see how these children are blossoming and developing all kinds of skills which will give them a brighter future." Archived February 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine "GOD TV"
- 'Investing in Malawi's Future'"The Press Trust"
- 'Madonna, Mercy and Malawi: her fight to adopt a second African child' - "I am directed round the immaculate dormitories and play areas and dining hall and creche, walking down pristine paths bordered with stones and flowers and intermittently nodding to enthusiastic, sandal-wearing volunteers. It is all absolutely and undeniably fantastic. It looks like a 19th-century public school in a British colony in Africa - which is pretty much what it is. Everywhere across Malawi, children sit quietly by the roadside, waiting for life to do something terrible to them. Here, they run up to you speaking perfect English, each more impossibly charming and clever and funny and take-home-able than the last." "Jacques Peretti, The Guardian, Friday 12 June 2009"
- "Annie Terpstra, mem in Malawi", Evangelische Omroep, (EO)
- 'GOD TV celebrates 10 years in Africa' - "The BTS Africa specials include… an update on the work of Annie Chikhwaza at Kondanani Children’s Village, televised from Malawi" Archived February 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine "GOD TV - Friday February 10, 2012"
- Madonna and Mercy: What Really Happened? - "Jacques Peretti goes in search of the real story behind Madonna's latest adoption bid. Before the courts granted her permission to take Malawian orphan Mercy James off to a new life in New York, Peretti visited Malawi to interview Mercy's dad and visit the orphanage she came from. With the toddler destined for a disorientating first few months as his new mummy continues touring, our reporter asks whether she would have been better off in the orphanage."Julia Raeside, The Guardian, Monday 29 June 2009.
- , Entertainment Wise, Jennifer Trevorrow, April 6, 2009
- 'Is little Mercy the girl Madonna wants to be a sister for David' - "The director of Mercy's orphanage, Annie Chikhwaza, was coy when asked if Madonna expressed interest in the child. She denies that only months ago the orphanage asked Mercy's family to let a mystery foreigner adopt her. Mrs Chikhwaza gave this newspaper a tour of the home for 125 children, most of whom have lost parents to AIDS."By Stephen Bevan, The Daily Mail, 15 September 2007
-  Dan McDougall, The Sunday Times, 19 June 2011
- 'Ambition impossible' - "With fundraising comes accountability, this raises a number of concerns, which are the concerns of the NGO workers on the ground, including a woman called Annie Chikhwaza, who runs a wonderful orphanage, a fantastic orphanage called Kondanani, which in fact was an inspiration for Madonna. Annie told me on camera that she was very concerned about celebrities starting charities and then spreading themselves very thin and therefore losing control. Annie’s orphanage is successful because she controls it with a rod of iron, every single penny is accounted for. That is why it is a successful charity because in Africa you have to keep a tight watch on things, you have to be constantly vigilant... Donors who give money need to know exactly what has happened to it, that such projects come with accountability." Dan McDougall, The Sunday Times, 19 June 2011
- Malawi’s “SuperMama,” Annie Chikhwaza, (founder of the world-renowned Kondanani orphanage), in Laguna - "Annie’s story is largely unknown in the United States, but Kondanani may be familiar to some Americans as it was the orphanage from which the pop singer Madonna adopted her youngest daughter, Mercy (aka Chifundo James), in 2009. On June 1, 2010, the High Court of Malawi approved Maurice and Cathleen Possley of Laguna Beach’s adoption of their 11-year-old son, Vasco Fitzmaurice Mark David Possley. The Possley’s was the first American adoption to successfully test the case law made in Malawi court by Madonna’s adoption of Mercy in ’09." Archived November 2, 2013, at the Wayback MachineStu News Laguna.
- Whistle stop tour of several cities in England to launch Mother of Malawi, including, London, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Lincoln, Sunderland, Exeter and Plymouth.
- Annie Chikhwaza is the subject of a biography Mother of Malawi (by Al Gibson) and is visiting Australia this week. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Monday 22 September 2014
- David Adams Heart for the marginalised: the amazing journey of Annie Chikhwaza retold in new book, Mother of Malawi. Sight Magazine, 19th September, 2014
- Jan en Esther Ekkel-Vorstenbosch - Een Goed Begin, 15 November 2008.