Cherise Makubale is an entrepreneur, speaker and founder of the ‘Cherise Makubale Foundation’. Winner of the first ever Big brother Africa reality show in 2003, she was commended for her exemplary behaviour for being a strong African woman, which lead to her meeting the late Nelson Mandela who congratulated her in person. She was appointed Goodwill Ambassador with special charity causes by the then president. Cherise has travelled across Africa raising awareness on HIV/Aids and helped various charity causes. During our exclusive interview with her, she talked about her latest project “The Cherise Makubale Foundation” which focuses on vulnerable children, orphans and grass-root women empowerment programs.
Cherise Co-founded ‘Cherise Kids Park’, which provides educational awareness programs and has a free library in a play park setting to children from all walks of life. She also support a disable group in rural Zambia. With this mind set, Chersie acquired 5 acres of land in rural Zambia with the intention of turning it into a sustainable community centre which will host a community school, small scale farming, a community hall, library and women shelters.
Hi Cherise, We know you as the winner of the 1st ever Big Brother Africa. Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I was born in Kitwe, Zambia and am the younger of two children. My biological mother and English Stepfather raised me from birth so this gave me a great awareness of the western and African cultures. I think this is why I always wanted to do more in life, as I knew there was another world out there aside from my small mining town. I didn’t want to continue working for mines so I applied for jobs abroad and was fortunate to be accepted but decided to focus on the application process for Big Brother Africa and the rest is history.
ADM: You have raised and run some few charities in your care, can you tell us more about them?
I have supported various charities over the years and mainly made donations to children’s hospital wards, women hospital shelters, the disabled group centre and co founded an educational park raising awareness on HIV/ Aids, Road safety and hosting a free library for kids to the public. The educational centre called Cherise kids Park was an old abandoned park full of rubble, which had to be made habitable. We launched the library last year. I am also the founder of The Cherise Makubale Foundation whose aim is to support educational needs of orphans and vulnerable children and everyday grass root women mainly in Misisi Township in Zambia.
ADM: How long have you been doing your humanitarian work, and what excites you about it?
I have been doing humanitarian work for over 20 years. I believe charity begins at home and my Mother was very active in church and would always take me with her as she fed street kids. She taught me how important it is to be grateful for what I have and to help those less privileged than me. I continued doing my charity work in my teenage years through various beauty pageant projects. I have always had a passion for vulnerable kids because most of them live in very poor conditions and hardly have anything to eat or go to school so they really appreciate any help they get and the smile they give you is priceless. Education is the most important priority for me because it helps stop the dependency cycle and gives the kids a fighting chance in the world. I currently have 25 kids that are directly receiving educational help from my foundation, The Cherise Makubale Foundation. We all need to lend a hand because every little helps.
ADM: You’re currently planning to build a community centre and school in Zambia, can you tell us more about this project?
This is going to be my biggest project to date. I have 5 acres of land in rural Zambia and I want half of this to go to the community by providing a school, womens shelters and small scale farming such as fruit canning, honey harvesting and so forth. The other half I want to build houses and warehousing that will be rented out to sustain the facility. This project will also empower the grass root women and give an education to their kids and other vulnerable kids in the area.
ADM: What made you come up with such a big project and how long have you been working on it?
I only decided to do this a few months ago after I had finished most of the other projects; I wanted to do something big that can encourage other people in other areas to do the same and benefit a lot of people. Our governments are poor and we need to help where we can. To me Success is the difference you make in peoples lives. Education is priority for my foundation that’s why the centre will have a community school providing primary education but to also help the grass root women with empowerment projects.
ADM: Building a well functioning community project can be financially demanding, how do you plan to go about it?
Yes, from experience charity work is very expensive and I would like to thank all my donors and the public who have supported me so far with all the projects I have done in the past.
As the Founder I keep looking for more funding especially now that we want to do this very large project, I have been fortunate enough to get funding for phase one which is land clearing and fencing and now working on proposals for the rest of the projects. While in the UK I would love to encourage the diaspora to visit our website and support this cause. It is time to invest back in Africa, in our women and in the vulnerable kids. I also would like to thank media such as you for this opportunity so that my foundation can reach a lot of people.
ADM: How will this benefit the community and the people of Zambia?
This project will encourage others to do similar in their areas, especially nearby large-scale farms that will be encouraged to invest in their workers and surrounding community. A four classroom block with an average of 20 children per class will greatly benefit the surrounding areas and the womens skills training centre will provide 4 workshops with over 10 women in each class every six months so they can go on to contribute and earn a living for themselves. The centre will be in a farming block so the women will also earn a living from small-scale farming.
ADM: What are your plans after completing your community project in Zambia?
The centre will take approximately 3 years with the right funding after which we will keep improving on it and hope to open others in other towns. Personally I will be living in Europe with my husband but have a great team in Zambia who will look after the project. I want to keep working on my property company as well as on my new online gift store which will be open soon called xculture.style; this store will be selling clothing and accessories that celebrate cross cultures.
ADM: You’re an entrepreneur, how do you manage this as well as your charities
I would not have been able to do all I do without a great team; they have enabled me to also focus on my property business and I would just like to thank them dearly and let them know how much I appreciate their hard work. One of the best things I did with my cash prize money was to invest in property, and from that I now have properties in Zambia and Europe.
ADM: Most people are becoming entrepreneurs in our community. What are the 3 key advise you would like to give our young African entrepreneurs?
- Don’t be afraid to take risks, without this you will always hold back. There are times when you might fall, what matters is how you pick yourself up.
- Do something that you are passionate about and not just what people tell you is right because it will fail if you don’t give it your all.
- If you are in the diaspora please invest back home. It is up to us to help Africa grow and fulfil its potential
ADM: Can you list some few names of people who motivates and inspire you and why?
Am glad since I came to UK I can see a lot of women doing work for Africa while living here and I aim to become one of them but people who inspire me are not famous.
For me its women like Ester who looks after 10 children and Joyce who looks after 11 children in a two-roomed house in shanty townships. Everyday grass root women who try their best to make ends meet with very little. These are the women who carry babies on their backs while carrying firewood and a bucket of water at the same time, walking for miles to get back to their villages. Women who never had the opportunities that we have, these are the women that inspire me and I stand for
ADM: How can one get involved or donate to help your community project?
People can go to my Facebook page to find out more about my foundation, The Cherise Makubale Foundation and can donate on my website www.makubale.foundation. No donation is too small.
Thank you for all that support me, and you the media. God bless you all.
Thank you very much for time. We wish you all the best in this new great project. We will keep everyone updated with your projects.
Cherise Makubale passion for children and women is truly commendable. Despite being on TV for such a long time and appearing on various talk shows in Zambia and across Africa, she remains relatively down to earth and very at home with her husband.
Interviewed by: Noellin Imoh-Griffiths