Malaika was founded in 2007 by Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, an international model and humanitarian who was born in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to a Congolese mother and Cypriot father. Following the passing of her father when she was five – and with her mother lacking the financial resources to look after her alone – Noëlla was sent to live with relatives in Europe. Through this experience, she benefited from a high quality education, but she has always been aware that many children in the DRC are not so fortunate.
After receiving a degree in business management, Noëlla was discovered and began a successful modeling career. Her work gave her a presence on the pages of iconic publications like Vanity Fair and Vogue, and as she took her talents to the global stage, she discovered a platform from which to share her passion for human rights. Fiercely proud of her African heritage, her determination to help improve the lives of Africa’s youth has made her an international advocate for their welfare.
Noëlla founded Malaika alongside a team of pro bono professionals who donate their time and expertise. Today, Malaika’s education and health programs are impacting thousands of people’s lives and are all offered free of charge. Malaika’s work has three components: an accredited school that provides a quality education to 314 girls and builds the leadership capacity of each student; a community center that provides literacy, health, sport, agriculture, and vocational programs to 7,000 people; and a clean water program that has built and refurbished 17 wells to supply water to over 30,000 people each year.
Since 2017, Noëlla has been an Ambassador for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the world’s largest partnership combating these diseases with support from governments, civil society, and the private sector. Joining other Global Fund Ambassadors like Bono, Charlize Theron, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Noëlla uses this platform to spur global investment in health and education and in programs that combine the two areas.
Noëlla’s work with Malaika and The Global Fund has made her one of the most sought-after speakers on the subjects of education and health. She has spoken at countless venues as far-ranging as the World Economic Forum in Davos, the WISE Summit, the Global Citizen Forum, at UNICEF and Cambridge University, and alongside Princess Caroline of Hanover at the AMADE plenary session and President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. She has been interviewed about her philanthropic work on CNN, has given a TED talk, and has presented in front of executives from multinationals like SAP and T-Systems. In 2016, Noëlla was named one of ELLE magazine’s “Incredibles” – 50 African women who are shaping the continent – and in 2017 she was honored as one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential and Inspirational Women of the Year.
Alongside being a mother to two young children, Noëlla continues to work as a model, but now her passion is to model with meaning, using her profile to raise awareness for causes she believes in as a mother, a feminist, and a believer in the intrinsic human right to education, health, and opportunity.