A pretty face and a successful modelling career don’t even begin to fully define Noella Musunka Cousaris. Born in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Noella was raised by relatives in Belgium and later Switzerland after the passing of her father  when she was only 5 years old. Though removed from her homeland at a very tender age, Noella had always remembered and treasured her African roots. Her beauty and drive saw her flourish as an international model, appearing on the pages of publications such as Vanity Fair, Essence Magazine, Interview Magazine, NewAfricanWoman, Arise Magazine and leading a number of fashion campaigns. However, her spirit of selfless giving and sacrifice did not allow Noella to settle for the snazzy life a modelling career could offer. In 2007, she launched the Georges Malaika Foundation in conjunction with her booming modelling career . Named after her father, Georges, and the Swahili word for angel – “Malaika” –  the foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young African girls and their communities through education. The Georges Malaika school for girls was built and operates in Kalebuka, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a free accredited school, educating 202 girls. The foundation provides a fully comprehensive program for the girls, which includes tuition, school supplies, uniform , art and theatre classes, two healthy meals a day and physical activities twice a week. The foundation has also built three wells in Kalebuka, which have improved hygiene and reduced illness in that area.

Today, Noella is known for being a fierce activist, appearing on various international platforms, tirelessly advocating  the cause of the young African girl and promoting education and access to clean water. In 2010, Noella was named as a “major modern-day activist” by CNN and, in 2014, the New African Magazine selected her as one of the most influential Africans in the category of civil society and activism.

Here at 1Africa, we are delighted to celebrate Noella Cousaris Musunka in this edition of Big Up Africa.  Her story is by any standards, noteworthy. At age 31, she has already given back in a way very few in her capacity have offered to.

I’d like to leave you with Noella’s last words  during an interview she had with Afrikan Goddess Magazine: “The future of Africa is in the hands of Africans, and the Diaspora has a huge role to play too.”

If you would like to learn more about Noella or the Georges Malaika Foundation,  visit www.noellacousaris.com or www.gmalaikaf.org .