STAFRANCE ZULU, Ndola
IT looks almost laughable now, but 15 years ago, it was stuff real life documentaries are made of.
Even before Cherise could arrive back home, then Home Affairs permanent secretary Peter Mumba had announced that she was going to be given a diplomatic passport.
She was only 24 years at the time and her only claim to fame was winning the Big Brother Africa competition Season One.
Cherise, who walked away with $100,000, was one of the 12 contestants from 12 African countries confined to a house in Randburg, South Africa, for over three months.
While there, their every move was beamed live and broadcast to millions of viewers across the continent.
That victory changed Cherise Makubale’s life for good. Before that, she was a procurement officer and a part-time model in Kitwe.
To put it into context, some religious groupings had spoken out against the reality television show saying it was promoting loose morals.
But there is a reason why Cherise’s win was celebrated widely across the nation.
Then Vice-President Nevers Mumba, who made a name as tele-evangelist, praised Cherise as a “role model” who had exhibited “high levels” of morality while in the house.
Cherise, who was welcomed at the Lusaka International airport (now renamed Kenneth Kaunda International Airport) by scores of people as if she had brought home the African Cup of Nations, was even feted at State House by President Levy Mwanawasa.
There was also a long queue of organisations and individuals promising Cherise all sorts of things.
It would not surprise anyone if she came out today to say someone had promised her the moon or at least a part of it.
“My purpose for going to BBA house was entirely to win the money and buy a house for my family. If you watch the video tapes today, you will realise what my motive of contesting in that reality TV show was,” Cherise says.
“I went in the house with no experience to talk about that time. I was not as educated as I’m now. I was not [well] travelled. All I was taking there was to remain myself and not pretend to be somebody [else]. I was known to do the chores better than anybody else in the BBA house because that was all I used to do well back home.”
After matters had settled down, Cherise went back to Kitwe, where she bought two houses in Richmond and Parklands and remained with just about enough for school.
She then left for school in the United Kingdom in Hertfordshire, where she is based. She studied public relations and marketing and later did property management.
But while at a tender age, Cherise got involved in charity work. She would accompany her mother to feed the street kids in Kitwe.
So, while living in England, she naturally got involved in community work. It was during this same time that she met her husband, Mike, who also happens to have a passion for charity work.
After a four-year absence in the country, Cherise is in the country again. The last time she was in the country, she was winding up her involvement with the Cherise Kids Park located in Lusaka’s Northmead.
She says she has met all the targets set out with Cherise Kids Park, which include setting up a library.
Now, she will concentrate on the Cherise Makubale Foundation (CMF), which looks out for partnerships with other organisations.
Cherise says she does not want to run her own projects which she will be unable to supervise closely.
All members of CMF are volunteers and they do not even operate a physical office as all monies received from partners go straight to vulnerable children.
Cherise’s foundation fully sponsors 40 children while 78 are on part-time sponsorship with 200 under general maintenance.
One example of a partnership project is one where she has partnered with a charitable organisation called Touch Ireland, whose directors are Seamus Gleeson and Paulin McHugh, to build a new community school in Misisi township in Lusaka.
The school will cater for about 200 pupils.
CMF has also secured 1000 of the 2000 blocks needed to build a perimeter wall fence for an orphanage known as Child Life Touch of Ndola courtesy of Deniz Blocks and Slykm that donated 500 blocks each.
Cherise is also a matron for Disabled People Group Resource Centre in Chipata, Eastern Province.
She is further fully sponsoring children at Nhekarlo Community School near Masala township in Ndola.
Cherise says she has not gone quiet as some people think but does not want to publicise everything she does.
However, for those that are interested in knowing what her foundation is up to, they can follow the activities on her website.
A quick browse through the website, which describes the foundation as a non-profit organisation that supports orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia, gives an idea of how the charity works.
“Education is the right of every child and is an effective tool of breaking the poverty cycle especially with the poverty levels being so high. We have a three pronged strategy: support of the child; support of the school; and support of the family,” the website reads.
Cherise says after retiring in the next five years, she intends to settle with her husband in Ndola.
She says she is grateful for the support she has received since exiting Big Brother Africa.
STAFRANCE ZULU, Ndola