It’s not every day that you meet someone that truly inspires you, reminds you of what is important in life, and provides a perspective on his/her life that makes you re-vision yours.

That is what Kizwunda and her four daughters have done for the RWCI team and community.

It is especially inspiring during a time like this when lives all over the world have been turned upside down by a pandemic. It can be difficult on all of us in different ways.  Many can relate to Kizwunda’s story, while others have never experienced circumstances like she has. Kizwunda and her four daughters are approaching the pandemic in truly inspiring ways.

For the first time in five years, the pandemic has brought all of her daughters back together under one roof.  This is bittersweet.  Two daughters are currently enrolled in college and two are in high school.  They live in an apartment in Renaissance West, that is now “crowded” and they are “on top of each other” but these women couldn’t be happier; they are together.  Kizwunda says her family is “reconnecting” and “it’s a blessing”. 

Before the pandemic, Kizwunda worked for an airline and was laid off due to COVID-19.  But, she is approaching this time with an incredible attitude that is also projected by her daughters.  “You need to stay active and give back.” Kizwunda believes.  “If I have food to eat, but my neighbors can’t eat… that’s not right.”  She believes that one positive outcome of the pandemic is that she now knows her neighbors, whereas before she did not know them. Kizwunda says that “to whom much is given, much is required,” and “You give what you have.  Just holding someone’s hand in silence can be all they need.” 

Kizwunda and her daughters are spending this time learning, looking for new opportunities, and volunteering in their community.  Several days a week this family volunteers at the fresh food market that delivers food to the Renaissance West community each week.  Furthermore, they decided to follow the market around Charlotte and help deliver food in many communities, not just their own.  Kizwunda and her daughters are helping to package 700 bags of food each week.  In addition, Kizwunda is using her time for professional development and signed up for online classes, such as, Negotiating and Communicating Effectively.  She says she wants to be ready for her next chapter, which is accomplishing one of her goals – home ownership. She is also an aspiring chef who enjoys sharing her recipes on social media.

The young women that Kizwunda has raised are equally remarkable.  She describes her motherhood approach as, “I keep [our home] bare, but I give them the world – literally.”  At a time when Kizwunda was making $10.09 per hour and had $600 in her bank account, (she remembers exactly), I couldn’t give my daughter a car for her 16th birthday.  So, she utilized the benefits of working for an airline and took her daughter to Italy and Paris for her birthday.  Kizwunda says they spent their short trip walking through the cities, ate one dinner, and purchased one hot chocolate and one pastry. 

One daughter battled cancer as a young child. She has lived, cancer free, for 13 years. Now a high school student, she serves in a leadership position as a liaison between the student body and the faculty.  Inspired by her mother, she has started a nonprofit organization called, “Brown Kids Travel”.  Many kids “haven’t seen outside of their community,” and that is why she feels compelled to do something about it.

One daughter who is about to graduate from college shows a side of humanity that is genuine and compassionate.  Living in an apartment with a few other girls, they each were able to have their own bedroom with a common living room in-between.  Walking out of her apartment on multiple occasions, she became acquainted with a family living in her building.  She noticed that the children were always eating dinner on their floor because they didn’t have any furniture.  So, she decided to give her furniture to this family because they needed it more than she did. 

Other lessons that Kizwunda is teaching her daughters includes accepting people despite their differences.  Kizwunda is proud of one of her daughters for having friends “that all look different.”  Another daughter wants to be a cosmetologist because she wants to help people look beautiful, especially those people who have low self-esteem.  And, lastly, one daughter was accepted into a summer program this year as a foreign exchange student in Brazil.  She describes that even though COVID-19 has cancelled this experience for her, “it didn’t dampen her spirits”.  Her daughter feels that it is her calling to “make a difference” in her own community this summer instead.  Kizwunda remarks about her daughters, “I’m constantly in awe of them.  You see love and you see humanity.”