From begging orphan to doctor, Anthony Mulenga sees the miracles in his life
Unfortunately, leaving to pursue his educational dream meant Mulenga had to leave his brother, who wasn’t around at the time.
Anthony Mulenga would not see his brother again for almost a decade. Through miraculous circumstances he found Michael in jail. Anthony Mulenga spent what little money he had to buy his brother a blanket, a pair of shoes and food. He also bribed the cook to give Michael extra food. He cherished the chance to repay his brother for taking care of him when they were younger.
It didn’t take the young student long to discover he had a talent for learning. Despite not holding a pencil until he was 11, Anthony Mulenga demonstrated enough proficiency to jump from the first grade to the fifth grade in one week. His teacher also noticed that he listened well in class and had a good memory.
Mulenga completed high school with high marks in 2008. He enjoyed each subject but especially favored mathematics and calculus. When he finished high school, he was the top math student in the country and second in science.
Mulenga said two thoughts sustained him during those difficult, lonely years. First, he wanted to honor his mother; second, the image of a “burning house.” Both helped him to have hope.
“I would think of myself in a closed room with no door in a house that was burning. I didn’t sit and feel sorry for myself, I looked for options and tried to find a way out. I imagined people would see me trying to get out and help. I always want to find a way out,” Mulenga said. “That’s how my life has been so far.”
Mothers Without Borders can only legally assist individuals until they reach the age of 18. Therefore, when Mulenga completed high school, he was forced to return to the streets.
But he would not beg for food this time.
Each day Mulenga walked several miles to a rich neighborhood where he knocked door after door, offering his services as a math or science tutor in exchange for kwacha, a form of Zambian currency, or a meal. He estimated that more than 80 percent of the residents let him in for two or three hours. He was typically paid the equivalent of $2 or fed a plate of rice and goat meat.
At the end of the day, he saved the bus fare and walked to the bus station where he found a place to sleep.
“I would pretend I was going somewhere and just sleep,” Mulenga said.
He carried his life in a little black notebook, which contained important documents and academic certificates.
Mulenga survived using this routine for just under a year. During that time the aspiring doctor also applied at the University of Zambia and was accepted, even though he had no clue how he would pay for it.
Meanwhile, Utah residents Kent and B.J. Warnick, as well as B.J.’s sister, Sandra Peters, who had become involved with Mothers Without Borders years earlier, learned about Mulenga from Headlee-Miner. While in Zambia they met him for the first time just prior to the time he was back on the street. A year later, during the time when he was sleeping at the bus station and surviving as a tutor, they met with him again. The 19-year-old had dropped 20 pounds and not eaten in days, B.J. Warnick said.
As they became acquainted with Mulenga and learned more about his situation, they had a desire to help him. They pledged to pay his college tuition, about $3,000 a semester.
“They said you don’t belong on the streets,” Mulenga said. “We’ll find a way to help you.”
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