Noella Coursaris Musunka: The Model with a Heart for Humanity

| November 1, 2009
This image has been retouched by Paul Krokos

(Profile Photo Credit: Michel Tillery)

Aside from her successful modeling career, Noella is also the founder of the Georges Malaika Foundation, a foundation established in honor of her father who passed away when she was only five years-old. At our request, Noella offered us a rare peek into her personal life, and the Georges Malaika Foundation.

Born to a Congolese mother, and a Cypriot father, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Noella has always remembered and cherished her African roots.  She has given back in a way very few in her capacity have offered to. She remembers her days growing up and how fortunate she was to have a mother who put the needs of her family first. It is this same spirit of selfless giving and sacrifice that led Noella to start the Georges Malaika Foundation in 2007. 

As was typical in those days, Noella’s father was the sole bread winner of his family. When he passed, his death left an undue strain on the family’s survival. Unable to single-handedly fend for her daughter, Noella’s mother sent her to Europe to live with a relative. This is where Noella spent the better part of her life, and where she discovered her destiny with the world of modeling.  

Noella describes her modeling career as something that “just happened along the way” after she did an agent provocateur campaign. She has since appeared in magazines such as, Vanity Fair, Interview Magazine and Essence Magazine, and has served as a campaign spokesperson for brands such as Apple, Virgin Mobile, and Organic Root Stimulator Relaxer. That notwithstanding, it is her desire and dedication to the cause of the African girl child – Congolese – that makes her most notable.

According to Noella, after she returned home to the Congo from Europe – where she was raised and educated – she saw the state of affairs in the country and was not thrilled to say the least. “I vowed to somehow give back to my country, and education seemed to be the most powerful tool through which I could help my people. I was fortunate enough to have received all the benefits of a western education, and when I returned to the Congo I saw the state of education in the country, particularly in the area Lubumbashi, where I was born. I felt that it was my duty to use all the resources I have on my hand, and somehow give other African girls the educational privileges that I have had.”And that’s exactly what she set out to do in 2007.

The Georges Malaika Foundation, named after her father, serves as a reminder and tribute to the father Noella says she barely remembers; but whose spirit she seems to have inherited. “My father died when I was 5 years-old, so I had hardly any memories, but it seems I do look a lot like him, and I have his drive!” She gets her inspiration from knowing that he is still present in her life, cheering her on. Malaika means “angel” in Swahili.

The Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to “unlocking the potential of young African girls in the Congo through education.”  It is the ultimate goal of the foundation to build schools throughout the Congo. The first stone of the Georges Malaika School for Girls was placed on October 27, 2009 at a ceremony held in the Congo. The stone-laying ceremony was part of a trip embarked on by Noella and Khaliah Ali, the humanitarian daughter of the legendary boxing icon, Muhammad Ali. 

For the past two years, the Foundation which comprises  a team of educational professionals who are developing a system of grants, sponsorships and provisions for tuition, school materials and equipment, has sponsored 16 girls under its care. Many of these girls, only years and months ago, would never have dreamed of the chance to be educated. Some are orphans displaced by the war that ravaged the Congo for years. Thanks to the goodwill of one of their own, twelve girls attended primary school, four attended secondary school, and three were placed with families.

Olive_Oil_Ad-NoellaNoella Cousaris Musunka has great hopes for her homeland, and the African continent at large. In her parting words, she had this to say in response to exactly what hopes she holds for the Congo: “Primarily, I hope and wish that Congo finds a lasting solution and an enduring peace after the decades of conflict that has ravaged the country. Expatriates, non profits and foreign donors can help the country a lot, especially in terms of developing its infrastructure. But in the end, Congo needs to rid itself of conflict in order to allow new initiatives like the Georges Malaika Foundation to flourish. The future of Africa is in the hands of Africans, and the Diaspora has a huge role to play too.”

To learn more about Noella, visit her website at To learn more about the great things happening to the girls of the Congo, visit the Georges Malaika Foundation at Whilst there, should you feel touched to do so, feel free to make a donation. No amount is too little for a great and worthy cause.

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