• Mtakataka girls’ hostel

In memory of german news magazine FOCUS journalist Uli Baur: A safe haven for girls and young women

A dilapidated building in the middle of nowhere. The rooms are dark and not lockable, the clay floor is raw, the bedsteads remind of skeletons and serve as a wardrobe. There are no mattresses, sleeping is on the floor. Thick wire hangers hang from the ceiling like knotty branches.

The miserable condition of this dwelling is a frightening sight for Europeans. But the 25 young women who live here and attend the affiliated Community Day Secondary School make a cheerful impression on us when we visit them in October 2018. They are properly dressed and groomed, even if the view into the latrines makes you wonder how this is possible.

After the great success of our girls’ dormitory at the Christian Liebig Secondary School and a first visit to the Mtaktaka dormitory last year, the plan was clear: The Christian Liebig Foundation would definitely like to get involved here and help to make the house habitable.

  • Country:


  • Location:

    Mtakataka, 130 km east of the capital Lilongwe

  • Project duration:


  • Current status:

    25 girls live in four rooms in a miserable state, poor sanitary facilities, no kitchen.

  • Objectives:

    Extension, renovation and furnishing of the dormitory including latrines, washing area, courtyard and protective wall. Target: Space for at least 50 girls.

  • Donators:

    Uli Baur, Franz Baron Riederer von Paar, Hubert Burda Media

  • State:

    project completed

Urgent action is needed here

Spooky sight: the current state of the rooms in the girls’ hostel Mtakataka

The extension of the building allows 50 girls to find a comfortable and safe place to live in a total of six rooms with up to eight beds each. Among the measures planned by us are the renovation of the existing rooms and latrines, a proper furnishing with beds and tables and the construction of a new walled courtyard with a washing area. Also the preparation of meals could then take place in a suitable environment, no longer on the floor in a closed room, which is actually much too dangerous.

Uli Baur: Once again a journalist in whose name good is done posthumously

As the costs of this project are already covered, we will soon be able to start with the measures. Behind all this, however, lies a sad occasion with a grand gesture: in September 2018, Uli Baur, co-founder and most recently also co-editor of the news magazine FOCUS, head of Christian Liebig and a great supporter of CLS, passed away. The fact that he remained committed to our mission beyond his death leaves us with deep gratitude.

The guests at his funeral service donated more than 7,000 euros to CLS at his request. But this gesture moved not only us: another donation of 6,500 euros reached us on the occasion of the 60th birthday of the owner of the Polting estate, Franz Baron Riederer von Paar. The balance, which completely covers the total costs of 40,000 euros, reached us as a major donation from the board of directors of Hubert Burda Media Holding.

The renovation work can be implemented immediately: The project costs of approx. 40,000 Euro are already covered by generous donations.

The inhabitants of Mtakataka: young women with a history

Two powerful women fight together for the rights of girls: Chief Theresa Katchindamoto and Beatrice von Keyserlingk

The girls who currently live here are on average between 14 and 18 years old and some of them have been through quite a lot in their lives. Some of them were married when they were children, but fortunately they are now divorced again.

They owe this to a committed woman: Theresa Katchindamoto. She is the only female Senior Chief in the country and has been very successfully campaigning for the annulment of child marriages for years. Already last year Beatrice von Keyserlingk visited this special woman and talked to her about a common mission: strengthening the rights of girls’ advancement.

Some of Katchindamoto’s “back-to-school program” now live in the Mtakataka girls’ dormitory. They are already well on their way to a better future and eager to graduate from school.

For example, we talk to Doreen. The 19-year-old was married at 14, has a five-year-old daughter who is currently living with her grandparents, and would like to become a nurse. Like many others, she is happy to be placed in the dormitory. With two to three hours of walking to school and housework in the family every day, there would have been no time for schooling. Most families cannot afford the school fees anyway.

Flora, 18 years old, was also already married and would like to become a policewoman. And Lucia, 20, dreams of a career as a teacher. Maybe even in America, like her uncle. When we ask them if they want to marry again later, they all shake their heads vigorously. But who knows what the future will bring.

Dreams and wishes

Most of all, they would first of all like to have real beds and yes, the “bathrooms” would also need improvement. They would also like a little more light and air in the rooms and lockable rooms, the girls report. Nevertheless they feel safe, because they are together and have mastered many things in their young lives. In addition, there is a night watchman and a few teachers on the school grounds who would help them if necessary. After all.

We are very happy to be able to make a contribution here and to make life and future even easier for the young women. So that their laughter will be even happier and louder.

Doreen, Lucia, Flora: The three young women from the “back-to-school” program live in the dormitory.


The dormitory was ceremonially opened in autumn 2019, with CLS Chair Beatrice von Keyserlingk and important representatives from local politics and education in attendance. The final work and colour finishing touches were then carried out by the beginning of 2020, so that the project is now complete.

Detailed information on the opening ceremony can be found in our News section (in German only).


Bright prospects: The difference is huge – 65 girls are overjoyed about their new dormitory.


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