Our History


Our Founder Is Chingwell Mutombu ...

Growing up in a remote part of the Democratic Republic of Congo without access to roads or many services, Chingwell noticed how self-sufficient and enterprising people were. Women were up early each morning to work in the garden, and then walked to the market to trade. Markets were a central hub, and people used barter and other creative ways to support their families.

When Chingwell was 17, she moved to Iowa. Her godmother had left her a trust to pay for her studies at Luther College. Chingwell started out as pre-med – being a doctor seemed like the most direct way to achieve her lifelong passion to help women and children. However, during a conversation with a friend, she realized she didn’t have to be a doctor to help people. She changed her focus, and graduated in 2000 with a triple major in political science, French and international studies.

Chingwell Mutombu

Chingwell Mutombu


After college, Chingwell moved to New Jersey, where she graduated from Seton Hall University with a master’s degree in public administration and international relations. During a class visit to the United Nations, she had another epiphany – rather than work in a large organization, she wanted to help people directly.

It was during her next job, as a program evaluator at the United Neighborhood Houses of New York, that Chingwell began to conceptualize what would later become Saidiana. It began with an experiment. She sent small sums of money to her mother each month to give to women to strengthen their existing businesses. Incrementally, she built a micro-finance portfolio of $3,000. The small loans allowed 60 women to break the cycle of poverty and pay for their children to go to school.

Chingwell Mutombu remains actively involved with Saidiana as our Founder.