This past week, Ridley was honoured to welcome Marie Da Silva, the founder of The Jacaranda School in Malawi, Africa and 2008 CNN Hero, to campus to share her mission and inspiring story. This visit marked the beginning of what we hope will be a strong relationship between our schools.
The Story of Jacaranda School
After losing fourteen family members to HIV, Marie Da Silva felt compelled to devote her life to improving conditions for orphans in Malawi; many who are impacted by the AIDS epidemic and poverty. In Marie’s eyes, the key to making a difference was to offer these children an education, nutrition, home support and proper health care.
In order to set her philanthropic plan in motion, Marie first needed a source of funding. To finance the early Jacaranda School – which was started out of her childhood home – Marie took post as a nanny in Los Angeles, California. For years, she sent the majority of her wages back to Malawi and little by little brought her passion to realization. After her mother agreed to allow Marie to use her home as a basic school house, Marie set to work seeking support, student teachers and materials.
Over the years since the Jacaranda School was simply a hope, it has developed into a place where orphans and young students come to realize a better life. The developing, multi-building school now has more than 400 students enrolled. These young boys and girls (50/50 male and female population) often walk more than an hour to attend school each day.
Marie has worked selflessly to ensure that basic needs are met so that students, can focus on learning, reach post-secondary studies and break free from constraints. She has incorporated a fully staffed heath clinic where HIV medicines are dispensed, provides two nutritious meals of porridge daily, has four libraries, offers micro-loans to mothers so they may earn for their families, and also provides a nurturing safe-haven where children are distinctively supported. Most amazingly it only costs roughly $20 CDN per month to educated a student, provide him or her with nutrition and HIV medications.
A Ridley Connection
After being named a CNN Hero in 2008, Marie received well-earned recognition for her work in her home country. Marie and the Jacaranda School is now even receiving the support of global figures, such as Madonna. Marie’s selfless dedication caught the attention of Mr. Rob Burke. Mr. Burke, Ridley teacher and CAS coordinator, has known Marie for seven years and has made 12 trips to Malawi. While at the Shanghai American School, Mr. Burke was actively involved with volunteering and organizing support for the Jacaranda School. He distinctly recalls a friend of his describing Marie as, “a woman with inner steel, wrapped in silk, with a heart three sizes too big,” with which he wholeheartedly agrees.
Marie expressed that she thoroughly enjoyed meeting students and staff at Ridley College and appreciated the warmth and kindness shown to her while she was here. The mutual feeling of gratitude and respect was obvious.
“Meeting Marie Da Silva and being involved with The Jacaranda School has changed the course of my life and possibly for more than 250 students that have experienced the magic of Jacaranda.” – Mr. Rob Burke
Mr. Burke’s dedication to The Jacaranda School and Foundation was recently acknowledged, as he was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. This prestigious award, which he will be presented by the Governor General of Canada, is given to an individual who has significantly contributed to a local or global community. We hope Ridleians will congratulate Mr. Burke and be motivated by his example.
March Break Service-Learning Trip
Upper School students will have an opportunity to make a difference and contribute when Ridley makes its inaugural visit to The Jacaranda School over March break. This service-learning trip will take place March 9th–25th, 2017. Registrants will have an opportunity to experience, first-hand, how Marie’s lifelong mission has improved the lives of so many in her home country. If students are interested in joining this trip, please contact Mr. Rob Burke before November 15th at firstname.lastname@example.org. A limited number of spots are available.
If you would like to make a donation to The Jacaranda Foundation, please visit http://www.jacarandafoundation.org/.