A little help goes a long way for Jacaranda School founder
A little help goes a long way for Jacaranda School founder
  • Ko Min-seok
  • 승인 2011.05.23 10:57
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▲ Marie Da Silva poses with Jacaranda Foundation’s 2010 Secondary School graduates who are planning to go to college.
A CNN Hero in 2008, Marie Da Silva knows first hand how far a little bit of help can go. In 2002, she founded the Jacaranda Foundation, an organization that maintains the Jacaranda School. The Malawi-based school provides free primary and secondary education for its students, a majority of whom have been orphaned due to the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) pandemic.
The Jacaranda Foundation was named after the jacaranda tree. Native to tropical regions, the jacaranda tree grows up to 30 meters tall and has purple and blue flowers. To Da Silva, the jacaranda tree symbolizes life, growth and hope.
Da Silva has been affected by the AIDS pandemic, losing 14 members of her family to the disease. When her father was in the hospital suffering from AIDS, she stayed beside him, sleeping on a mattress for two weeks.
“It was very sad and frightened as I knew my dad was really sick. But each morning, as I drew the curtains, a huge jacaranda tree stood beautifully, full of light. It gave me hope that there was beauty and life out there,” Da Silva said.
When it came to naming the school, Da Silva felt that the tree could mean to the students what it does to her.
“I felt that tree was special because it gave me hope and brought light into our lives, and hopefully for the orphans at the school,” she said.
▲ Marie Da Silva believes that the Jacaranda Foundation symbolizes love and care for each other; the foundation was established in 2002

After realizing that many children had nowhere to go to school in her village, Da Silva decided to act. She opened her house as a space for learning.
It started out with 50 orphans. They were provided with food and all necessary supplies. After a year, more than 100 children were attending Jacaranda School.
“I believed that it was something that would save others from experiencing various hardships, especially at being able to attend school.”
▲ Marie Da Silva poses in front of the board dedicated to the Jacaranda Foundation during her visit to china

Now there are 400 children at the school. With the help of donations, Jacaranda is developing faster.
When the school first started, Da Silva employed only student teachers, as she could not afford qualified ones. Now, there are numerous qualified teachers at Jacaranda.
The school has made significant strides. Four years ago, the library had 11 books, but today, there are over 6,000. Seven years ago, there were no graduates. Now, there are 25 students in college, one of which is in the United States.
“I always believed, had faith, and was positive that I could take the children all the way through. We have proved this at Jacaranda,” she said.
Nowadays, Da Silva travels the United States, sharing her story with students, telling them that they do not have to be as rich as Bill Gates to make a positive difference in this world and around themselves.
“I speak about development and how one can take one step at a time. I speak about caring for others, being leaders, having self esteem and loving oneself,” Da Silva said. “We should always do our best to reach out to people, but at the same time, be able to think and care about ourselves, too.”
Through her work with Jacaranda, Da Silva has met people from all walks of life. Ewha can also be a part of the Jacaranda Foundation. The school gratefully embraces volunteer students.
“Building a long-time friendship between the two worlds is very important as it benefits not only Jacaranda, but the students in Korea, too. I cannot wait to one day meet students from Ewha,” said Da Silva.

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