You are here

Otis College Partners with "CNN Hero" Marie Da Silva

Jacaranda School at Otis College
Spring Creative Action Course will work with Jacaranda School for Orphans in Malawi

In 2002, Marie Da Silva was working as a nanny in Los Angeles. She heard that a school in her hometown of Limbe, Malawi was going to close and urged her mother to allow students to gather and learn in their family home.          

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and has the highest rate of HIV in Africa with over a million people living with the disease. Half a million children between the ages of 0 to 17 are orphans due to AIDS.

Da Silva lost many family members to AIDS and felt compelled to help children who had lost parents to the pandemic. Marie began sending a third of her monthly salary to support the new school and it began to flourish.

In 2008 Da Silva was recognized as a Top Ten CNN Hero for her work and since that time the school has grown to serve 400 students, 98% of whom are orphans due to HIV.




Earlier this year Otis College alumnus Robert Sussman ( 2015 Communications Arts, Illustration) brought Jacaranda School to the attention of the Creative Action program, which offers project-based courses that match multidisciplinary teams of students with local and international community partners.

As a result, the course, Made for Kids, taught by Iris Anna Regn, will work with the Jacaranda Foundation to help design innovative solutions for their school. Otis College students will collaborate in teams—initially by Skype—on projects for and with students from the Jacaranda Foundation. The bi-weekly mini studio course will culminate with a study abroad experience travel abroad opportunity in Malawi, East Africa, in which the class will travel to Malawi to implement their design projects and meet their collaborators.

 "Working with the Jacaranda Foundation will be a life changing experience. Otis students will be able to have a huge impact on the Jacaranda School for Orphans by utilizing their art and design skills creating things to bring change to the children at Jacaranda. Our hope is that the projects and products they create can be replicated and used throughout Malawi at other schools that desperately need our Otis students' innovative ideas,” said Richard Shelton, director of Creative Action.

This fall Da Silva, Luc Deschamps, executive director of the Jacaranda Foundation, and Clement Kam’mwamba and Ruben Salima, two students from the Jacaranda School, came to visit Otis College to talk about the work of the Jacaranda Foundation and their needs.


Made for Kids is open to sophomores, and higher and fulfills junior CAIL studio requirement. It can also be used as a studio elective.  Students should apply for the course at the Center for International Education.