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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Immigrants Of The Week: Maria Da Silva, The Philadelphia Phillies, and Zbigniew Brzezinski

by Greg Siskind

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: MARIA DA SILVA - CNN HERO

Artdasilva CNN has nominated twelve individuals for a community service hero award. One is Maria Da Silva, a native of Malawi. The Los Angeles nanny is funding a school in her native country in order to help fight the impact of AIDs, a disease that has killed fourteen of her family members and which infects 14% of the Malawi adult population. CNN describes the important work of Ms. Da Silva:

But from halfway around the world, as a nanny in Los Angeles, California, Da Silva provides a place where the orphans can get away from that -- The Jacaranda School.

In 2002, Da Silva learned that the school in her southern Africa home town was going to close. Consumed with concern for the students, she urged her mother to let them gather and learn in their family home, with her financial support.

"All the while I was doing my best for the kids here -- making sure they're doing their homework, eating well," she remembers.

"I couldn't sleep just thinking about the children that need the same thing back in Malawi," says Da Silva.

Thanks to Da Silva's passion, the school is now thriving in her childhood home and more than 200 children, most of whom are AIDS orphans, receive porridge every morning and education, free of charge. It is an effort that Da Silva funds almost entirely herself, sending $1,000, about one-third of her monthly paycheck, to pay the salaries of 12 teachers and the headmaster, and purchase whatever supplies she can afford. Several of her fellow nannies have even gotten involved, donating $10 a month to her foundation.

While the classes are crowded and resources are few (there are only 15 books in the library, according to Da Silva), her efforts are working.

"We have kids studying in our family living room, kitchen, gazebo, you name it. They're so hungry to learn," Da Silva explains. "This is their sanctuary."

That she has saved this school as a nanny and not a well-funded philanthropist really says a lot. She contributes one third of her income to the cause and has recruited many of her nanny friends to help as well. Congratulations Ms. Da Silva.

You can see the CNN video report here.