JF&CS News Spring 2011

This spring a message of hope will travel from Boston to Malawi, the gift of JF&CS Services for People with Disabilities Case Manager Isa Ebowe with the help of Marjorie Sokoll, JF&CS Director of Jewish Life and Healing & Jewish Healing Connections.

"Isa is an amazing person who will inspire the children of Malawi with the Jewish message of hope," said Marjie.

Each year since 2008, Isa has used his vacation time to visit 2,500 orphans of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Malawi to encourage them to stay in school and to give them hope for the future. This year he will bring the story of Miriam, the older sister of Moses.

"It is my conviction that the greatest gift for an orphan child who has lost both parents to the HIV/AIDS crisis is letting him or her know that people care. This year, it will be especially uplifting for them to receive a message of hope and care from the Jewish people, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," said Isa.

Malawi, in southeast Africa, has been stricken with the spread of HIV/AIDS, which has decimated its adult population. The crisis has left more than one million orphans in desperate need of basic necessities such as food, clothing, and school supplies.

Isa's mission began in 2008, when he traveled to Malawi to see if the stories he'd heard about orphans were true. He wanted to carry on the legacy of his father, an engineer with a passion for education, who passed away in 2004.

As he traveled throughout the countryside, giving children books and candy, he was shocked by the extent of the crisis. "We saw houses full of grandmothers and children. I committed myself to helping them," he said. Upon his return to the US Isa co-founded Canterio, a nonprofit devoted to helping the orphans of Malawi.

Isa was born in Nigeria and has a BS in Information Systems from UMass Boston. For his visit this year, Isa sought an inspirational story based on the Jewish experience and reached out to Marjie for advice. Marjie is also the Jewish educator for JF&CS staff and teaches about the Jewish holidays. She also sends out regular emails that explain Jewish traditions. Although they had never met, Isa wrote to Marjie after receiving these teaching emails, looking for ideas.

"I want to bring the orphans hope and I work in a Jewish organization. How can I use my position to bring them hope?" he wondered.

Marjie suggested the story of Miriam and her timbrel. As the Israelites were fleeing from slavery in Egypt, Miriam brought musical instruments into the wilderness; she believed there would be better times ahead. The women sang, danced, and played their tambourines after crossing the Red Sea. Later, when Miriam became sick, the Israelites waited for her and didn't abandon her in her hour of need.

"Miriam's story of perseverance and triumph is a human story that the children will get inspiration from to survive the crisis of HIV/AIDS," said Isa. In addition to Miriam's story, Isa will also bring tambourines for the children and teach them Hebrew songs of peace and hope.

"Isa's story shows the level of commitment to caregiving of our direct care staff. It's not just a job. They feel a calling to make their clients' lives and the world a better place," said Donna Magnasco, JF&CS Director of Human Resources.

Just as the Israelites did not abandon Miriam while she was sick, Isa's commitment to making the world a better place through his ongoing connection to the orphans truly shows the children that, they too, are not alone in their hour of need.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.