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Marie Da Silva and Carolyn LeCroy at the CNN Heroes Awards in 2011

In 2008, when The Messages Project founder Carolyn LeCroy was named a CNN Top Hero, a door to fantastic networking opportunities was opened to our organization. During the CNN celebrations that year, Carolyn was introduced to Marie Da Silva, another Top Hero. Marie is the founder of the Jacaranda Foundation and School for Orphans, a non-profit based in Malawi, Africa, which provides educational opportunities to orphaned children. Because both of their programs support children who have lost one or both parents, Carolyn and Marie decided to form a mutually beneficial partnership.

The Messages Project, which focuses on keeping children of incarcerated parents connected to their families, has expanded vastly throughout the United States since its inception in 1999. Going international was the next logical step, and the Jacaranda School for Orphans helped us make this possibility a reality. The Jacaranda Primary and Secondary School – the only free school in all of Malawi – is a refuge for children who have lost their parents. Much like the suffering that is endured by children of incarcerated parents, the orphans in Malawi face the hardship of learning to live without their parents by their side. Bringing our mission of rebuilding families to these children will ensure they receive the emotional support they need in addition to a proper education.

In August, Carolyn LeCroy will be traveling to Malawi to begin this partnership. Carolyn and Marie will visit mothers in African prisons, some of whom whose children don’t have another living parent to care for them. While there, they will record messages to send home to their children. As research has proven, this connection will benefit the children by giving them peace of mind and comfort in knowing their parents love and miss them very much. Maintaining a relationship with an incarcerated parent results in better behavior, improved outcomes in school, and a lower risk of actions that lead to future incarceration.

A campaign has begun to assist this initiative. The Messages Project needs to raise $10,000 to fully finance our endeavor with the Jacaranda School for Orphans. Donations from our supporters will be used to cover travel expenses, equipment costs, electricity demands, as well as material supplies (such as DVDs and envelopes). If you’re able to contribute, please visit our fundraising page.

Please be sure to also share the news of our partnership with your network of colleagues and friends. Without the dedication of supporters like you, and without the encouragement of CNN toward its Heroes, this wouldn’t be possible. For that, we are immensely appreciative. Thank you so much!

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