Jacaranda School for Orphans enrolls an abandoned teenager who has passion to realize his dream of being extraordinaire painting artist

Jon with one of his works

* He told me that he lives alone and is in school and does odd jobs to pay his school fees

* He told me his passion is to draw — nothing else but draw but does not always have the materials

* I invited him to our school’s art room where he could use our materials, and he blended well with the other students

* They took very keen interest of him as they watched him draw

By Duncan Mlanjira

One day, Marie da Silva — founder and director of Jacaranda School of Orphans — noticed a youngster admiring some books mural artwork which her students were working on just outside their school.

Curious of his intensity admiration of what her learners were doing, Da Silva approached him and learnt that the 16-year-old youngster, Jon — who lives alone close to her campus — was a brilliant artist in the making.

Jon showed Da Silva some of the art work he had done in charcoal and told her that his wish was to learn about paints as he only works with charcoal.

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“He told me that he lives alone and is in school and does odd jobs to pay his school fees,” Da Silva said. “He told me his passion is to draw — nothing else but draw but does not always have the materials.

“So, I invited him to our school’s art room where he could use our materials,” said Da Silva, adding that she became impressed with Jon when he blended well with her students, who took very keen interest of him as they watched him draw.

“Later, I noticed that he was inviting the kids to draw with him. I added more materials. During Christmas holidays, the kids came to draw with him.

Marie Da Silva

“But then it does not stop there — he came to ask for some glue and cement and a few days later, I returned to the art room to find he had taught the kids to work with clay.”

Having seen how he was blending well and being a positive influence on her learners, Da Silva decided to give him a little allowance each week to help him pay his rent.

Later, since Jon was missing school due to lack of fees, Da Silva asked him if he would like to join Jacaranda with emphasis that “it is great focusing on his art but he needs to be in school regularly”.

He has influenced other learners in clay art

“He is now in Form 2 at Jacaranda Secondary School and has 3 years more before graduating. Maybe this could be a future art college student.

“I believe that when we listen to our kids and give them the tools, anything is possible. At Jacaranda, there are many opportunities. We have sent 4 boys to Summer of Arts in Los Angeles.

“They came back with huge knowledge in arts. One is in film school in Paris, France.

“Looking at Jon, first he has to take his academics in school seriously just as he does in his art.  He has to work hard in school and complete his education.

“We will make sure that he takes art lessons whenever available at the school. We will give him the tools he needs to continue to draw whilst he is in school.

“And when he graduates — if he will still choose to study art, we will help him by looking for scholarships for him just like we do for every other graduate student at Jacaranda School.

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“Jacaranda is going to try and help him with giving him piecework at weekends to help him support himself and today he told me his rent is K4,000 a month — which we will pay that so that he can only worry about his food.”

Responding to our questionnaire, Jon said his parents are alive but at some point he lived with his aunt when he was very young but she started abusing him for no apparent reason.

He said his aunt kept telling his parents negative and false reports about him to the extent that his parents lost trust in him.

“Then I went to stay with my grandmother but she passed on after few months,” he said. “Surprisingly, my father sold the plot and never took me along to stay with them.

“I had no choice but to stay alone. I went to Double Knowledge Academy situated in the area I lived. I have been working hard and I always compete to be in top 3 in every exams.”

He explained that he never learnt art from anyone else but on his own, saying “it is my inborn talent until I met some great artists who cherished my talent and helped develop it further.”

He said since his home is close by, he got fascinated and impressed that Jacaranda School offers art lessons when he encountered the learners at work when he passed by.

“I have been passing by until one day when I saw Mayeso and Pemphero painting a mural outside and since that was what I loved most then, I stopped by and showed my curiosity in art.

“The moment I saw them painting outside their school, it impressed me that their school offers art lessons.”

To survive the harsh world, Jon says he does some piece works and also moulds some clay artworks which he sells for his daily food and pay for his school fees.

“I have not been able to sell any of my charcoal artwork since I have no access or knowledge how I can do this. But hopefully in near future.”

Going forward, Jon says: “It has been my desire to explore more in art and God willing, my dream is to learn in one of the art colleges in the if I find the chance.”

When Da Silva posted on Facebook the story on how she met Jon and took him aboard at Jacaranda, she received numerous kind messages from the public, with Kristina Sakaria marveling Jon’s artwork which accompanied the narrative, saying “what an amazing talent! Wishing him so much success!”

Madalitso Ziwaoh commented: “He is very talented. May God bless you Marie da Silva and long live Jacaranda School of Orphans while Shadreck Chikoti said: “You are growing a Picasso. It melts my heart”.

Jimmy Anderson said he had no words to describe what Jacaranda is doing to uplift the lives of the underprivileged and envisions that one day, the country’s through Parliament shall be dominated by Jacaranda students who “had returned from around the world”.

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Donna Donato said: “Marie, I love this story. You are one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. I’m so blessed to know you.

“What you and Luc have done for the children of Malawi is commendable. This young man has a future in art. Being at your school will enrich the education of the other children as well.”

Veronica Basikolo said: “Marie Da Silva, you have a very big heart and at times I wonder if it’s not too heavy for you. You always amaze me with your kindness.

“Please, may God grant all your wishes and add more years to your life because our country will forever need you, sweetheart.”

Wavisanga wa Kampioni acknowledged that Jon has an amazing talent and prayed that he should prosper, saying “his art is breathtaking already now that he has found security and stability”.

Rogerio Sales observed that the way Da Silva touches “lives for the betterment of the human race is incredible. This young man’s life will forever change. He creates the expressions in the eyes really well.”