UNSUNG HEROES: Raising Money for an Orphanage across the Globe


Dee Silverman and her daughters Jessica and Kara with Juma Achoki of Isaka Memorial Foundation/Submitted photo
Dee Silverman and her daughters Jessica and Kara with Juma Achoki of Isaka Memorial Foundation/Submitted photo

One New City resident is teaching her students at Yonkers’ Lincoln High School that generosity and community service can reach recipients more than 7,100 miles away.

“A lot of teenagers don’t understand how they can make a different with their actions,” social studies department chair Dee Silverman said.

The annual fall walkathon she co-organizes with teacher Marcia Lyttle raises money for the Nyamila Community Center, an orphanage in Kenya, Africa, run by the Isaka Memorial Foundation for children whose lives have been impacted by HIV. It takes place the second week in October includes DJ music and food, followed by a homecoming football game.

“The foundation has been great,” Silverman said of the 501(c) (3) non-profit founded in 2006 by Juma Achoki and Mary Otieno, who lost brothers and sisters to the AIDS pandemic in Kenya. “We worked with them for six years and raised more than $30,000.”

One year the school raised $5,921.50 in two hours.

When its director said the girls living there lacked equipment to play soccer — and that many played barefoot or with inadequate shoes like flip-flops) — Jessica Silverman from Rockland Girl Scout Troop 40393 made signs and a box. Local families, students at Link Elementary School in New City, and Troop members collected more than 80 pairs of cleats, soccer clothing and equipment that were shipped in February.

Each participant has a punch card indicating the number of laps walked and receives a Community Service letter to show he or she raised money for the orphanage.

“We have a saying, ‘Change the world one lap at a time,” Dee Silverman said.

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New City resident and school Principal Ian Sherman credited Silverman and district Deputy Superintendent Edwin Quezada, also from New City, for “these fantastic initiatives. A few years ago I went do Dee and said we need to have an initiative for the social studies department,” he said. “He and I both support her.”

Quezada donated startup money for the school’s annual International Night in March, a celebration of culture, food, and performances that draws about 600 people. Five dollars buys an all-you-can eat meal featuring foods from different nationalities, and those who contribute a dish have free admission.

“We have a committee that decided to use the profit to help two kids who are in other parts of the world,” she said. “One year we raised enough money (from the dinner) to buy resources for the school and had $500 left so we helped two children attain cleft palate surgeries from Smile Train, the children’s charity.

The international children’s charity provides free cleft lip and palate repair surgery to children in more than 85 developing countries. “History has created situations today, and human aid will create better situations,” Silverman said.

Do you have an Unsung Hero? Send your pick to [email protected].

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