Keyla Silva ’10 is the founder and executive director of Inda Cares, a non-profit organization whose mission and purpose is to enhance self -esteem and increase educational, interpersonal, life skills, and recreational opportunities to children from Angola, Africa.
Silva studied Psychology at Montclair State University and says that her involvement with various organizations motivated her to start her non-profit. Silva credits a large part of her inspiration to three affiliations in particular, The Native African Student Organization (NASO), Team Nicaragua, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. As a highly involved member of NASO, Silva says, “this club at Montclair State was always very supportive, and still is.”
A participant of Team Nicaragua’s 2009 trip, Silva says that this was her first major experience visiting a third world country. “We saw the worst of the worst”, notes Silva, “It really helped shape what I wanted to do.” While in Nicaragua, the team visited a recreational center for boys and girls at risk. A center such as this in Angola became one of her goals for her organization.
As Vice President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s Montclair State chapter, Silva got firsthand experience in giving back in a big way. “This sorority really helped shape me and my efforts. One of my sorority’s major historical projects is that we opened a maternity wing in a hospital in Kenya. This project gave me motivation for my current organization and its goals. It made me realize that if enough people believe in me and my vision I can make anything happen, no matter how big the project may be. Being a part of this sorority helped shape my leadership, program planning, and fundraising skills.”
Along with these groups, Silva gives thanks to Montclair State faculty members, both past and present. She mentions Dr. Lewis, Dr. Collins, John Velasco, and Dean Harris as having a great influence on her and notes, “I want to recognize them for their continuous support!” She speaks highly of her mentor and first year advisor, Martine Philogene Foreman, who no longer works for the university. However, even after leaving, she kept in touch with and has still been a mentor to Silva.
Silva’s family is from Angola and while visiting the area, reality set in on just how bad things were. “We saw the elite, and we saw the worst of the poverty. There were no community centers and a lack of resources.” Silva recalls attending her cousin’s soccer game, which took place at a garbage dump.
Creating a recreational center for children at risk is something Silva hopes to accomplish by 2015. “These kids have a lot of potential – it’s not their fault,” Silva says while sharing her experience in Angola. Along with this task, she hopes to fund and deliver mosquito nets – enough to serve 100 families by 2013 as part of her “Prevent Malaria Campaign.”
Inda Cares was founded in November 2011, and Silva says it has not always been easy and knows she faces challenges in the future. “I was torn. People, even those who believed me, told me it would be hard to do with no money. They told me people who start non-profits usually do it when they have more established careers.” Fundraising is Silva’s biggest challenge, but with one successful event under her belt, she is planning an upcoming event in March. “Dine 4 Life” will take place at CHEM Studio in Passaic, New Jersey.
When asked to offer advice for any students who are considering taking on an endeavor such as hers, Silva tells them “to follow their dreams and follow their gut.” She adds, “If they are up for it and can face the challenges, don’t hold back. Go for it.”
Reflecting back, Silva describes her time at Montclair State as “truly one of the best experiences of my life,” adding “it’s like a small community where everyone is supportive and you have the resources you need.”