In memory of Marlee-Jo Jacobson.

The children of Agua Sabrosa, by Terrenero
Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm
Ofir Hirsh, 2012

In the summer of 2001, after establishing HCML (Hirsch Capital Mgmt), in order to pursue my interest in commodities trading , I visited NYC in search for commodities experts. A web search lead me to the homepage of “Sanctity Capital Mgmt.” a commodities trading advisory firm, that instead of financial charts, had images of clouds and sunsets, and a spiritual discussion of market risk. It was my first encounter with the term “Universal Intelligence” and with MJ, Marlee Jo Jacobson, the very special lady who invented a new risk management concept to futures trading. We met in NY and connected immediately. After a long correspondence and another meeting, we signed a collaboration agreement, but did not conduct any business together. We did however, become close friends, and later on she introduced me to some of her colleagues, and by that she actually opened for me the gates to the hedge funds industry. Two years later, when my girlfriend Limor and I worked together at HCML and already lived in the Dominican Republic, a collaboration we had with one of MJ colleagues became fruitful and began generating income. When MJ and I first met, I mentioned that I will compensate her for any business that will come out of her contacts. So, loyal to my word, at the end of each calendar year I sent MJ her share of the pie. Although initially surprised, she got used to it, until one day in 2007, she wrote me something like: “…Thank you Hirsh,  but the truth is that I really don’t need this money. From all the nice photos of the Dominican Republic you and Limor sent me, I keep thinking of these poor beautiful children, so happy with the candies you gave them. So maybe you can use this money to buy something for poor children…but please, don’t buy them candies…maybe books?…”
We thought it was a wonderful idea, and began brainstorming.

Then, during one of our weekend trips, we were robbed by two young men. They approached us smiling, asking for a ride. We smiled back at them, and then they changed the tone. I can still feel the touch of the threatening sharp knife on my neck, but that’s another story. A week after that robbery, we felt that we needed to gain back our confidence and decided to go for a long walk in our favorite remote beach “Playa la Cana”.
After an extremely enjoyable day at the beach, we jumped into “La boca del Rio”, the mouth of the river, where the river meets the ocean and creates a sweet water pond. I hugged Limor in the water and told her: “…Look how the lagoon’s water mirrors the coconut trees, the clouds and the sky. Now look further at the ocean and this tiny island that stands right in front of us. Baby! We are in paradise. Do you remember that just one week ago we were traumatized by those vicious robbers? That’s it. It’s gone. I’m so glad we treated ourselves and came here. I love you!”
I kissed her and it felt so good, then I heard something…and before we even realized what’s going on, we both looked in shock at a guy, with a shirt tied around his head, grabbing our bag and running with it like crazy straight into the jungle. I jumped out of the water and began running after him. Then I heard Limor shouting at me: “Are you out of your mind? come back”. I assume that any explanation regarding our feelings in those moments is unnecessary. He took our bag, with our clothes and shoes, camera, cellular, money, documents, car keys and house keys. Yep, the mother fucker left us in the middle of nowhere with nothing but our swimming suits on. We ran out of the beach through the jungle and climbed the notoriously steep path out. Usually, when we climbed that path with shoes on, it took us an hour, however that day being barefoot and furious, it took us 15 minutes. Hoping that we might bump into the thief or anyone that can help us we kept running, but nope. We then entered Agua Sabrosa, the closest village to the beach. The kids of the village came running towards us, jumping and greeting and asking all sort of questions. They weren’t very impressed with our robbery story and just wanted to play and dance and entertain us. A few of the locals told us that the thief is from the village and that he does it on a regular basis.
Later that night, sitting exhausted at home, which we had to break into, we discussed the crazy occurrences we went through, and tried to figure out our Karma. We concluded that instead of going to the Police, we should go back to Agua Sabrosa and change this place and its Karma right from the bottom, beginning with the kids.

After a few visits, we shared our vision with MJ and she agreed that we’ll use her money for that great cause. Soon thereafter, we registered a non-for-profit organization and named it “Fundacion Marlee-Jo”. We bought a piece of land in the middle of the village, cleaned it and built a modest shed, made of coconut trunks, for our activities. We began with 7 boys. Then we grew to 13 boys. Then came Nenei, the first brave girl, and all the other girls of the village followed her. A few months later, we had more than 50 kids aging 2 years to 14 old, and the group kept growing.
We mostly came in the weekends to play with the kids, and teach them anything we could; reading & writing, math, drawing, and even swimming. The kids called us Oro and Nessa and for 5 years our activity in the foundation became the most significant part of our lives in the Dominican Republic. Gradually, we became involved with other aspects of their lives, in particular, we were very occupied with their health: lack of nutrition, parasites, injuries, and severe dental problems. We then built a house on the land, with classrooms, library, playing room, and toilets, and slowly it became the center of the village for kids and family activities. We invited friends and organisations to help in our activities and collaborated in other fields. The children of Agua-Sabrosa lacked many things: education, books, toys, medical treatment, clothing etc. However, we always felt that above all, they lack the love and attention of someone who really cares and believes in them, and can guide them towards higher goals and a better life. So other than teaching and playing, we spent many hours motivating and hugging.

In one of my last meetings with MJ in NY, before she passed away, I told her that maybe the real purpose of our acquaintance and friendship was all about the children of Agua-Sabrosa. “…The Universal Intelligence, which personally I call God, brought us together and in its mysterious ways lead us on a long path that eventually brought us to the children of Agua Sabrosa, who receive the love they deserve and a better chance for a decent living…”
Since we left the Dominican Republic and came back to Israel, the “universal intelligence” sent us two wonderful angels, Carol and Jack Mansfield, a retired American Catholic couple that fell in love with the kids of Agua-Sabrosa and offered to continue our efforts. The foundation still functions as the recreational center of the village and as a school, with 3 teachers and approx.  7o kids.
I miss the conversations with MJ. I miss the children a lot, some of them are already grown ups, and I miss the elevating feeling of giving and doing something significant for others. It was a life changing experience that redefined who I am.  I’m sure that the Universal Intelligence has further plans for me and I’m looking forward to it.