Barbra Marden

by Jan Zatzman Orlansky

Marden family photoMany of you have seen Barbra and her family at Temple and probably had some of the same questions that I had when first meeting her. It is unusual to have a native born African attending our services and I was intrigued by her. She has a lovely accent and an animated face which draws you in immediately. She is also a very open and friendly person.

We had lived in Ghana, West Africa and I knew instinctively that she was not from there. So I asked her, “Where are you from originally?”

Physical map of Uganda
Uganda – Click to enlarge

Barbra was born Barbra Kasana near Kampala, the capital of UGANDA, which is located in east Africa (see maps below), surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC ) to the west, Sudan to the northeast, Kenya to the east, Rwanda to the southwest, Tanzania to the southeast where beautiful Lake Victoria borders both Tanzania and Uganda. She is one of 9 siblings who now live all over the world, a brother and a sister in Uganda, 2 in Europe and 4 in Massachusetts. She grew up in Rubaga (sometimes spelled Lubaga), a suburb of Kampala. She grew up in a Christian home with many different influences including Catholicism and Born Again Christianity.

When asked about some of the differences between schooling in Uganda and schooling in the US, Barbra explained that schooling in Uganda is very severe, and the exams are tough. You have to be at a certain academic level to pass to another grade. Teachers had full control over the children at school and they were allowed to physically discipline the children in their charge.

Below is a map of the continent of Africa. Uganda is bordered by 5 other countries.

Map of Africa
Africa Map (click to enlarge)

Barbara moved to Ancona, Italy in 1994 because she has family there and she wanted to go to school to become a travel agent, which she achieved. She eventually worked in a travel bureau there, where she booked and sold corporate airfares and student air fares. She lived in Italy for six years and is totally fluent in Italian. She taught herself Italian while living there.

Barbra and her children travel every summer to Chivasso in the Torino Province (northwest corner of Italy) where her sister now lives. Both of Barbra and Doug’s children, Eli and Emma, are bilingual in English and Italian, because for 8 months they went to a regular Italian public school and learned the language while attending that school. Barbra is trilingual and speaks Luganda (spoken by over 5 million people), Italian and English. Barbra enjoys sightseeing, drinking good wine, cooking and meeting people while she is visiting with her sister.

Barbra moved to the US in 2001 to attend Northeastern University in Boston to begin a Management Information Systems program. She studied and went to classes by day and at night was a health care aide in a nursing facility. It was in this facility that she met her future husband, Doug Marden, while caring for his father. She moved to Vermont and later began and completed a program in Business Administration. Presently Barbra is enrolled in a Master’s program in Public Administration, which she is doing part-time, while working full-time at Allscripts. She hopes to graduate in December 2017.

I asked Barbra what she does at Allscripts. “My current role is a support Technician. I troubleshoot and resolve client issues, related to the electronic medical record software we sell.” When asked what prepared her for this current position she said, “When I finished at UVM I interned at Allscripts and slowly made my way to where I am now.”

“When I was expecting Eli, we made a decision to join a Temple and bring up our children in the Jewish tradition. UVM gave me contact information for a rabbi, whom I called, which happened to be Rabbi Glazier.”

Barbra is presently in the process of converting to Judaism, and expects to complete the process very soon. She has lived in Burlington since 2003.

Running and cooking are two hobbies that Barbra enjoys, in addition to working full time, studying for a Master’s degree, raising a family and studying in order to be able to convert to Judaism. She is an active member of our congregation and serves on the Board of Temple Sinai as a Trustee.

Thank you Barbra for sharing your life story with us.