Thursday, April 17, 2014

Poverty Costs an Arm and a Leg

Women living with Hansen's Disease in Mapuordit, S.Sudan

Most areas of South Sudan are still mired in extreme poverty. Perhaps that makes you think of hunger, or lack of access to education. True enough. But it also means lack of available health care, a deficit that can literally cost you an arm and a leg.

Hansen's Disease (leprosy), when not treated on time and consistently, maims its sufferers. Victims lose fingers and toes, perhaps even a nose. Despite its lingering stigma, this disease is completely treatable--that's why it is almost never seen in developed countries.  That it still exists in places like South Sudan is a wrenching reminder of how our world's resources are not equitably distributed.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Hair-Raising Experience

MBB Scholars in Haiti pledge two hours of volunteer service in their communities each month. In Gros Morne, a group of Scholars spend their time with the residents at Maison Bon Samaritan, a place for neglected elderly. Last week two girls braided the hair of the women there while others washed clothing or helped with general cleaning.

Volunteerism is a new concept in many developing countries.  MBB believes it's vital for all of its Scholars to give back, generously and regularly.  Volunteer work builds the Scholars' self-confidence and provides opportunities for them to demonstrate leadership, and at the same time it benefits the local community. It's a win-win!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Leadership Camp HAITI

What did you do during the week between Christmas and the New Year?  The highest-performing MBB Scholars in HAITI spent their vacation week at a 5-day Leadership Training at the beachside town of Arcahaie. What a treat!  They returned to Gros Morne not just with MBB tee-shirts, but also with bragging rights about having stayed in a beautiful conference center far from home, learned new skills, made new friends, and enjoyed free time in the surf.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Caribbean Idyll

Too often, we image Haiti as a desperately poor place in need of development. It is that, surely, but it is so much more!  Haiti is a country of stunning beauty: Caribbean beaches, palm trees, mangoes in abundance, mountains upon mountains, abundant rains alternating with dazzling sunlight, colors upon sun-dappled colors.... And most of all: warm,welcoming people. 
Next week MBB staff and several board members will be in Haiti to learn from the people how MBB might best expand our investing in the women and girls there.Wishing you could be with us!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pillowcase Beauties

St Bakhita Primary School has seen a surge in enrollments because of families fleeing violence in other parts of South Sudan. Some of the new arrivals are recent orphans from the fighting; all are displaced. MBB provides nearly the entire annual operating budget for the school. In addition, several dozen lucky young girls received these charming pillowcase dresses, lovingly made by seamstresses in the US and carried to the school by Sr Marilyn in 2013. For these girls who've already suffered so many losses, getting a brand new colorful dress is cause for rejoicing! They're ready for a fashion show!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Can You Multiply by 300,000 ?

What would you see if you multiplied this scene by 300,000?  The number of South Sudanese people --nearly a million, most of them women and children-- displaced by the rebel movement that tried to oust the government in December and which continues to ravage villages. That fighting has now devolved into ethnic revenge killings; it shows no signs of abating.
The devastation is too huge for us to grasp. But look at this one young mother with her children: her house burnt; her husband missing; no shelter; little food. Can you multiply by 300,000?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Really Lucky and Really Bright

Rural Haiti looks a lot like this: multi-generational families in simple, often-overcrowded stone houses with thatched roofing. Girls who are lucky attend primary school to 6th grade.  After that, the vast majority have no way to continue with formal education. They become farmers, vendors, or restaveks (children placed in others' homes as domestic servants).
Girls who are really lucky and really bright become MBB Scholars, supported through high school and beyond.  A scholarship is a life-changing development for the whole family, a chance to break the cycle of grinding poverty. $300/year: that's all it takes to give Benase Pascal, the MBB Scholar shown here in the school uniform with her family, a brighter future!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy at the Helm in Haiti

 Darline stands at the helm of MBB in HAITI. She heads our Scholarship Program and our annual Leadership Training Week and she supervises the House Mother at our Scholars' Lodge as well as the instructor for our daily computer classes.

As our programs in Haiti grow, Darline is learning new skills and discovering new resources within herself.  She is fluent in Kreyol and French and is studying English. She is a good role model for the young women MBB works with. We are happy to have her heading our Haiti team!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What a smile conveys...

Do you see that smile on Sr Edvine's face?  She is the MBB Scholarships Coordinator in South Sudan. A tough job that requires traveling around the country on dangerous roads, visiting all the schools where the MBB Scholars are studying. No job description could cover all that she faces in the course of any "typical" week. At times, she's had to push her stuck vehicle out of a sandy wadi, swelter through temps as high as 120 F, wait hours at immigration border crossings, take feverish Scholars to remote clinics, counsel girls whose parents have just died,  cope with recurring bouts of malaria herself.

And yet she smiles!  Edvine loves her job, loves the fact that her work enables more and more girls in S. Sudan to move on to higher education, loves the satisfaction of seeing them succeed, loves being part of the MBB team, and loves the challenge of growing the program to enroll more and more young women.  We salute you, Edvine!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mother of All Scholars

Jeanine, shown here with one of her daughters, knows a thing or two about being a mother. She is strong, wise, caring, and strict: all the qualities needed to manage a girls' boarding house!  She is the HEART of the Scholars' Lodge that Mercy Beyond Borders operates in Gros Morne, HAITI.  She runs a tight ship with a loving hand.  She has organized the 22 resident Scholars (7th, 8th and 9th graders) into teams for keeping the house sparkly-clean and maintaining a safe and attractive environment that fosters their studies.   Being our MBB House Manager brings to the fore her many skills: thrifty buyer, excellent cook, marvelous supervisor, calm negotiator of teen angst (and hormones), and steady promoter of girls' education.

But Jeanine is, first and foremost, a mother.  I ask those of you who have parented teens in your own home: CAN YOU IMAGINE PARENTING 22 TEEN GIRLS AT ONCE?  Jeanine makes it look almost easy!  Frankly, we are a bit in awe of Jeanine, and we thank her for her important work with MBB in Haiti.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Business Booster

What does it take for a woman in South Sudan to start a business of her own? A dream, determination to beat the odds, lots of hard work, an infusion of cash (well, actually, a loan) from Mercy Beyond Borders, and a boost of training and encouragement from Bro.Emmanuel.  He has long been dedicated to promoting the advancement of women and girls in S.Sudan, initially as bursar at St Bakhita Primary School, and now--after obtaining a master's degree in Finance Administration--as the Coordinator of MBB's Micro-Enterprise Programs in S. Sudan (not to mention: he's also our tech guru extraordinaire).  

Besides all his expertise, Emmanuel has a wonderfully positive outlook on life, with a quick laugh that  lifts spirits wherever he is.  MBB feels lucky to have him on our team!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Cessation of Hostilities"

Peace is, surely, much more than the "cessation of hostilities."  The agreement signed between warring parties in South Sudan on Jan 23rd commits the combatants to ceasing their acts of violence.  It will be, at best, only the first step in a long, long process of reconciliation, trust-building, and national unification.

South Sudan is less than 3 yrs old and, like a toddler, is still unsteady on its feet.  Too many men carry AK-47s. Too many hearts carry bitter memories of atrocities committed against family or friends.  Too many government leaders seem more intent on amassing personal power and wealth than on fostering development throughout the country.

MBB stands with the women and girls of South Sudan. They are the ones who can promote reconciliation. They are the ones who can move beyond tribal thinking. They are the ones who realize that "cessation of hostilities" is only the first step to lasting peace.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Everything you can imagine

Haiti is, of course, part of Hispaniola, an island in the Caribbean; it is the western half of the island that also contains the Dominican Republic.  Haiti has everything that you imagine a Caribbean island would have: palm trees, beaches, stunning views of the sea, lively music, plentiful tropical fruit, beautiful people. What it does NOT have, however, is a comfortable standard of living, because its assets have long been controlled by a few families while most of the population live in desperate poverty.
The week after Christmas, Mercy Beyond Borders treated its highest-performing Scholars to a week at a beachfront conference center for our annual MBB Leadership Training. There, the young women enjoyed a rare respite from poverty and a glimpse into the kind of development that can transform their homeland.  Today, Haiti is known primarily as "the poorest nation in the western hemisphere."  MBB is investing in Haiti's talented young women so that some day Haiti will be known as a beacon of reforestation and development, a mecca for businesses and tourists, a success story proving that educating females offers the surest path out of extreme poverty.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is She Happy, or What?

Darline, the Scholarships Coordinator for MBB in Haiti, has reason to be happy.  She and three dozen MBB Scholars just spent a week at the beach!  What's not to like about that?

Whereas the annual Leadership Trainings in S.Sudan take place on a dusty compound that lacks most amenities, the Leadership Training in Haiti took place during Christmas week at a stunningly beautiful conference center fronting on the Caribbean Sea.

The MBB Scholars and their chaperones enjoyed skills building activities, computer classes, team exercises--and time in the surf. For some, it was the first time to see the ocean. For all, it was welcome respite from the unrelenting stress of poverty.  Life is good!  Stay tuned for more pix in next week's blog post.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Brightly Shining in the Shade

Three young students at St Gabriel All Girls Primary School in Haiti study in the shade of a brick wall on campus.  MBB provides an unrestricted grant each year for this school--one of the finest in all of Haiti, and the only all-girls school in the Gros Morne region.  It is a national school, meaning that its teachers are paid by the government because of its recognized academic excellence, but the school has little other income to maintain its 120-year old building.  Many graduates of St Gabe's are now MBB high school Scholars and doing extremely well.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Who can lead S.Sudan to PEACE?

News of the attempted coup in S.Sudan on Dec 15th reached us just before we began the annual MBB Leadership Training week in Narus.  The brother of one of the participants phoned from Juba, the place where the violence erupted, to tell us about the killings.  Despite their very real anxiety for the safety of families and friends, 42 MBB Scholars buckled down and applied themselves to our leadership activities, computer skills training, and in-service course on gender-based violence. (Another dozen Scholars were unable to join us due to the road blockades.)

The next morning we were wakened at 5:00a.m. by the sounds of gunfire. A bit unsettling, I must admit--but it turned out to be a contingent of soldiers practicing their maneuvers on the soccer field behind our campus.  

S.Sudan needs these women leaders more than ever!  Meanwhile, we pray for PEACE to take root in all hearts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let There Be Light

After 28 hours traveling from San Francisco – Los Angeles – Amsterdam - Nairobi, I was more than ready to get off the 747 when it landed at Jomo Kenyatta Airport late last night. Amid a light rain we 350 passengers stepped cautiously down the slippery metal staircase into pitch darkness and were herded into buses going to the Arrivals Terminal.  We offloaded, however, into a completely dark building, shuffling like moles through an underground tunnel toward the immigration control stations.  There we attempted to “queue up”, as they say, for visas. Utter chaos!  The cavernous hall was completely black, overcrowded, stuffy and filled with more than its share of crying infants. We could not see the signs; the immigration computers were not working, the staff did not have sufficient cash to make change, and the luggage carousels were not functioning. After an hour of milling about, bumping into one another and stumbling over backpacks, we all erupted in cheers when airport workers appeared with portable lanterns. Another two hours evaporated before I made it to my transit destination across town: Villa Maria, the lovely Mercy Convent in Nairobi.  Ahhh, the joy of going horizontal in a real bed for the night! 

I tried to take a pix inside the terminal, but alas, this is what it looked like:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bling for MBB

Want to get some original new jewelry and help the women and girls of Mercy Beyond Borders at the same time?  Just visit the Strouse & Strouse Studio and Gallery in Pacific Grove, CA!  Sharon and Warren Strouse, the gallery's owners, graciously donate space for MBB volunteer Catherine Wilkinson to display and sell her artistic creations. Incredibly, ALL proceeds go to MBB! Sales have literally brought in thousands of dollars for our programs in Haiti and South Sudan. 

So, next time you are in the Monterey Bay area, please stop in to see, browse and buy!
Strouse & Strouse Studio and Gallery
178 Grand Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Smile: You're on Candid iPad!

The MBB Scholars in Haiti delighted in being with Valkyrie Anderson, French teacher from Mount de Sales High School in Macon, Georgia, when she accompanied Sr Marilyn to Haiti during November. Her official role was as interpreter (our MBB Coordinator, Darline, interprets Creole to French; Valkyrie helped with French to English).  Her unofficial role, however, was as "the bringer of smiles."  Everywhere she went, she was followed by a young crowd eager to hold her hand, touch her hair, or smile for her iPad camera!  (OK, maybe it helped that her pockets were full of candy to hand out.) Here she is at the Scholars' Lodge, surrounded by MBB Scholars eager to see themselves in living color.

Special thanks to Valkyrie for donating her time to MBB, and to her school administrators for generously allowing her a week off from school (on short notice!) and supporting her travel to/from Haiti.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Heartbeats of Haiti

 Liz Mulkerrin, a nurse from the SF Bay Area, joined Sr Marilyn on her November trip to Haiti.  Liz was able to screen nearly 400 young girls and MBB Scholars for very basic health markers: blood pressure, heart health, resting pulse, and signs of anemia or malnutrition.

Thank you, Liz, for donating your time and expertise through MBB!  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where in the World is Waldo?

Well, my name isn't Waldo, but I do travel the world to promote the mission of Mercy Beyond Borders. In any typical month, you''ll find me in at least 4 or 5 airports, speaking at schools or conferences or church groups or book clubs... (or to just about anyone who will listen!).

I'm passionate about the women and girls we work with in South Sudan and Haiti, and I have great photos and stories to share. If you know of any group that would like to invite me to speak, just let me know. But here's the deal: the sponsor has to pay my way and provide a stipend for MBB.  (And by the way, if you know Oprah, please put in a good word for MBB!)

In two days I'll be on my way to northern Haiti again. And next month, South Sudan.  Thank you so much for supporting this work!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

House Mom Extraordinaire

Soon after starting MBB's Scholarship program for girls in Haiti, we recognized that many of the Scholars did not have a safe place to live when they came down from their mountain homes to attend high school in town. So, we opened a Boarding House for them.  Then we hired a wonderful Haitian Mom, Jeanine, to be the house manager. Besides keeping a spotless household, overseeing the girls' daily duties, and organizing all the food purchasing and cooking, she counsels the girls -- and braids their hair!  Her presence is strong and caring.

Jeanine, like most Haitians I've met, is so accustomed to suffering that she does not realize it is excessive in Haiti. When I asked her how many children she had, she responded with a beautiful smile, "I have 7 children, of whom 4 are still alive."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Midwives share stories

Master Nurse Sr. Angela Limiyo, who manages the pre-Nursing Program for Mercy Beyond Borders, spent a week in Detroit last month as the guest of University of Detroit-Mercy School of Nursing and Health Professions.  Pictured here with Angela, left to right, are university faculty members Gail Presbey, Maureen Anthony and Judy Mouch.  Angela was particularly interested in midwifery practices in the US, since one in six women in S.Sudan dies in childbirth.

The School of Nursing at UD-M is generously sponsoring Diko Jeska, one of MBB's S.Sudanese nursing students, with a full scholarship in Africa.  With UD-M leading the way, MBB hopes that other Schools of Nursing in the US will consider partnering with us to sponsor additional nurses for South Sudan, a country with some of the worst maternal/child health statistics in the world.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Who said change is wonderful?  It doesn't always feel that way... After helping MBB for 5 years, our Office Manager, Coleen, has decided to move on to new adventures.... Aaaargh, so I am searching to hire the perfect replacement...Let's see, that would be someone who leaps tall buildings in a single bound, bilocates without breaking a sweat, works uncomplainingly with vendors and recalcitrant copy machines, finds data entry to be an utterly fascinating pasttime, and brings chocolates for the boss .... Well, seriously, MBB is accepting resumes for a 20 hr/wk Office Manager proficient in MS Office, Quickbooks, and Constant Contact, who can handle all our back-office functions and also work with the ED and Board to expand our social media presence. We definitely want someone passionate about our mission of partnering with displaced women and girls in ways that alleviate extreme poverty.  The ideal candidate will also be well-connected to the young adult population in Silicon Valley.

This is a contract position; $20/hr. w flexible scheduling.   If you know someone in the SF Bay Area who fits the bill, please encourage them to send a cover letter and resume to Thanks!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Yes, GOOGLE is a place!

Last month our staff from S.Sudan enjoyed a visit to California for some planning, and of course some R and R.  Here Dori Alexandre (left), our newest MBB Board Member from Haiti,  tours Emmanuel Dan and Edvine Tumwesigye around the Google campus in Mountain View where she works. We were rather awed by Google's employee perks: the 24 free cafeterias (!), onsite game arcade, laundry room and bowling alley, campus bikes, and transit buses.
And as if to emphasize how different things are in South Sudan, we learned that it is one of the last places on the planet not yet fully mapped by Google Earth!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Scholarly Pursuits

Meet Valencia, one of MBB's top academic scholars in Haiti. Her daily schedule demands much more than attention to books. She must also do the family chores, including washing the laundry in the nearby river. She's not complaining! She is thrilled to be on scholarship, secure in the knowledge that MBB will support her dream of becoming an agronomist. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Home, not alone

With childhood mortality extremely high, families in S.Sudan tend to bear many children. It then falls on the young girls to be caretakers of their even younger siblings. That's one reason (among many others) that girls have less opportunity to attend school. They are home--not alone--but taking care of their brothers and sisters.  It is not unusual to see a 5-yr old caring for several younger ones. That's just how it is if you are born female in S.Sudan.

Mercy Beyond Borders funds a weekly radio program in S.Sudan promoting girls' education and raising awareness of the long-term benefits for families when they allow ALL their children to attend school.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Businesses Rising!

Carolina knows a thing or two about baking bread over a charcoal fire. She is also business-savvy, opting to locate her bakery near a clinic and the offices of several major UN agencies. When her loaves rise, so do her profits!

Mercy Beyond Borders has given micro-loans to Carolina and 84 other women in S.Sudan.  Despite the many obstacles that women face in their culture, 79 of these loan recipients  have started successful small businesses.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The JOY of Learning

In this beautiful photo by Heather Peters, the village women of Tit Marial in S. Sudan gather for MBB adult education classes in a thatch-roofed shelter they built. Look at the joy on their faces: "We are worth more than cattle! We can learn to read and write and count!  And when we do, we will count!"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Precious Gift of Water

Mercy Beyond Borders was able to provide a solar water pump to the medical clinic at Kuron Peace Village, providing a ready supply of water to the staff and patients in that remote eastern part of South Sudan.  Being sick or injured in such a place is bad enough; being sick or injured and needing to walk many hours to get water and then haul it back on your head, is really tough.  Thanks to our generous donors, the Toposa people in Kuron Valley now have a reliable source of water at their clinic, in good times and bad.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Learning a Healing Touch

Sr Angela Limiyo supervises an MBB Pre-Nursing Intern (right) as she treat a sick child at the clinic. Angela is a master nurse. She provides classroom instruction as well as hands-on practical work for half-a-dozen young women each year: high school grads who will receive MBB scholarships to nursing colleges upon successful completion of their internship.  Angela will be in the Bay Area and speaking of her work in S.Sudan at the University of San Francisco on Sep 25th at 5:30pm, Fromm Hall. All are welcome!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bobcats rule!

Did you hear about the wild win by the Bobcats at Mother of Mercy High School in Cincinnati?  

No, we are not talking football; we are talking social media!  The school roused its students, faculty and staff, neighbors, relatives, colleagues,  and others around the world for several crazy weeks this summer to come out on top in a national competition. Then they turned around and handed the $10,000 prize to Mercy Beyond Borders.  Wow. Incredible! May your tribe increase!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Oh, remember how fun that day was?

Like school girls everywhere, our scholarship recipients in Haiti just LOVE to see pictures of themselves in action. Here we see two of them admiring the bulletin board photos of their participation in the 1st Annual MBB Scholars' Leadership Training week.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Visitors from South Sudan!

This week MBB in California hosted Sr. Philippa Murphy (below, right), an Australian who has been Principal of the high school in Mapuordit, South Sudan, where many Mercy Beyond Borders Scholars study. She has been particularly devoted to coaxing young married girls in the surrounding villages to return to school, a complicated but very important decision within their culture. Thanks to her hard work, the number of females at Mapuordit High School has increased more than sixfold, from 4 several years ago to 25 now! She is pictured here with Daniel, a member of the school staff, along with Daniel's mother.

In September MBB will be welcoming our African staff (Edvine, Emmanuel and Angela) to the US for several weeks: a chance to meet and interact with supporters, plan for program development, and enjoy some well-deserved R&R in the beauty of Calif.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Education from the ground up

Every day over 500 students cram into St Gabriel’s, the only all-girls primary school in Gros Morne, Haiti. This painted green and yellow and white wooden building has stood for more than a century and its stone steps have been worn down by thousands of little feet. It’s a happy place. Girls here know they can succeed. 

Typically 100% of St Gabe's graduates score well enough each year to go on to high school—though many do not have the financial wherewithal to do so.  Last year MBB provided high school scholarships to the school’s top 6 grads.  Many more will follow each year!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What did you say?

Ehara i te mea
no inaianei te aroha;
no nga tupuna
i tuku iho, i tuku iho.

I wish I could convey the strong melodic lilt of this Maori-language song which I heard sung by students and teachers when I was giving presentations in Auckland, New Zealand last month.  Its meaning is:

This is not a new thing,
this love; it comes
from our ancestors,
handed down, handed down.

Lovely lyrics, from the wonderful native people of Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.  And how true: the gifts we hold--whether land or faith or talents or hope-- are received from others, and meant to be passed on freely!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Week of Silence

From August 1-7 I will be on my annual silent prayer retreat.  I've so much to be grateful for... esp all you terrific supporters of Mercy Beyond Borders. Blessings abound!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Got Problems?

If you have any problems in your life ( and who hasn’t ? ), apparently this is the place to come: The Central Solution Center in Gros Morne, Haiti.  I’m not sure what they do or provide or sell there, but it might be worth a closer look!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Deforestation at its Worst

Everyone knows that the borders which appear as solid lines on maps separating one country from another do not actually exist that way on the ground.  The closest thing to it, however, may be the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. 

Both countries share one Caribbean island (Hispaniola, so named by Columbus) and both are decidedly mountainous and tropical. But if you fly across the island, you will instantly see one terrible legacy of the Duvalier dictatorships in Haiti. Whereas the Dominican side is heavily green with dense forests, the Haiti side looks as if a giant razor has shaved off all the trees, leaving only bare mountain and scrub. On the same mountain, one side will be forested, the other denuded. This nakedness runs the length of the island, delineating the border. 

The Duvaliers cut and sold 97% of Haiti’s once-wondrous forests, literally stripping the country to fill their private coffers.  Though the Duvaliers no longer rule Haiti, the naked mountains and eroded rocky farmlands stand as testament to the country they raped.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Marriages or Funerals, anyone?

Let’s hope there is some distinction between the two, and some span of years as well!  But in Gros Morne, Haiti, apparently one can take care of coming together and departing, in a one-stop shop.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Future of "Les Roses"

Take a good look at these pre-schoolers in Gros Morne, Haiti.  They are called les roses. Don‘t they deserve more than a few years of education?  Wouldn’t it be a crime if their schooling ended with primary grades? Given support and encouragement, surely they could become poets or pediatricians, researchers or reading specialists, foresters or florists , nurses or novelists.  MBB stands ready to offer them Scholarships to high school and beyond if they score well on their 6th grade certificate exams. Thank you for keeping their dreams alive!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Healing and Home for Quake Survivors

This blogpost and photo come to you from Coleen Higa, MBB Office Manager, who visited our Haiti projects recently:

It was such a delight to visit our scholars in Haiti last month! 

The slender young scholar who shows us into her home is vivacious, with lively, intelligent eyes and a quick smile.   Christelle is eager to introduce us to two of the cousins with whom she lives, and to her aunt, the matriarch of this apricot-walled home.

Many people returned to Gros Morne after the 2010 quake which devastated Port-au-Prince.  Like our young scholar and her cousins, tens of thousands lost loved ones in that disaster:  parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers. Those who managed to survive remain haunted by memories of being buried in rubble or hearing the cries of those not quite so fortunate. 

Christelle’s aunt  exudes warmth and solidity and strength.  Like so many others throughout Haiti, without hesitation she gathered up the young after the disaster, gave them refuge, made them safe.  With the support of people like you in the Mercy Beyond Borders network, girls like Christelle will learn to FLY!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Vending your vay" through life...

A few sweet potatoes. A handful of onions. Seventeen little tomatoes. Spread them out on a mat in the shade. Sit beside them all day. Sell them or barter them to feed your family. 

This scene plays itself out around the globe, every day, in places where the poor have never seen or even imagined a “supermarket.”  To vend is, quite simply, to live.  If you ask an MBB scholar (lucky enough to still have a mother) in South Sudan or in Haiti, “What is your mother’s occupation?” she will likely respond, “My mother  sells in the market.”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Where in the World is Gros Morne?

Guest Blog by MBB supporter Julia Shepardson:

Accompanying Sr Marilyn on a short trip to Gros Morne, Haiti, we visited the new dormitory for girls from remote areas, family homes of scholarship recipients, a school, as well as a hospital, markets, and a housing facility for the old and unfortunate. It is energizing to see how donations touch the lives of young women who, with an education, can have promising futures that will help Haiti help itself.

Gros Morne is a small town in the northern part of Haiti.  It is rural, extremely poor, with scenic beauty, and great human potential. From the International Airport on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the ride was supposed to take 3 hours.  On the outbound trip, we ran into a roadblock (locals protesting the lack of electricity) and the trip took 5 hours.  Our return trip had a different complication.  The villagers said “the bridge has fallen more than usual” due to heavy rains the previous night.  Inspecting our chances of getting through, we found huge holes in the bridge.  On both sides of the bridge, there were long lines of vehicles unwilling to chance a crossing. Unimaginable that anyone could make it through safely... Yet our driver expertly navigated between the abysses, one tire on the rim of the bridge and the other precariously hanging over a gaping hole.  Soon we were zipping back to Port-au-Prince, with these photos to back up our story!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Our Linguist in Haiti

Mercy Beyond Borders has had the great fortune to be assisted in Haiti by American volunteer Jennifer Prillaman, who spent the past year in Gros Morne as a volunteer in the Quest Program, which in turn allowed her to work part-time mentoring the MBB Coordinator. Jennifer has a natural gift for languages; fluent in French prior to coming to Haiti, within 2 months she was also proficient in Haitian Kreyol. She is pictured here with Danicka, one of MBB's Scholars.  

Only the well-educated speak French in Haiti. For MBB's daily work, therefore, our Coordinator functions in Kreyol and writes her reports to MBB in French.  When Sr Marilyn and others visit Gros Morne, Jennifer interprets Kreyol and French to English--seemingly without effort!  She radiates warmth, respect and obvious love for the Haitian people.

Thank you, Jen, for the many ways you freely helped MBB get established in Haiti.  We wish you all the best as you head to DC this Fall for graduate studies.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seeing Eye to Eye

In a bush just outside my hut in Narus, South Sudan, I spotted this long slim brown snake. I grabbed my camera and crouched down so that we were eye to eye. I have no fear of snakes; they do not have 8 legs.

Only later, when showing the photo to a Sudanese man who froze at the sight, did I learn that this was a dreaded BOOMSLANG (tree snake), one of the more venomous reptiles in all of Africa. I liked the name.

Back home, I researched it on Wikipedia: Male boomslangs are light green with black or blue scale edges, but adult females may be brown. Averaging 3 to 6 feet in length, boomslangs have excellent eyesight and will often move their head from side to side to get a better view of objects directly in front of them. (That object would be ME holding the camera a few inches from its large beady eyes. Now I know why she was swaying.) The boomslang's fangs inject a highly potent venom which prevents clotting. Victims bleed to death. I was lucky; we parted friends. I still like its name, which carries a decidedly inner city hip-hop feel, or maybe even a winning high school cheer: "Gimme a Boom, Gimme a Boom, Gimme a BOOOOOM-Slang!"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Scoop on Poop

We humans may believe we rule the world. We're at the top of the food chain. We build skyscrapers. We fly to the moon and back. We have iPhones.

But for an unsettling indication of what lies literally beneath our feet, go to South Sudan. Check out the towering termite mounds (obelisks, actually) that rise from the sun-baked earth, taller than most trees and solid as concrete. Think about how these monuments were created: millions of tiny termites munching their unseen way through life, generation after generation depositing their poop into communal skyscrapers of their own making.  We're definitely outnumbered. You've got to admit, it's a bit sobering.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Business not as usual

MBB supports S.Sudanese women's micro-enterprise groups in 4 locales. Pictured here with Sr Marilyn are some of the women entrepreneurs of Narus.  Their small businesses continue though some are struggling due to external changes: the population of Narus has plummeted over the past year due to inter-tribal fighting and also the natural migration of residents to the bigger towns where more opportunities exist for commerce. The main reason that people stay in dusty Narus, it seems, is because the St Bakhita schools there have such a good reputation.