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.
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!
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!
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."
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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!
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.
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!"
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.
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.
Poko fini, deja tonbe. That's Haitian Creole for "Not yet finished, already collapsed." Haitian proverbs communicate a certain wry humor amid the suffering that has so often been their lot in life.
I’m currently reading Amy Wilentz’s latest book on Haiti,
intriguingly titled FAREWELL, FRED VOODOO. It’s a post-quake meandering through
complex realities: the tortured history of foreign interventions on the island,
the resume-building do-gooders flooding Port-au-Prince now alongside the seasoned development experts, the resilience of
ordinary Haitians, the humor and the horror of reconstruction gone wrong. Some are questioning where all the money has gone, 3 years after the quake, when so many remain homeless and jobless.
MBB believes its decision NOT to work in Port-au-Prince, but
rather in the rural mountains half-a-day’s drive to the north of the capital,
allows us to have greater impact. Ask the 53 girls currently on MBB scholarships
there: they will tell you that MBB is the best thing ever to come into their
I'll be returning to Haiti for the week of May 20th to meet with staff and Scholars and to make certain that your donations are being well-spent!
David, an extremely tall and very regal Dinka who lives in Mapuordit, South Sudan, can tell you a lot about the danger of guarding cattle and goats. As a young teen he was keeping watch over his family's cows when he was attacked from behind in the darkness by a wild animal that gouged out both his eyes. He does not know the English word for the attacker: perhaps a jackal, perhaps a hyena, or a rabid wild dog. For sure, something vicious.
David has not let his total blindness--in a country where there are no services for the blind--prevent him from living a full life. He is the de facto leader of a simple compound for disabled persons. He is strong and upright and deeply gentle; his smile creases his whole face. He walks with great dignity, even when being led by a small child.
This morning I am sitting at Gate 46 in the Delta terminal
at SFO. There is nothing unusual about this. Today, I’m headed to Minnesota to
give several presentations about Mercy Beyond Borders. Next week, it will be
Michigan. Then Ohio. Then Haiti. In
between the trips, I spend a few days in California, working at the MBB office
, catching up on correspondence, meeting with colleagues--or doing laundry.
In truth, I am not
what you would call a good traveler: My stomach doesn’t like “weather.” The dry
recirculated air in the planes causes bouts of sneezing sufficient to alarm my
seatmates. And sitting is my least
favorite position. Despite this, I am happy. Every trip means more people
hearing about our MBB mission . Every new listener is a potential ally. Every new ally brings resources to improve
the lives of women and girls in S.Sudan and Haiti. What’s not to like?
Since independence 21 months ago, commerce has picked up inside South Sudan. More and more goods and services--mostly imported from Uganda and Kenya--have become available, at least in the major towns. However, this is not to imply that the needs of the people, particularly the poor, are being met.
Here we see a pharmacy on the main street in Rumbek, the 3rd largest town in the country. It's not exactly well-stocked and didn't inspire my confidence; but for people who have lived without any medical care for so long, this represents welcome progress.
Frisbees have come to St Bakhita School in South Sudan! Here the girls enjoy "being thrown a curve." Never mind the blazing sun or the hot sand. Keep your eyes on that aeronautic marvel, the fluorescent yellow spinning disc!
Females who do not go to school never get a chance to play, never know the sheer exhilaration of exerting oneself in team sports like (volleyball) or futbol.
For me it is real joy to see girls freely enjoying themselves during their school break times. It never happens out in their home villages, where girls know only tedious manual work, work, work. So besides gifting these young women with scholarships for education, your support of Mercy Beyond Borders literally gifts them with the fun and freedom that children everywhere deserve.
This young girl at St Bakhita Primary School in South Sudan was mesmerized by the content and color in this book from the school's new library, established by an MBB volunteer.
While she learns how and why flowers blossom, we see all the students here blossoming through the gift of education. Education opens their eyes to the world. Education opens a path for their own gifts to develop. Education opens a future for them -- a future that will sidestep the dangers and drudgery of early marriage.
One of the major challenges to ground travel in S.Sudan is the fact that there are many rivers but very few bridges. In the rainy season--8 months of the year--a swollen river or even a fast-moving stream means that travelers must either turn back or wait (hours? days?) until the water subsides. There was immense public jubilation, therefore, at the completion of this bridge outside of Rumbek town shortly after S.Sudan's independence. Once the parade had marched and the ribbon had been cut and the festivities had died down, the government sent a convoy of military tanks across the bridge in response to bombings further north by Khartoum. Alas, the bridge buckled under the weight of the rolling tanks and has been usable only by the brave since that day. Vehicles daring enough or desperate enough to chance a crossing must first let all passengers off, then inch slowly across to the uneasy tune of creaks and groans from bending timber and steel. I've walked across it twice myself but would never attempt to cross it in a vehicle. With a nod to Simon and Garfunkel, I've dubbed it the "Troubled Bridge Over Water." A bypass is currently under construction....
Question: What's one thing S.Sudan has plenty of ? Answer: Miserable roads! Here we see the road on which our Scholars' vehicle became mired in a muddy swamp en route to the December Scholars' Leadership Training week. September is supposed to be the dry season, but global warming seems to be scrambling the weather patterns. A day of rain was enough to create this mess. Luckily for our Scholars, a passing UN vehicle winched them out of the quagmire. Road travel anywhere in S.Sudan, however, remains pretty much a white-knuckle affair: if it isn't the mud, it's the bandits with their AK-47s, or the rising rivers (sans bridges) that make the way impassable. Even on the best of days, the bone-jarring ruts, punishing heat, and overcrowded vehicles make trips long and, well, memorable!
Sr Mary Mumu, organizer of the women's literacy classes sponsored by MBB in South Sudan, visits the women in Maleng Agok. The weather is oppressively hot, the roads miserably rutted, the housing nothing but thatch-and-mud. There are no 7-11's along the way to get a refreshing drink. There are no stationery stores to pick up class supplies. Yet she manages not only to find and hire good teachers but also to motivate the women to participate in these late afternoon classes as a "break" in their long workdays. Even more important than learning the alphabet, the women learn here that they are human beings with dignity and gifts, equal to their husbands, and with talent to contribute to the new nation. As one of the women said, "Even if you are nobody, here you are somebody!"
MBB's literacy classes for women in half a dozen rural villages of South Sudan are generally conducted out in the open, beneath a shade tree. The rule of thumb is BYOC: Bring Your Own Chair (or sit on a log). It gives new meaning to the phrase, "Take a seat...." Here we see two Dinka women at the end of class, carrying their plastic chairs back to their thatch huts after an hour of practicing the alphabet. The women come to these classes in the late afternoons, after working hard all day, and enjoy the respite and companionship before returning home to pound the maize and boil the water to prepare ugali for their families.
While in the town of Rumbek, South Sudan, I chanced upon this restaurant sign. Though I don't deduct for spelling--somehow the sign did not promote any confidence in the meals that might be prepared there. I walked on by....
Who among us doesn't enjoy seeing ourselves in print? Mercy Beyond Borders recently printed a few copies, via the magic of internet publishing, of a soft cover booklet containing pictures taken at St Bakhita Girls' Primary School. Those books now reside in the school's new library. The girls are fascinated to see themselves and their teachers in living color, looking official and important!
What has 10 fingers, 10 toes, and wears a big smile and a pillowcase? Each lucky girl at St Bakhita pre-school who received a sundress fashioned from a donated pillowcase!
Sewn by volunteers in the US and carried to South Sudan by Sr Marilyn in December, these brightly colored shifts were an instant hit with the girls, who vied with one another to have their picture taken in their new finery.
One of the hoped-for outcomes of the 2012 MBB Leadership Training week in South Sudan was the formation of new friendships among the Scholars from various parts of the country, different ethnic backgrounds, and a variety of academic interests. Nurses-in-training met peers who want to become pilots, surgeons, agronomists, and ambassadors. They laughed and learned and studied and played together. Here they show off their MBB t-shirts as they prepare to head homeward after the workshop ended.
As evidenced by this photo, Sr Edvine Tumwe-sigye related easily and warmly with the MBB Scholars during the 2012 Leadership Training Week. In her role as MBB Scholarships Coordinator for S.Sudan, she is tasked with visiting all of them at their various high schools and colleges throughout S.Sudan, advising them on their studies and career choices, coordinating their placements with the Administrators at their chosen schools, and implementing all policies for the Scholarships Program. Clearly the program is in good hands!
Fresh goat meat--a rare and real treat for the participants in the MBB Scholars' Leadership Training week--gets chopped by a butcher with a panga (machete) in the outdoor kitchen of the workshop compound. The chopping board is, well, literally a chopping board: a conveniently placed tree branch!
Toposa women arrive at the Narus compound, bringing wood that they have laboriously cut by hand, carried on their heads for several hours from a distant forest, and then proffered to the cooks at the MBB Scholars' Leadership Training site. The staff purchased it as fuel for the fires that they built outdoors each day to cook the meals for the 55 participating scholars and staff.