Thursday, September 11, 2014

Anniversary at the Beach

48 yrs ago I entered the convent. (OK. Do the math. I entered before I was born. Ha!)  On that day back in 1966, I felt that I was giving up everything in order to surrender my life to God. What a surprise to discover, over and over, that I had it entirely backwards: abundant blessings are coming my way every day. Proof enough: here I am, nearly five decades later, on a Caribbean beach, smelling the fresh salty air, enjoying the warm breeze, watching small fishing boats ply the waters.  It’s as if God pulled this scene from the magician’s hat: “Voila! A little something for your anniversary, Marilyn.” 

You may be wondering what I am doing on a Caribbean beach… Actually I am in Haiti, participating in the annual MBB Leadership Training with 30 of our best Scholars.  We’re working, but playing, too. Above all, we are busy giving thanks simply for being here….

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Don't look if you're squeamish!"

These are the moments that age me.

The night started out as any other Haiti night: humid and pleasantly warm. Heavy rain drummed on the roof and porch of the lovely old house where I stay in Gros Morne. I had just emerged from the toilet cubicle and, without bothering to turn on the light, walked through the dark corridor to my bedroom. Another volunteer then walked into the same corridor, flipped on the light switch, and lurched backwards, yelling, “Tarantula!”  Screams echoed off the walls.

There it was: a hunched, angular mass with impossibly hairy legs scuttling along the tile floor – exactly where I’d been walking a few seconds earlier. The monster was larger than my hand and considerably scarier. Our panicky shouts brought cavalry to the rescue. Hardier residents thwacked the dense black intruder with brooms and doused it with chemical spray.  I cowered at a safe distance, afraid to look directly at the battle, but more afraid of not knowing which way the besieged tarantula might run.
Suddenly there was silence. Dust hung in the heavy air. The bravest among us scooped the corpse into a dustpan and tossed it into the garden but my drama wasn't over quite yet. Somewhere I’d read that tarantulas travel in pairs. Who knows if it’s true? Perhaps it’s an urban legend but just to be sure I spent several tense hours perched on the side of my bed, eyes scanning the floor til long past midnight... 

Yes, such are the moments that age me. (I warned you not to look.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Laughing Her Head Off

As you read this, the top 30 MBB Scholars in Haiti are participating in the annual MBB Scholars' Leadership Week at a beachfront conference center.  Though Haiti is a small island, some of them have never before been to the coast.  The Scholar in orange enjoys the ice-breakers so much that she literally appears to be laughing her head off.

Besides having fun together away from stresses of home and school, these promising young women are exploring what it means to be an MBB Scholar and how they will, in their daily lives, be true to the Scholarship Program's 3 core values: personal integrity, academic excellence, and compassionate action.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Down and Dirty in S.Sudan

Does this look like a brand new vehicle to you? Well, it is!  But a few weeks on the roads--I use the term loosely--in South Sudan can take a serious toll on man and machine.

Pictured here is our intrepid MBB Country Coordinator, Bro Emmanuel, on his way to visit the remote villages where he supervises our women's micro-enterprise groups.

The photo below shows how much fun it can be to travel in the rainy season. Mud isn't the worst of it, though. Ambushes by bandits on one mountainous stretch of road between two of our program sites have claimed 15 lives in the past few months. Getting to and from the various MBB program sites is literally the most difficult and dangerous part of our work in South Sudan....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Important Moment for Hope

You've gotta love the spirit of the Haitian people!  Here is a mortuary in the town of Gros Morne (where MBB operates its Scholarships Program for girls). It's called "The Optimist Funeral Home." Feeling kinda dead? Not in the pink? Wondering if you've got your priorities straight?  This just might be the place that sparks adjustments in your attitude toward life...  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Smoke but No Mirrors

It's a common sight in the villages of South Sudan: women as well as men (and young boys) puffing on home-made pipes. Some of the pipes are plain, functional; others are carved and quite intricate. Either way, they deliver the buzz of nicotine to people who seek the temporary easing of hunger pangs, sadness, or the countless other burdens that accompany a life of extreme poverty.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weighing In

Not a fancy digital scale, but it works. (And there's no need to take your shoes off when you're not wearing any!) Here an MBB graduate and now Auxiliary Nurse at Kuron Medical Center in a remote corner of South Sudan carefully measures an infant's weight in kilos, one way to track healthy growth. Underweight, malnourished children get special attention.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fashion Comes Out A-Head

This young girl in South Sudan makes a fashion statement with her beads and braids. She's an eye-popping beauty!  Even those who live in extreme poverty somehow make themselves look GOOD. Amazing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rain Rain Go Away

I write this from California, a state perennially parched and desperate for rain.  Not so in South Sudan, where water pours from the skies at least 6 or 7 months of the year. Great for crops and thirsty cattle. Not so great for traveling by car.  If you look closely at the far upper left corner of the above pix, you will see the African equivalent of a AAA tow-truck: a farm tractor to winch hopelessly stuck vehicles and drag them to higher ground.  More than once, MBB staff and Scholars have had to spend the night sitting in such a swamp, waiting to be rescued. The mosquitoes enjoyed it more than they did!

Thursday, July 10, 2014


In some regions of the world, folk traditions portray storks as deliverers-of-babies. Whether flying the new arrival into Mom's house on a beak-slung diaper sling, or dropping it carefully down a chimney, storks play their whimsical role from country to country.  In South Sudan, the storks look large enough to deliver full-grown adults!
Pictured here is a saddle-billed stork, all decked out and ready for duty. The photo was snapped in E. Africa by Kathleen Connolly, RSM, an avid birder.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Too Many Legs to Stand On

Those of you who know me or have read my book are aware of my deep-seated fear of spiders.  Each morning while in South Sudan, I meticulously scan my clothing with a flashlight and shake each item vigorously to dislodge any creepy-crawlies. During the day I watch where I step. I examine smudges on the walls of the outhouse to make sure they do not have 8 legs. At night I worry that every shadow has legs.  I especially fear the spiders that hop (they love the outhouse, by the way). How can I defend against that? The locals laugh at me, but I don’t care.  They say I should instead worry about scorpions and snakes and centipedes and even certain thorn bushes (all very poisonous, some quite deadly). 

One night I heard loud thwacking in the kitchen adjacent to the room where we were eating dinner: “Thump! Thump! Thrrrump!” This continued for several minutes, accompanied by muttered grunts.  The cook had discovered a centipede, about 8 inches in length and apparently venomous, and was dutifully dispatching it to the afterlife.  I later viewed the corpse with curiosity but did not share the horror exhibited by the cook. THAT, I reserve for spiders!

Before its demise it looked something like this (a picture which I found later on the web).  And no, that is definitely not MY foot!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bruce, the Bat in my Tukul

Enjoy this excerpt from a FaceBook post by Valki , one of three wonderful American volunteers spending their summer vacation teaching at St Bakhita Girls' Primary School in Narus, South Sudan:

Valki in Haiti with an MBB Scholar (no pix yet from S.Sudan)

“Love my little tukul (hut). It’s round with teal door and teal windows. The walls are brick, concrete and the roof is thatched. I sleep under a mosquito net… The girls are sweet and full of song…. They come from many tribes. The Toposa have nose piercings (not allowed in their classes) and they giggle at the fact that I also have one. I tell them I am also Toposa because of this and they cheer loudly!
 “So far I am known as the one who attracts animals and bugs of all sorts, including a bat, Bruce, who hung out on my tukul for some time. I tried to feed him a raisin, but it seems he is not a fruit bat : )  In this first week I have two spider bites, a cat scratch, and a sizable ant managed to get trapped in my bra (and defend himself).  It is 9:25 pm now and—no joke—I opened my door because of a noise…and now I have a toad in my tukul. I think it is the very one that I caught yesterday.  Ha ha!"

Stay tuned for further installments of "The Adventures of MBB Summer Volunteers."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pharell Williams, Eat Your Heart Out

Pharrell Williams may think he has a corner on what HAPPY looks like. But he hasn't been to Narus, South Sudan. He hasn't seen the faces of these exuberant young girls rejoicing at the arrival of the new Land Cruiser that Mercy Beyond Borders brought to St Bakhita Primary School this month!


(I think there is a car in there somewhere...)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How's Your Creole?

With a bit of French vocabulary and a flair for sounding things out phonetically, you can decipher this public health billboard in Gros Morne, Haiti.  Oh, and it helps if you like rebus puzzles.

"Hygiene and Sanitation are the best protection against cholera."

Cholera did not exist in Haiti until after the 2010 quake. Epidemiologists have traced the start and subsequent deadly spread of the disease to one of the UN peacekeeping contingents sent to help the country recover from the quake. Thousands of Haitians have since died for lack of adequate prevention and access to health care.

As of May 2014 a cholera epidemic has also erupted in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. Over 170 have already perished. Again, its epicenter was a UN camp.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Long Way Home

When you travel in the mountains of northern Haiti, you will see people walking, walking, walking up and down the steep paths. Usually they carry heavy bundles on their heads. This woman has been down in the ravine to wash clothes in the river.  It's a long way down, hard work once you get where you're going, and then a long way home.  I think of this woman every time I pop my laundry into the washing machine at my place. I no longer take such luxury for granted.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Her Tattoos are WHERE???

It's a relatively recent craze for EVERYONE these days--not just athletes and entertainers--to sport a few classy tattoos.  The Toposa people of South Sudan, however, have a long head start over the rest of us. They have been wearing visual art for centuries. Forget tattoo parlors: their markings are inscribed with the sharp tip of a thorn, and then rubbed with ash to create a raised bas-relief effect.  Check out the artwork on this young woman in Narus, South Sudan!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Tiny Diplomat

Meet "John Kerry," born in Gros Morne, Haiti, last month and now perhaps the world's tiniest diplomat.  We met him at Alma Mater Hospital outside of the ward where his mother was being treated for malaria.  Proud Auntie was pleased to introduce Mr, Kerry to the visiting team from Mercy Beyond Borders!  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Saints alive!

Students who become MBB Scholars are permitted to select which high school they will attend (there are 4 in the town of Gros Morne). 70 of MBB's 84 Scholars in Haiti have chosen to attend Jean 23rd Catholic high school, perhaps because it is considered to be the premier school in the area or because most of the population is Catholic.  Here the Scholars are pictured with volunteer Elisa Divoux just a few days after the school's namesake was officially declared a saint by the Vatican.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ready, Set, COACH!

Elisa D. is no ordinary volunteer. She's already survived a 6-month stint in South Sudan, and is now embarking on another 6 months with Mercy Beyond Borders in Haiti. A native of France, Elisa converses easily in French with MBB Staff and Scholars in Gros Morne.  She will draw on her many years as a mother, organizer, community health educator and life coach to serve as mentor for Darline, the MBB Haiti Scholarships Coordinator, as we grow our programs there.  She's shown here with Darline, reviewing a weekly report. Welcome, Elisa!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Making Friends with Dinner

Living as I do in the United States--and being a city girl, not a farm girl--it isn't often that I get to talk to my dinner before eating it.... But on occasion I have actually ridden for several hours in the same car all the way from Lokichokkio, Kenya, to Narus, South Sudan (a distance measured in hours, not miles) with very feisty, vocal, unsuspecting roosters.  Here, the cook in Narus is having a few final words with our dinner.... Let's hope they were comforting!

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.