Thursday, July 30, 2015

Good News for Haiti

MBB Scholar Isabel eyes her new best friend, Valki

MBB happily announces the addition of Valkyrie Anderson to our staff in Haiti.  Next week, Valki will assume the position of MBB Scholarships Coordinator.  (The staffer who previously held that position, Elisa Divoux, has been promoted to Country Coordinator.)
Besides a winning smile and personal warmth, Valki brings a gift for languages (French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Spanish--plus English), 4 yrs of teaching at the high school level, a knack for photography, and experience as a court-appointed advocate for children in foster care.  

Welcome  to MBB!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wheels without Worries

Driverless cars are here!  It's true: Google is test-driving its vehicles in the city of Mtn View, CA.  Hundreds of them are navigating  around the surface streets, quietly and smoothly negotiating traffic, pedestrians, obstacles, and intersections without so much as a hiccup or a lurch.

I love seeing them because it means we are one step closer to a world where the disabled can be more independent, where the elderly can "keep their license" even after vision or reflexes fail, and where the rest of us can get where we're going with less stress. It means eliminating the congestion and accidents caused by distracted or impaired drivers.  It means being able to sit back and enjoy a good book (or a nap) while commuting. It means wheels without worries.

Google believes these cars will be commonplace in 5 years. Of course, such marvels are still worlds away for places like South Sudan (where there are only 50 miles of paved road in the entire country) and rural Haiti. But some day.....

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Seaside Surprise

For sure Elisa, MBB Country Director in Haiti, has her hands full juggling MBB's growing scholarship program, its two boarding houses, daily computer classes and math tutorials, and the annual leadership camp. Lots of work with inevitable headaches! But it's also true that Haiti is a charming Caribbean island full of life and wondrous things to see and enjoy.  Here Elisa's hands are full of a seaside surprise: a transparent jellyfish she scooped out of the water during last summer's leadership camp.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Kwizin, anyone?

I know, I know: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  Nevertheless, whenever I visit our MBB programs in Haiti, I love being able to decipher at least some of the Kreyol words.  KWIZIN, of course, correlates with CUISINE which correlates with the KITCHEN in our Scholars' boarding lodge.  Credit Elisa Divoux, MBB Country Director in Haiti, with the artistic sign! And credit our House Mother Cooks with the enticing aromas and delicious meals that emerge every day from the KWIZIN for our resident Scholars.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why the fuss about girls' latrines?

These days nearly everyone recognizes the importance of girls' education for lifting families out of extreme poverty. It's trendy to brag about building libraries and schools. But what about the lowly latrine?

Thousands of teen girls in places like HAITI and SOUTH SUDAN miss school for up to a week every month. Why? For lack of latrines to take care of their sanitary needs.

Mercy Beyond Borders has funded the construction of new toilet facilities at St Gabriel All-Girls School in Gros Morne, HAITI. Here you see the cement flooring, and below, the laborer whose days of shoveling in the hot sun dug out the pit beneath.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We're Ready to Learn: So Please Stop fighting!

The women's hall in LangCok Military Encampment is ready now!  And the women are ready, too! This is the place where the women want to study literacy and numeracy, but only when violence subsides long enough in S.Sudan for classes to resume.  Inter-ethnic fighting continues to roil the country, making normal life impossible. Nearly half-a-million people have fled into neighboring countries since an attempted coup sparked the conflict in Dec 2013.  One-third of the remaining population is at severe risk of starvation in 2015, according to the UN.  

The world grows weary of this war story, but MBB will not abandon the women!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

For the Women of Gros Morne HAITI

Mercy Beyond Borders is expanding in Haiti!  We've leased this 2-story building adjacent to one of our Scholars' Boarding Lodges and are starting the slow process of transforming it into the very first WOMEN's CENTER in the region.
We know the women are excited--because they've told us!  During the summer months our staff in Haiti will convene Focus Groups to hear from the women about prioritizing programs; we'll get their advice regarding scheduling and staffing. 

We're excited, too! We're aiming for a Grand Opening in early 2016.  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Following the Soldiers in S.Sudan

The men in South Sudan are fighting. Always fighting.  And where are their spouses and children? Often they accompany their husbands/fathers, moving from place to place. Here we see Sr Mary Mumu (center), under the watchful eye of armed soldiers, listening to a mom as she describes the women's plans to build (by hand) a hall where they can gather for Literacy Classes. 

Sr. Mary supervises our rural women's Literacy Classes in South Sudan. Most recently she has befriended the women at LangCok Military encampment in Lakes State. Life is not easy for these military families, but the women are determined to keep learning. MBB stands with them to make that possible.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sacks of Happiness

Thirty-one sacks of peanuts! That's almost 7,000 lbs of crunchy protein....  

Those 7,000 lbs represent a triumph for Christine, one of the women participating in Mercy Beyond Borders' micro-enterprise project in the village of Ikwotos, South Sudan.  Coupling a modest loan from MBB with plenty of back-breaking farm labor, Christine vastly improved her harvest this year. She was also able to augment the work of her own hands by buying stock from other families fleeing the region's continuing instability. She now sells her peanuts (known as "groundnuts" in Africa) to local markets and schools.

Christine demonstrates the resilience of women eager to work their way up from extreme poverty. MBB is proud to stand with her and all the other women in our micro-enterprise groups.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Raising Readers

Everyone knows how important it is to nurture children in the habit of reading.  That's hard to do in places like Haiti, where a significant portion of the population has never been to school. Books are scarce even for those lucky enough to be in school; students rarely get their hands on a book that isn't a textbook.
Mercy Beyond Borders now has its own small (but growing) lending library in one of the Boarding Lodges for our Scholars in Gros Morne, Haiti. Most of the books are in French, the language of instruction at the high school level. Novels, biographies, adventure stories, romances (favorites!).  The world is opening up for our Scholars through reading...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Got Mud?

Welcome to summer in South Sudan! Next time you are traveling and tempted to complain (not that you ever would) about tedious lines at an overcrowded airport or a nasty pothole in your otherwise nicely paved highway or a roadside restroom that isn't, shall we say, quite up to your standards, consider the challenges of moving around in South Sudan during the annual 6 month rainy season, from April to September.  Only the brave need apply.... And yes, our intrepid MBB staff continue to "make the rounds" visiting our micro-enterprise women's groups and our scholarship recipients in far-flung locales across the-country-that-has-no-functioning-infrastructure.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Oftentimes the tallest object in an African village is a termite mound.  "Mound" is actually the polite way of saying "poop." Yes, termite who live under the ground excrete a substance that dries into somehing hard and concrete-like.
Year by year, the poop pushes higher into the sky, evidence of the zillions of unseen but active insects that live below.  We humans are very very much in the minority on this planet.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Chikungunya! Say it aloud:  CHICK-uhn-GUN-yuh.  What is it? 
Quick quiz:
a) It's the latest trendy dance craze.

b) It's a tasty creole dinner recipe

c) It's a nasty mosquito-borne illness

d) It's a newly-discovered Amazonian dialect

Pat yourself on the back if you answered "c". Chikungunya is a tropical disease transmitted by the daytime bite of a mosquito. Dubbed "break-bone disease" because of the joint pain it causes, it is similar to malaria. Its symptoms are usually more severe but less long-lasting. Chikungunya appeared for the first time ever in Haiti last year, apparently via mosquitoes carried in inadvertently by visitors. All the MBB staff in Haiti suffered from it for a few days before it mercifully ebbed.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Can You See What I See?

This preschooler at St Gabriel All-Girls School in Gros Morne, Haiti, is now seeing clearly for the first time in her life.  The gift of sight!  Brought by a team of volunteer optometrists and technicians from Lions In Sight, California, in partnership with Mercy Beyond Borders.  The team screened over 1,000 K-12th grade students in 2 days (in itself something of a miracle). The only disappointed kids were the ones who DIDN'T get glasses; apparently it was such a novelty that they ALL wanted a pair.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

With Your Best Foot Forward

Wherever there's a scrap of shade in South Sudan, that's where you'll find children studying, doing their best to get some relief from the searing heat.  No such thing as air conditioning, of course. Not even a cold drink (ever!).  With their backs against the hot cement and their feet sticking out into the sunshine, these girls know how lucky they are to be among the 650 students at St Bakhita Primary--the only all-girls' primary school in the nation.  MBB is proud to pay for their education.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Facing Life

You wake up before dawn in a mud hut. You trek hours for water that you carry on your head. You cut and haul firewood. You build the fire. You pound the maize. You cook for the family. You care for children and share with your neighbors. You dig (farm). If the rains come at the right time, you harvest. You bind thatch to build your house. You are treated by most men as "worth less than a cow." Yet you don't give up. You pray that the civil war will end some day. You dream about better things for your children. And all the while, you face life with a SMILE.

You, the strong women of South Sudan, amaze and inspire me!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"Where there's a wheel..."

Photo by Elisa Divoux

Yes, it must be true: "Where there's a wheel, there's a way."  (Who said that, anyway?) Surely we see evidence of it in rural Haiti, where folks fashion useful items out of bits and pieces left over from somewhere else, and where disabled persons fend creatively for themselves with determined ingenuity. Hats off to those who find a way even when life seems stacked against them.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Caribbean Beauty

Most descriptions of Haiti emphasize its poverty and the devastation that has resulted from its various natural disasters. Lesser known is the stunning beauty to be found in Haiti. Think Caribbean Sea. Think palm trees and white beaches. Think juicy mangoes and mouth-watering pork griot. Think friendly people. Lively culture. Vibrant art. Steel-drum music. Think beauty!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

(Not Mr.) Moto, Anyone?

The most common mode of transportation in mountainous northern Haiti, aside from walking, is to hail a “moto.” Anyone needing a quick way to get somewhere simply flags down a passing motorcycle, hops on, and then holds on for the wild and bumpy ride along gravel trails, skidding up and down steep hillsides (“Hang on to your hat!”), dodging startled goats and the children who inevitably call out: “Blanc! Blanc!”, splashing across streams (“You don’t mind getting wet, do you?”), slipping through narrow gorges (“Watch out for the cactus on your right!”).  Trust me, it's more exciting than the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland—and all for a few gourdes (pennies).  Try it some time!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Starting Out on the Wrong Foot?

Photo by Elisa Divoux
Well, every day can't start out right... but let's hope this person's day in Haiti got better after the sun came up!  Then again, when shoes are ill-fitting hand-me-downs, maybe left and right don't matter too much. And anyway, the color makes a splendid fashion statement.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Don't Leave Home Without It

Given all the travel that fills my calendar, it was bound to happen one day:  yes, I left home last week bound for Haiti. My passport, however, stayed home, snug in my purse on the chair in our living room, exactly where I left it when I grabbed the keys and strode out the door.  20 miles later, I realized my mistake and hurriedly backtracked to retrieve purse, passport, money, etc.  I made my flight—just barely—but my luggage apparently decided to linger at SFO. So, I had to wait around in Port-au-Prince another day (two, actually) to be reunited.  This turned out to be a pleasant interlude, giving me a chance to catch up with some good friends, but alas, it shortened my visit with the MBB staff and scholars in Gros Morne (which is 4 hours by vehicle to the north of PaP).  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

"I know I'm in Jail, but...."

There’s an old country-western song with the refrain, “I know I’m in jail, but what town is this?” There are days when I feel a bit like that (well, not the jail part, but definitely the where-in-the-world-am-I-today part). 

If I am hearing a Pentecostal preacher singing his heart out at 3:00a.m accompanied by roosters and braying donkeys, I must be in Gros Morne, Haiti. 

If I’m in a round mud hut with thatched roof, it’s definitely Narus, S.Sudan.  

If I’m wakened by a full-throated chorus of huge bullfrogs, it’s the rainy season in Rumbek, and they've invaded my shower room.  

If the pre-dawn call to prayer issues from a loudspeaker atop a minaret, I’m in Juba.  

And if it’s the roar of CalTrain rumbling along the railway tracks, I know I’m home sweet home in the Bay Area.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sweep Stakes

No teenagers enjoy doing chores. But when you get a group to do some volunteer work together as a team--like these MBB Scholars cleaning up the local church grounds in Gros Morne, Haiti-- suddenly it can seem like fun.

All MBB Scholars commit to doing monthly volunteer work to improve their communities is some way.  It's their way of "paying it forward" for having received an MBB Scholarship.

Not surprisingly, in places of extreme poverty like Haiti and South Sudan, volunteering is not yet a widespread practice. People are too busy just trying to stay alive and make ends meet.  MBB, however, sees volunteering as an integral component of leadership and so we require it of our Scholars. We like to make it enjoyable, too!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How do you get from Mapuordit to Atiaba ???

How do you get from one place to another in South Sudan? Carefully. Very carefully!  Don't even think of trying it during the rainy months; but even when the heavy rains have subsided, those innocent, shallow-looking streams will swamp a Land Cruiser faster than you can say, "Get me out of here!"

Here the vehicle founders and sinks as water swirls around it, nearly up to the driver's window. Amazingly, the engine did not roll over and die. Once the car was winched onto drier land (after several hours of mulling over the situation in the heat of the day), MBB staff were able to proceed to their destination.  Such are the joys of traveling in rural S.Sudan!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

In the Lap(top) of Luxury

Jasmin, wearing glasses, fits right in with the Scholars
During the months of February and March, Mercy Beyond Borders is blessed to have Jasmin Alic volunteer-ing in Gros Morne, Haiti. A former refugee from Bosnia and an experienced teacher, Jasmin is putting his time and talents to use in repairing and updating our computer lab laptops, in mentoring Willine, our Haitian computer instructor, and in taking photos/videos of our Scholars and activities while helping Elisa, the MBB Country Director, as needed.

Sr Marilyn will see him in action when she visits Gros Morne next week.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What in the world is H & R???

H & R... Hmmm, is it a British clothing store?  A new medical procedure?  An indie rock band? A California start-up?  None of the above. In South Sudan, H & R means only one thing: Hope and Resurrection Secondary School, a secure place where girls can board and study. 

H & R, located in Atiaba, is one of MBB's 2 new partnering schools in South Sudan (the other is Mazzolari Memorial HS in Rumbek).  H & R was founded by an American couple, is led by a S.Sudanese Headmaster, and is staffed by well-trained Ugandan teachers. In the photo, three of Mercy Beyond Borders' ten female H & R Scholars proudly hold their most recent academic report cards. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's the most widespread disability in the world?

Think about that for a minute... The answer may surprise you: the most widespread disability on the planet, by far, is VISION IMPAIRMENT.  3/4 of all Americans use some form of corrective lenses, but if you travel overseas to undeveloped places you rarely see anyone wearing glasses... Why? These populations have little or no access to vision screening, and no money to purchase what they need.  None of the hundreds of girls MBB works with in Haiti and South Sudan wear glasses; surely they will have a better chance of academic success when they actually see the blackboard or read without eyestrain.

Mercy Beyond Borders is partnering with Lions In Sight of California, a nonprofit project of Lions Club International.  Together we will bring a group of optometrists and opticians to screen the vision of 1,000 children in the town of Gros Morne, Haiti, during April and to provide free eyeglasses to those who could benefit.  We can hardly wait to SEE the results!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What's In a Name?

Morning Musa, Sunday Akongo, Stella Night. Susan Ikanga. Vionzy Keji. The MBB Scholars in South Sudan are beautiful young women whose names roll off the tongue like poetry. But many names also tell stories revealing the hardships surrounding their birth: 

“I am called Forest because I was born while my mother was running, fleeing the war, and so I came into this world in the thick forest where she was hiding.” 

“I am called “Abandoned” because my family abandoned my mother, since the children she birthed previously had died. When I was born no one wanted to come near to help her. Finally, an old woman befriended us and took us into her hut for six months until we were strong….”

“My name means “Substitute” because I was born after my two older siblings died in childbirth…”

My parents named me “Unlucky.”  I think my parents chose this name because it was a time of conflict and hunger and so I was one more child to feed.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Being Scanned for Ebola

By the time our plane landed at Nairobi’s international airport I was feeling somewhat groggy from 28 hours of travel. Along with the other passengers I shuffled down the stairs from the plane and onto the bus that delivered us to the airport Arrivals Hall. Before reaching the immigration visa processing stations we were told to form a single line (or "queue" as they say in Kenya) and to step up, one by one, to face a small camera-like device mounted from the ceiling.  It emitted a brief burst of light onto the forehead of each of us.  I deduced that we were having our temperature taken by some sort of laser. In fact, we were being screened for EBOLA. A sad reminder of the suffering of our neighbors in West Africa….

Kenyan military guard Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi where a fire destroyed one terminal last year.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Simon Says...

What if you had never played as a child?  What if you were 18 or 20 when first introduced to “Simon Says”?  The appeal of such a simple game must be universal; certainly it rouses our Scholars.  They erupt in laughter while playing it for a few minutes each morning during our Ldrshp Workshops in Narus and Kakuma, vying to be the winner.… Surrounded as they are by violence and family pressures to drop school and marry early, this brief respite of play is just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guns? or Books?

How long will it be before books replace guns in the hands of South Sudanese?  Barely 3 years old as a nation, South Sudan has regressed into civil war pitting the elected government against a strong rebel movement. The fighting, of course, is about oil and power and control of land.  But the suffering falls on the common people. 1.5 million of them are now displaced.  "When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled."  Mercy Beyond Borders continues its work of educating women and girls, firm in the conviction that it lays a groundwork for peace in the future. May 2015 bring the gift of PEACE for all!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Blessings!

I write from Narus, South Sudan, where Christmas means plenty of drumming and dancing, but never snow or tinsel... What does Christmas bring for the girl pictured here at St Bakhita Primary School? A break from studies, yes, and probably a trip back to her home village--which always means a mixture of joy and dread: JOY at seeing her family, but DREAD at the possibility of being married off by her parents or uncles, thus losing the chance to return to school, to develop her gifts, and to pursue the career she dreams about.  This Christmas, please remember your sisters and mothers and daughters in places like South Sudan.  We are all kin!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Heading Back to South Sudan

It's that time of year again: MBB is hosting its annual Leadership Training workshops in South Sudan. That means I hop on marathon flights today from San Francisco to Seattle to Amsterdam to Nairobi, then sleep a few hours before boarding another flight up to Lodwar, still in Kenya, then hop into a rented "taxi" for a 6 hr drive through the desert to Lokichokkio (affectionately dubbed "Loki"), where we will meet up with the vehicle cum driver from St Bakhita School who will ferry us the final 3 hours across the border to the first training site in South Sudan.  Banditry along these roads has increased ominously over the past few weeks. Pray that all the workshop participants and staff, including me, can arrive unscathed.

Wilson airport in Nairobi from which I will fly to Lodwar:

Each year I am heartened by the maturity of the Scholars. We'll be having fun together while also learning new material on female growth and development, adding to our computer skills, and exploring the values which are the hallmarks of every MBB Scholar: personal integrity, academic excellence, and compassionate action.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Light Work

A Scholar in Haiti checks out her new solar lamp. MBB provides a lamp to every young woman accepted into our Scholarship program.  Most use them to study at night, after all the household chores are finished. Some use them long before dawn, waking early to do their homework before walking to school.  Either way, the light helps them to keep up academically.  Light works!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Slippin' and Slidin'

Mud-slinging isn't just for politicians. In S.Sudan during the rainy season it's for everyone who attempts to take a vehicle onto the roads... Twice last month, our Micro-Enterprise coordinator ended up mired in mud when trying to get from one village to another to visit our women's groups. Of course, there is no AAA or cavalry to the rescue. You just look for stones to wedge beneath the tires, and you wait... and wait... and wait for another car with a winch and a good-hearted driver to help out.  Emmanuel waited 8 hours in the muck on this particular trek--plenty of down time to snap photos!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Little Slip on a Girl

What does it take to look like a beauty queen in South Sudan?  Just a pillowslip with armholes and spaghetti straps!

Mercy Beyond Borders thanks volunteers Virginia Fisher in Oregon and Sr. Lillian Connolly (along with her sewing circle) in Iowa who have combined their talent and pillowcases over the past year to send several hundred colorful, creative, climate-appropriate dresses to the pre-schoolers at St. Bakhita Girls Primary School in South Sudan.  Wish you could see the girls dancing in their new "gowns." There's nothing like a pretty dress to make a girl feel special!

All the girls at St Bakhita Primary join MBB in wishing you a wonderful THANKSGIVING!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is She Rich?

She's putting 1,000 Uganda Shillings into the till in her small roadside shop in Nimule, South Sudan. Is she rich?  Not quite: that bill in her hand is worth only 37 cents.  You'd need 3,000 Uganda Shillings to top $1 USD.  Though she may not be rich, she's happy because, after decades of war and destitution, she is finally on her way up from extreme poverty.  Having received business training and a small loan through the Women's Micro-Enterprise program operated by Mercy Beyond Borders, she expanded her roadside kiosk and doubled her monthly income. Now she can eat every day.  Buy medicine when her children are sick. Sleep better at night. These are big changes in her life. She's on her way up!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Haitian Beauty

Many people focus on what Haiti doesn't have, such as a robust economy, education for all, or enough jobs... Mercy Beyond Borders, on the other hand, focuses on what Haiti DOES have: beautiful people, eager learners, and a vibrant culture. Even in the most modest of houses in the mountains, you will find great care taken with color and decor and you'll be welcomed with an abundance of hospitality.

Early explorers called Haiti "the pearl of the Antilles." Once you meet Haiti's women and girls, you understand why. Here's Michenata, one of MBB's 104 high school scholarship recipients, smiling from the window of her family home.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Serving Raspberry Pi?

Neither a fruit dessert nor an irrational number, RASPBERRY PI is an ingeniously compact, remarkably powerful computer that fits in the palm of a hand. When augmented by a memory chip filled with instructional lessons and paired with a laptop server, the device becomes an instant library with its own built-in  local area network that makes the content available to all the laptops in the room.

They're perfect for our MBB Scholar computer labs in South Sudan and Haiti, where internet connections are still just a dream. Once the Raspberry Pi devices are configured, MBB staff will bring them to the sites where our Scholars are clustered, so that the students can access everything from A to Z--algebra lessons to zoology.  What a boon for schools that lack books or libraries!
We thank MBB Board member, Garick Chan, for moving this project forward!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Memento Mori

Photo by Elisa Divoux at a Haitian cemetery 2014

Memento Mori:  Remember Death.  In much of the West, where cultures obsess about youth, we go out of our way to skirt the topic of death. Not so in Haiti, where the deceased are still very much involved in the affairs of the living.  Voodoo practices engage the dead for blessings or curses. Cemeteries serve as meeting places for religious rituals. Such prayers evoke celebration as often as fear, in the awareness that generations living and dead remain linked.  In the words of a Haitian proverb: "When we dance, it is not only the living who are present." Think about that tomorrow night on Halloween, the eve of All Saints.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Paving the Way to Gros Morne

In many parts of Haiti, especially along the main south-north road, gravel is giving way to beautifully paved streets.  The transformation is nearly complete in downtown Gros Morne, where Mercy Beyond Borders works in Haiti,  Already, the sidewalks are finished on one side. Week by week, workers make progress on the street itself. Utility poles promise electricity soon. Lamp posts are now appearing here and there, always with a cluster of students beneath each one, studying into the night.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rainy Season Blessing and Curse

Rain in Haiti refreshes everything, sluicing away the dust from trees and trucks, making already-vibrant colors positively shimmer, and providing water for parched farms. Rain brings blessings.

Rain in Haiti also brings trouble. Rain breeds mosquitoes and causes serious erosion. Mountain streams swell to torrents that spread water-borne cholera,erode the topsoil, and make it risky for students to ford rivers on their way to school.

Intrepid MBB staffer Darline leans into a swift-flowing current when heading up into the mountains to visit the family of an MBB Scholar.

Photos by Elisa Divoux, MBB Country Coordinator in Haiti

Thursday, October 9, 2014

So Much More than an Exam

Photo at St Bakhita School by MBB's IT Specialist, Achemi Bakhita Adam 
Exams in South Sudan are so much more than academic measures. If you are a girl in S.Sudan, your very life may depend on the marks you score.

A low score means you cannot remain in school.  Not remaining in school means early marriage (most likely to an elderly man who can give your parents plenty of cows as a dowry). Early marriage means pregnancy and childbirth before your body is ready.  That means you stand a good chance of becoming a lifeless (literally) statistic: 1 in every 7 pregnancies in S.Sudan ends in the death of the mother before or during childbirth.

Your support of Mercy Beyond Borders helps girls stay in school and do well in their exams!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What's Round and Black and Flat All Over?

The creaky yellow school bus had seen better days; but the price was right, so 30 MBB Scholars and 6 staff, myself included, piled aboard on a recent Monday morning in Gros Morne, heading south to the Haitian coastal town of Arcahaie.  We expected a 3-hr ride to the conference center where we would enjoy a Leadership Training week together.

Every 20 minutes or so, the driver pulled to the side of the road, opened the hood, and poured water into the radiator. About halfway down the mountain, we heard ominous thumps. We thought luggage had fallen off the roof, but no, a tire had blown, spewing heavy strips of black rubber behind us. The driver inched the old bus forward for the next hour to a town that had an auto mechanic. We all stood in the noonday heat until the tire was replaced. C’est la vie. There is no hurry in Haiti.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Death and Life in Haiti

Invite an American high school freshman to write an essay on something memorable she has experienced, and you’re likely to hear about the first rock concert she attended or her recent vacation to Yellowstone.

Invite a Haitian girl to do the same and steel yourself to read about the early deaths of her parents, the disappearance of her brother during the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake (body never found); the motorcycle accident in the mountains that permanently scarred her arm. But these memories are balanced by joyful moments, too: astonishment at seeing the ocean for the first time while attending the MBB Leadership Training, or the excitement she could not contain on the day she was awarded an MBB Scholarship—so much so that she burst into tears, starting jumping around the house, and could not find words to explain to her neighbors her good fortune.

Death is never far away in Haiti, but that makes life each day all the more precious.  

MBB Scholars rejoice at the 2014 Leadership Training.