Thursday, May 28, 2009

Getting Around in Sudan

I don't complain any more about potholes in my home state of California. Not after traveling in Southern Sudan, where paved roads are almost nonexistent, where bridges often have been washed away completely by flash floods, and where Land Rovers must routinely negotiate riverbeds like the one in this photo. (Yes, in case you are wondering: our car crossed this river and made it up the steep bank on the left without toppling over.)

Besides being downright difficult, travel in Sudan is also dangerous. Too many soldiers from the long civil war kept their AK-47s after the peace agreement was signed. No longer employed as soldiers, and lacking other skills, they have resorted to ambushing vehicles to commandeer their contents. One of the 3 Ugandan Sisters with whom Mercy Beyond Borders works in this area was riding in a lorry that was attacked in March; Sr Angela was shot in the leg by the random gunfire and is still undergoing skin grafts at the hospital in Kenya to which she was evacuated.

Women, of course, are most at risk, as they must walk long distances on foot to collect water and firewood every single day. Eventually the country will build roads and bridges and provide safe passage for its people, but until that day, Mercy Beyond Borders is actively seeking ways to ease the dangers that women face. Mercy Beyond Borders has responded to a request from returning refugee women to provide bicycles for women in 10 villages. You can participate by donating to Mercy Beyond Borders, 1885 De La Cruz Blvd #101, Santa Clara, CA 95050, or using the PayPal button on our website:

Thank you!
Sr Marilyn, Exec Director
Mercy Beyond Borders

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peace opens the window for improvements

For several years, the faculty of St Bakhita School in Narus, Southern Sudan, lived in pup-tents on the school compound. No water, no electricity, no modern conveniences--yet somehow the men emerged from those tents each morning in crisp long-sleeved white shirts and the women in pristine long skirts and blouses. I still marvel at how they managed to do that, as I always looked like a dishrag wilted from the heat! Lodging was even more challenging for the students, whose dorms were actually corrugated iron shipping containers, stiflingly hot in the tropical sun and stacked with bunk beds. When I visited the school in 2004 and took this photo, the North-South civil war was still raging and the school had not escaped aerial bombings. Conditions were, to put it mildly, difficult for all.
Happily, the Peace Agreement signed between North and South in 2005 has opened the way for major improvements at the school. Now there are tukuls (round huts) for the teachers, hand-made brick dorms and cinder block classrooms for the students. There is a bore well for water to be manually pumped, electricity from a generator for two hours on most evenings, and the miracle of internet connectivity when the satellite link can be accessed for a few precious hours.
Funding from Mercy Beyond Borders has reduced faculty turnover by ensuring decent teacher salaries, provided tuition, room and board for hundreds of students, and enabled the school to expand its small herd of goats for the girls' better nutrition. Mercy Beyond Borders is just beginning. We look forward to increasing our support of St Bakhita Primary School and providing scholarships to higher education for girls who graduate from its Secondary School.
Approximately $1,000/year will support girls who have shown the ability and motivation to go on for professional training (e.g., in education or the medical field).
If you'd like to partner with us in helping these young women--the first generation of Sudanese girls ever to receive formal education--send your donation to Mercy Beyond Borders, 1885 De La Cruz Blvd #101, Santa Clara, CA 95050-3000. Or use the PayPal option at our website: You'll be glad you did!