Thursday, June 25, 2009

On my way...

Jambo! Early in July I will be flying from San Francisco to Chicago to Brussels to Nairobi to Lokichokkio (on the border between Kenya and Sudan) and then will travel northward by Land Rover into Sudan. If all goes as planned -- which is rarely if ever the case in Africa -- in Nairobi I shall be able to meet with contact persons from local agencies which also work with displaced persons: Mapendo, the Jesuit Refugee Services, and the Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace. The highlight of the trip, of course, will be in spending time with the girls whose education MERCY BEYOND BORDERS supports at St Bakhita School in Narus, Sudan, and the village women whom we are assisting with various income-generating projects. I especially want to explore options for the continuing education of St Bakhita graduates who want to pursue nursing or teaching careers.

'Tis the rainy season in Southern Sudan, so travel will be more challenging than usual, esp for this sun-loving Californian! I am bringing with me an electronic book reader, the Amazon "Kindle 2," to verify whether it can function in the extreme humidity and heat and dust, and whether it can successfully be recharged using a solar device. If the Kindle passes the "Sudan reality test" and also proves less appealing to termites than regular books, MERCY BEYOND BORDERS will seek ways in the coming year to supply our projects in Sudan with instant libraries. Each Kindle can hold over 1,000 complete books. What a boost that could be to schools in the bush!

At the moment I am stocking up on DEET spray, protein bars, and malaria pills. I will have stories and pix to share upon my return.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Women Hold Up the Sky

We all know the proverb, "Women hold up half the sky." In Africa, I believe that women hold up far more than that!

From what I have witnessed in Southern Sudan, it is the women who do all the heavy labor--not just the dangers of bearing children (Sudan has the world's highest death rate from childbirth), but also the risks of foraging for firewood and carrying water over long distances every day, the backbreaking work of growing vegetables on small plots of land, the manual pounding of maize, the constant worry of providing enough food for their children, the tending of the sick and elderly--the list goes on and on. Yet the women display remarkable strength in the face of adversities daunting enough to make most of us want to crawl into a fetal position. They liven the villages with song and dance. They dream dreams for their children's future. They pass on their values of hospitality and hope.

Mercy Beyond Borders is pleased to introduce Teody Achilo Lotto, who despite being a refugee for nearly 20 years has found innovative ways to hold up the sky. She and several colleagues founded the Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace and sponsored workshops for other refugee women in the camps: human rights, trauma healing, leadership skills, peace and reconciliation. Teody serves as liaison for MBB with groups of refugee women now leaving the camps and returning to their home villages. MBB values Teody's wisdom and experience and is honored to partner with her in lifting displaced women up from extreme poverty.