Thursday, December 27, 2012

S.Sudanese Scholarship Recipients Enjoy Leadership Course

On December 10th, forty-nine excited MBB High School and College Scholars and 2 chaperones met  in the town of Narus, South Sudan for the first-ever MBB Scholars' Leadership Training course. Getting there was the hard part; some traveled 3 days on dangerous roads, braving bandits, floods, and vehicle breakdowns. Being there was the fun part:  Bro. Emmanuel Dan taught computer classes; Sr Edvine Tumwesigye organized the team-building activities, and Sr Marilyn Lacey introduced the leadership exercises.  The interactive learning style was completely new to the participants, who are accustomed only to rote learning.  During the late-afternoon free time, most of the young women flocked back to the computer room to practice 10-finger typing via animated software. By popular demand, MBB will host the training again next year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Madonna with Child

Wishing warmest Christmas blessings to all, and the gift of peace to war-ravaged places in our hearts and in our world.

This Toposa mother and child remind us of the hope that comes with the birth of any child: hope for a better world, hope for lasting community, hope for resources freely shared that all may have enough for a decent life, hope that forgiveness can overcome violence, that love may be stronger than death, that we can embrace our common humanity and rise above whatever divides us.

Merry Christmas. A joy-filled New Year.  And deepest thanks for all the ways you support Mercy Beyond Borders in South Sudan and in Haiti!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Waste not, want not...

Carpenters in Haiti resourcefully recycle and re-use everything!  Here we see the nails being used in the renovation of the Scholars’ Lodge in Gros Morne, Haiti.  Upon seeing this bucket of rust, a construction worker in the US commented wryly: “Those nails already look fully depreciated to me!”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It Takes Two to Tangle

When you’re a preschooler, it takes two to tangle with a water pump at St Bakhita’s.  Both girls jump to grab the lever as they imitate the older girls in working the pump arm. Their body weight isn’t enough to bring it down; only a trickle of water emerges.  Soon enough they will become adept at the hard labor of hauling water for daily use. For them, the pump is a luxury. Most villages do not have one, and the women must walk long hours to find and bring home the precious water.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finishing Touches

Workmen balance on ladders and oil drums while renovating the Scholars Lodge in Gros Morne, Haiti. The residence, located on a quiet street behind the all-girls’ primary school (St. Gabe’s) and not far from the several high schools that MBB Scholars attend, contains 6 bedrooms, each with hand –crafted metal bunk beds that can sleep up to 20 girls along with the supervising House Mother. A smaller structure in the yard of the Lodge is being transformed into the MBB office and a dining area for the lodgers.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Not Quite Door-to-Door

Heavy rains drench S.Sudan for 7 or 8 months each year, flooding huge swathes of land and rendering all travel both difficult and dangerous. Roads, where they exist at all, degrade into mud and quicksand. South Sudan is home to The Sudd, the world’s largest swamp. When the rains come, crocodiles run. Flash floods kill.  When the dry season arrives and the water disappears, detritus from the wet season becomes visible.  Here we see a tanker truck that didn’t quite live up to its company name, having been sucked into the mucky riverbed halfway to its destination, like a rusted dinosaur doomed by its own weight. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Who's that?

Sylvie Dieckmann, the MBB tech volunteer/webmaster who accompanied Marilyn to South Sudan in 2011, returned on her own in October to teach computer skills for several weeks to the girls at St Bakhita’s in Narus.  Here she is in the village of Nacipo, not far from Narus, surrounded by Toposa fascinated by their images on her digital camera. For many it is the first time they have seen a picture of themselves, and they do not know whose image it is until another person says, “That’s you!”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Someone to Look After Us

During September, Mercy Beyond Borders formally opened its "Scholars' Lodge" in Gros Morne, Haiti (and yes, it's painted a bright Pepto-Bismol pink). Pictured here is Jeanine Sterlin, the newly-hired House Mother at the residence. 

Looking at the strength and calm resolve of her face, we can all be confident that Jeanine will be a steady, competent and caring supervisor for our young Scholars.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"For All the Saints..."

November 1st is traditionally ALL SAINTS DAY, a time for honoring those whose radiance lights their corner of the world and whose other-centered living inspires us to greater goodness.  This year Mercy Beyond Borders salutes BRIGITTE DECRE, a wonderful, longtime volunteer and MBB supporter who died several months ago, much too young. Born in France, she was a pixie of a person with a huge heart. Always sparkly-eyed. Always interested in others. Always generous with her time and treasure.  Brigitte loved the outdoors: hiking, biking, gardening, swimming.  She avoided the spotlight herself, but stayed busy behind the scenes making good things happen for others.  And this she did while battling cancer for more than a decade.  Even death could not stop her magnanimity: during her funeral in France, her family and friends collected over a $1,000 in donations for Mercy Beyond Borders. Love is truly stronger than death!  Brigitte, thank you, thank you, for gracing us with your presence.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Some things you never forget

Some images stick in your mind for a long time. This is one of them. When I was walking through the hospital at Mapuordit--one of the best hospitals in S.Sudan, by the way--this patient stared at me. Desperately thin and malnourished, motionless, with unblinking eyes that seemed to cover half her face, she stared at me.  I did not speak her language. I could not offer any cure. I did not know her life story. I could not imagine the depth of her suffering. I could only hold her hand for a while and murmur a prayer and resolve to work harder for Mercy Beyond Borders in raising scholarship funds to enable young Sudanese women to become nurses in this struggling new country.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Joy of Cooking

Never mind what Julia Child said: in my life "cooking" and "joy" don't honestly go in the same sentence. Many a day I come home a bit tired after work and wish I didn’t have to cook dinner. Of course, dinner at my place usually consists of about 10 minutes of micro-waving, chopping up a few raw veggies, and throwing together a salad from  mixings already chilling in the fridge. 

Preparing a meal in South Sudan takes considerably more work.  Haul the water. Find Firewood. Build a fire (dust off those Boy Scout skills!). Boil the water. Grind the grain. Stir. The process takes hours. Looking at this photo of the cook at St Bakhita Girls' School preparing the one daily meal for 400 girls, I resolve once again never to complain about my paltry domestic chores….

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's my name?

OK, all you budding ornithologists out there: what kind of bird is this? Julie Lynch, MBB volunteer, snapped its picture in Narus, South Sudan. 

I’d call it a ravishingly attractive, delicately long-tailed, strikingly colorful, gracefully balanced, azure-blue-breasted, white-cheeked, dusty-orange-backed, blue-necked, short-beaked, black-eyed beauty…. What would you call it?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Study in Orange and Blue

If I were an artist, I’d call this photo “A study in orange and blue.”  Look at how beautifully the women’s body wraps, headbands and jewelry match the colorful clinic wall behind them in Kuron, South Sudan.  Look at the composition, the lines, the balance. Look at the beauty of these two patient patients! Where is Gauguin when we need him?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Better than an Umbrella

No umbrella to shade your infant?  No problem!  Just use an empty gourd placed over the child’s head while slung papoose-style on mom’s back.  The Toposa women of South Sudan are endlessly inventive with what little they have.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spirits, anyone?

The practice of Vodou religion is widespread throughout Haiti, often co-mingled with practices from other religious traditions such as Catholicism.  Pictured here is a small roadside restaurant operated in Gros Morne by a local Vodou priest. Children from the nearby Catholic school are stopping by for a snack. Such sites fly a flag from a bamboo pole to signify the type of priest who lives there and who will (for a price) offer prayers or intervention with various spirits, for good or for ill.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On their way

Pictured here with Sr Marilyn are a few of the 67 Southern Sudanese young women currently studying on MBB scholarships. They gathered to say thanks to all of YOU who have donated to Mercy Beyond Borders. You've changed their lives and given them resources to pursue their goals of becoming journalists, agronomists, nurses, lawyers, engineers and yes, politicians. All of them speak of their desire to use their new skills to improve their fledgling new country.

Being with these young women, and knowing full well that without MBB Scholarships they would no doubt have already been given away in marriage by their parents, seeing their determination to make something better of their lives--well, these windows of opportunity are just HUGE!  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

By the time a visitor like me wakens at dawn, the local South Sudanese women have long been stirring: gathering firewood, hauling water, starting cooking fires, preparing breakfast.  With our sleeping huts and tents in the background, this photo shows the cook at Kuron Medical Clinic fixing our breakfast of “ugali.”  It’s made from ground maize and water, boiled to a polenta-like consistency.  Not much taste, but it fills one’s stomach for the day.  And I'm always grateful the preparation didn't depend on me!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

“I do!”

Each summer brings a new cohort of 7th graders into MBB’s Girls’ Scholarship Program in Haiti.  The program enrolled 32 new students this month, bringing the Haiti 2-year total to 48. Most come from very isolated, small schools in the mountains.  Being on scholarship means coming to the main town, Gros Morne (literally, big mountain) where they will sit in large classrooms and compete with dozens of others for perhaps the first time.  This photo shows the enthusiastic response of a 6th grade class in a remote Haitian school when asked, “Who wants to win this year’s MBB Scholarship?” 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Marilyn with a Haitian vendor

I am always impressed by the resilience  of women. In Haiti I see them tilling fields, hauling water, selling their home-grown mangoes or yams on the side of the road, holding their families together, and on the weekends, walking proudly to church in their glittery Sunday best.

I don't know if they ever fall prey to depression or feel like giving up. What I have seen is remarkable hard work, day after day--which of course is unremarkable for them. And that inspires me to do more for them and for the future of their daughters.  As the next step, Mercy Beyond Borders will be opening a Scholars' Lodge in Gros Morne, Haiti, this month to house the young women who live too far in the mountains to get to the high school where they are on MBB scholarships.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sudden Banana Death

While in Haiti recently I learned, much to my city-born-and-bred surprise, that a banana plant in Haiti takes only 9 months to reach maturity, at which time it bears armloads of fruit. Then it DIES back into the underground rootlike rhizome! Who knew it gave its very life for Chiquita?  
Ah, but here’s the Darwinian twist: before it reaches that fateful moment of sudden banana death, four or more banana sprouts have cleverly risen from the soil around the base of the dying plant to become thriving banana children themselves.  Nine months later, these offspring repeat the cycle. Amazing!  
And here are 2 more wondrous facts: botanically speaking, the banana plant is an herb, not a tree--and bananas themselves are actually berries! I’ll never look at a banana quite the same again.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The cooking rocks are still cold

During a June trip to Haiti, Sr Marilyn visited the homes of many of the MBB scholarship recipients. After 90 rugged minutes in a 4-wheel drive vehicle followed by a 20-min hike up a steep trail, we reached one home around noon. There we were welcomed warmly by the scholar's mother, older sister and younger siblings. At one point, our interpreter pulled me aside and said, "These children are hungry. Can't you see? Their cooking rocks are still cold."  Happily, we had brought trail mix and sweets to share.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Toposa Beauty

Life is not easy for the Toposa people of South Sudan, whose culture is semi-nomadic; they herd goats and cattle and build their homes as they go. Most of the children--and nearly all of the girls--remain unschooled. Yet they possess an almost royal dignity and beauty, even when dressed only in a blanket thrown over their shoulders.
This young girl was friendly and curious about my camera, flashing a delighted smile at seeing her own digital image. I was left wondering: What is she thinking?  Where will she be in 10 years? Will her daughters go to school?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is it S.Sudan or is it Haiti?

In some ways, South Sudan and Haiti are alike. Towns are dusty, filled with small shops and open-air kiosks selling everything from cooking oil to fresh goat meat. In both countries women balance heavy loads on their head. In both countries significant portions of the population have been displaced by war or natural disaster. In both countries females are severely disadvantaged in terms of education. In both countries the majority of the people live in extreme poverty (less than $1.25/day).

Yet there are clear differences, too.  In Haiti, work seems shared almost equally between men and women, whereas in S.Sudan it falls almost entirely on women. In Haiti, there is a functioning (albeit minimal) infastructure: there are paved roads, bridges, cell phone networks. There is electricity for those who can afford it. There are schools with trained teachers. Very little of that exists yet in South Sudan.  Some day. Some day.

PS:  This picture was taken in Haiti last month.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Global connections

QUESTION:  What do YOU have in common with 22 people in India, 16 in Ukraine, 482 in the US, 6 in Romania and 36 others around the globe?

OK, here's a hint: it has something to do with Mercy Beyond Borders....

ANSWER:  All 562 of you clicked on and read last week's MBB blog. That's right. In fact, you might have been reading it at the very moment a supporter in Italy or Australia or Canada or Germany was doing the same.  Somehow that's a wonderful possibility--that individuals so disparate in geography and culture can all come together through their shared concern for displaced women and girls. It's a whole new world!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rebuilding South Sudan

Students in Marial Bai build a new fence.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SOUTH SUDAN:  July 9th marked the 1-year anniversary of independence for the country of South Sudan.  A week earlier the US celebrated its 236th birthday, and I couldn't help but wonder what South Sudan will be like after 235 more years....For now, along with the hope and joy that independence brought, there is still considerable struggle.  Inflation rages. Border bombings from the North claim lives. Tribal differences flare into violence.  Trained teachers, doctors and other professionals are few and far between.  Nevertheless, the people sing and rebuild.  Here we see the students at Valentino Achak Deng Secondary School--where Mercy Beyond Borders supports 10 girls on full scholarship--hefting heavy logs to build a fence for the school.  Everyone pitches in. After all, they're building a new country from scratch!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Home Sweet Home in Haiti

This is a typical Haitian home in the rural northern region of Gros Morne. It's common for 5 or 6 persons to share a one room dwelling. Some families own the land and cultivate corn, bananas, watermelon, peppers, squash and mangoes. Others work on larger farms. There is usually sufficient rain, but water conservation is minimal and erosion is a huge problem, made worse by the deforestation during the Duvaliers' dictatorship era. In these mountains, elementary schools often have only a half dozen students per grade level and the teachers are not well-qualified. The students, however, seem eager to learn--and the 6th grade girls each year are now eagerly vying for MBB scholarships.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A long way to school

Several of the Haitian young women on MBB scholarship walk 3 hours or more each way from their homes in the mountains to reach the town of Gros Morne, where they attend school.  En route, they climb up and down the steep mountains in the predawn darkness and wade across several rivers on foot. And they have to get to school by 7:00a.m.!

Because of such hardships, MBB has decided to lease a home in town that can be transformed into a boarding place for the girls who live at a distance and have no relatives to stay with in town. These girls deserve a safe place with time for study...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer internship

Mercyhurst University (Erie, PA) undergrad Caitlin Handerhan, left,  pauses while hiking in the mountains of Haiti for a photo with Sr Marilyn. Both spent 8 days in Gros Morne, Haiti, visiting the homes of the Mercy Beyond Borders' scholarship women during June as part of Caitlin's 3-wk internship with Mercy Beyond Borders.  MBB will add 34 more young women to its scholarship rolls in the Gros Morne region later this summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Chicago hosts MBB Founder

The founder and exec director of Mercy Beyond Borders, Marilyn Lacey, RSM (left), gave the undergrad commencement address at St Xavier University in Chicago on May 13th, receiving her 3rd honorary doctorate in the process.  She urged the new grads to translate their passion into compassion and to use their talents for making the world a more welcoming place for strangers.

Marilyn is pictured here with University President Christine Wiseman. This was Marilyn's 3rd commencement speech since founding MBB; she says it's an excellent way to awaken young adult audiences to the mission of MBB. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

That's gotta hurt...

Guinea worm, an incredibly painful water-borne parasite that grows inside the human body and then exits through a skin lesion, has been eradicated everywhere in the world except in S.Sudan. Once the worm begins to extrude from the skin, the caregiver must gently twirl it around a stick without breaking it until it has completely emerged. The process can take 3 days and is always accompanied by extreme pain.  Here a stoic Sudanese endures without flinching as Sr Angela eases the worm out.

On the Road

There is some truth to the ol' "Flying Nun" image: over the past 6 months I have visited South Sudan and Haiti, and represented Mercy Beyond Borders by giving numerous presentations in Canada, Australia and throughout the United States: Illinois,  Georgia, Pennsylvania, California, Kentucky and Indiana, to name a few!  Always in the hope of raising awareness about our Mercy Beyond Borders mission and of raising funds where feasible. Each audience is unique. One day it's hundreds of healthcare execs and the next day it's a parish book club.  Sometimes it's a university commencement speech in front of thousands, and sometimes it's a girls' leadership club comprised of a few dozen 4th and 5th graders in an elementary school.  It's all good!  Though I am still waiting for Oprah to call (apparently she doesn't yet realize she needs to meet me!), I am always energized by the willingness of listeners to become involved in our work.  In this pix I am speaking to 450 high school teachers and administrators in Melbourne; and as you read this I am  meeting our young MBB Scholars in Haiti....

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Almost Stranded High and Dry

If Sr Edvine, Principal of St Bakhita School ever writes a memoir it would read like an adventure novel:
--Murder on the school grounds: yes, an intruder was shot to death attempting to steal the school’s goats;
--Marooned by floods: yes, when the river between the school and the diocesan compound rises during the rainy season, she cannot get home at night and has to sleep at the school; and
--Stranded in the desert:  As you can see in this photo, the vehicle Edvine was using to visit scholarship girls in another town became hopelessly stuck in the shifting sands of a dry wadi (riverbed).  She and the driver spent hours in the punishing heat attempting to free the car. 

What a pioneer!  Despite all the drama in her life, 3 of her students placed in the top 5 among all 8th grade students in the first-ever statewide exams in South Sudan.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Net loss?

Officials at the World Health Org would cringe to see this picture: a mosquito net being used by an enterprising young boy in the dusty outskirts of Narus, South Sudan, for his soccer game. One can only hope that at sundown the net will be reinstated over the child’s bed to fend off malaria. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

In Haiti we’ve discovered an unfortunate correlation between the distance a student must walk to get to school and her marks in the classroom: the greater the distance, the lower the marks. Some of the MBB scholarship recipients in Gros Morne, Haiti, walk several hours to and from school each day. By the time they reach home and finish their domestic chores, daylight is gone. Lacking electricity, the girls could not study.   MBB recently delivered solar lamps to each of the scholars so that now they have a decent chance to do well in school.  Here a grateful MBB Scholar poses for a photo holding her lamps.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

One Precious Life

These days there isn’t too much to smile about in S.Sudan. Its neighbor to the north (Khartoum) is once again sending Antonov planes to drop bombs on South Sudan villages.  President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum has warned that the people of South Sudanese are “vermin who don’t deserve to live.”  Free translation: “We need to destroy the South Sudanese living on the oil-rich land that I want.” 
But this precious young child is smiling as she leaves Mapuordit Hospital, cured of malaria.  And for the moment, that is news good enough for her Mother.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

And the winner is.....

Mercy Beyond Borders is now 4 years young!  And we've just reached another milestone as well: our one-millionth dollar donated since the day we were born!  Thanks to you, our generous supporters, we hit that mark this past month.  The donation that tipped us over the top was $100 from Marie Ziobro in Baltimore.  We'll be sending Marie an MBB coffee mug as our tiny way of saying THANK YOU.  We only wish we could do the same for ALL of you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Healing or Harm?

During March and April the government of Sudan (Khartoum) resumed its deadly aerial bombing into South Sudanese territory, further destabilizing the fragile new nation.  Bombs have targeted UN offices and also hit civilian villages.

South Sudan, in response, moved troops to the shared border and briefly captured a town inside Sudan, later withdrawing at the behest of the UN.  Both sides claim the oil fields in the poorly demarcated border areas.

Now there are rallies and urgent campaigns throughout South Sudan to recruit youth into the military to "defend the homeland."  South Sudan has also instituted austerity measures that cut funding for education and healthcare in order to conserve resources for the conflict many fear is now inevitable.   Whether South Sudan heads for healing (symbolized by the MBB pre-nursing interns bringing polio vaccinations to this remote village) or for harm (a return to the days when every male carried an AK-47), no one knows.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Paradise, anyone?

Volunteer Sylvie ponders whether Paradise Lodge in Rumbek (the 3rd largest town in South Sudan) might be a good choice for her next vacation. Let's see: it's within walking distance of the open market and the local prison; it is located on a tree-lined street; it probably isn't too expensive.... It has a restaurant and bar... but probably no running water or colorful postcards to send home saying, "Wish YOU were here, too."  Best of all, it's guaranteed, like every place in South Sudan, to have wonderful, welcoming people. And that's the truth!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Isn't she lovely?

I snapped this photo back in 1998 in Kakuma Refugee Camp--a barren, dusty corner of northern Kenya desert that was the artificial home for 82,000 refugees.  On this particular day a small dark cloud swept across the sky, bringing a sudden welcome downpour.  Everyone ran out from their mud-and-thatch huts, lifted their faces to this gift from the heavens, and began dancing in the rain.

This young girl, perhaps 4 yrs old, appeared at my side, wearing only a gunny sack. With her sweet smile and her skin glistening from the fresh rain, she was as beautiful as a queen.

That was 14 yrs ago. Where she is now, I do not know. But I dearly hope she has had a chance for education.  That is my hope for all young girls around the world, but especially in places like South Sudan where primary education is only now becoming a real possibility for females.  Mercy Beyond Borders is happy to be part of that change--as welcome as unexpected rain in a desert place.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

G'Day, Mates!

Meet Natalie, Amy, Laura, (me), Johanna, Erin, and Thea, pictured here on the campus of  "The Academy of Mary Immaculate" secondary school in the heart of beautiful Melbourne.  I spent a delightful week in Australia speaking to these talented young women leaders and hundreds of their peers now enthused about the mission of Mercy Beyond Borders. After they finish university, they're all coming to S.Sudan as volunteers!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The patient in bed # 71

Among Christians it is traditional to re-enact during Holy Week the foot-washing done by Jesus for his disciples on the night before his death.  In the village of Mapuordit, South Sudan, the local young adults have started the practice of  washing and massaging with lotion the feet of the patients at the local hospital. Here Sr Philippa, who accompanies the young adults, tends to the weary feet of the patient in bed #71. Such acts of service communicate respect and great tenderness and the hope for healing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

As you read this blog, I am "down under" in Melbourne, Australia, speaking to a number of schools about the mission and work of Mercy Beyond Borders.  I'll be sharing the stories of  resilient women like Anna (shown in this photo) who have used micro-enterprise loans from MBB to start or expand small businesses in South Sudan.  Here Anna shows the packaged charcoal she will sell in the open market of Narus. Every little bit of extra income helps her family, especially since rising inflation this year has added new hardships to already-struggling families.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Any room at the inn?

The lack of safe, adequate housing remains a huge problem in Haiti since the earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince in 2010. Here you see shaky buildings still stacked on the steep hillsides of the capital, vulnerable to collapsing from mudslides and worse. What is less visible, however, is the overcrowding that has become commonplace in very rural areas of Haiti since  thousands of Haitians fled Port-au-Prince after the quake and migrated to more distant regions to live with relatives or friends.  The result?  A mismatch between the hundreds of nonprofits that rushed to the capital city to  rebuild(which of course needs to be done) and the tens of thousands of ordinary Haitians now living in remote areas where there never were many resources and where there is now serious overcrowding of homes and overburdening of infrastructure.  That is one of the main reasons that Mercy Beyond Borders has chosen to work in rural, mountainous Gros Morne, 5 hrs north of Port-au-Prince.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Getting water daily is women's work in Africa.  Most girls and women carry the heavy jerry-cans on their heads, a graceful balancing act that defies gravity. This enterprising young girl has found another means of transport: she pushes a wheelbarrow holding several jerry-cans (each one weighing 55 lbs). That's one way to build up your biceps!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

You start with dirt...

There are no Home Depots in S.Sudan. If you want to build a house, first you make the bricks.  Then you let them bake in the sun (kilns are rare). Then you haul them to your chosen site. Then you build.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Faculty lunchroom

All of you teachers out there, be honest: have you ever complained about the state of your faculty lunchroom? Too crowded. Too messy. Too noisy. Too stuffy.  Next time you're tempted, refer back to this photo of the teacher "lounge" at St Bakhita School. One small room in a cinderblock row, with no window pane to keep out the fierce dust storms and no air-conditioning to temper the searing heat and no microwave for preparing your lunch and no sink for washing your coffee mug (and no coffee, either!).  Just one rough plank table and a few plastic chairs. No four-star amenities in sight!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mr. Cool

Looking like an ad either for teeth whitener or the latest mod sunglasses, this Toposa youth proudly flashes a grin while wearing a pair of shades borrowed from an MBB volunteer. Some things need no translation!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Is Her Future?

Look at the face of this young girl whose picture I took in Narus, South Sudan, two months ago.  Wearing a cotton cloth and plastic beads, she is as beautiful as a queen arrayed in gold and silk. Undoubtedly she lives in a hut made of sticks and mud, with a dirt floor and surrounded by a ring of thorny branches to keep out the wild animals at night.  Her ethnic group, the Toposa, are semi-nomadic. They travel widely with their goats and cattle. They rarely allow any of their daughters to enroll in school.

But this girl is in Narus town today, where she sees other girls enrolled at St Bakhita School--girls learning to read, playing in the school yard, having a meal every day.  So, what is she thinking? And what is her future?

Mercy Beyond Borders hopes the day will come soon when EVERY girl in South Sudan can go to school, can develop her gifts, can contribute to the new country as an educated woman.  Thanks to you, we now have Toposa girls on full academic scholarships. Thanks to you, they have hope!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rainy Day

Photo by Kathleen Connolly, RSM
The rains finally came. And came. And came!  South Sudan has been drenched in rain these past few months. Everything is green. But as you can see in this photo, the children get their water from the same ponds where their animals drink.  It is not hygienic.  Mercy Beyond Borders taught basic health workshops for 2 years in a number of villages, urging women to boil the water to make it safer for cooking and drinking.  Cultural habits, however, do not change easily.  We believe that, in the long run, the education of girls will be the most critical factor for improving the general health of the whole population.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lunch for 500, anyone?

Not being very adept in the kitchen, I can attest to the anxiety that grips me whenever we host a houseful of guests for a meal here in California. 12 friends coming for Christmas dinner?  How ever will I manage?

The women who cook for the girls at St Bakhita's have my complete admiration. They prepare a meal every day for the school's 500 girls.  They don't do it by hopping in a car and driving to the nearest grocery store. They don't do it with a microwave or a self-cleaning oven. They don't do it with electricity or any of the other conveniences that I take for granted and that make my feeble cooking complaints pitifully hollow.

They do it by winnowing the grain, then sorting it by hand to toss out stones or bugs. They haul the water, prepare the firewood, cook in huge pots that need to be scrubbed and re-scrubbed. They do it bent over from the waist for hours; they tend the fire that fills their eyes with dangerous smoke.  And they do it singing, happy to have a paying job. Lunch for 500, anyone? Step right up!