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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
St.Gabriel Primary School, the only all-girls school in Gros Morne, Haiti, is getting a new look. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from Mercy Beyond Borders, it has begun some reconstruction of its campus. The outhouses, which were literally tilting at a dangerous angle, ready to collapse, are being replaced. The main building, over 100 years old, also has considerable "deferred maintenance," as all available funding had been going toward education of the 500 girls rather than upkeep on the facility. Mercy Beyond Borders rejoices that we can play a small part in the rebuilding of Haiti's educational options for girls! By funding this construction, we provide jobs for Haitians as well as more safe and sanitary bathrooms for the girls.