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.
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!
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!
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.