Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Blessings!

I write from Narus, South Sudan, where Christmas means plenty of drumming and dancing, but never snow or tinsel... What does Christmas bring for the girl pictured here at St Bakhita Primary School? A break from studies, yes, and probably a trip back to her home village--which always means a mixture of joy and dread: JOY at seeing her family, but DREAD at the possibility of being married off by her parents or uncles, thus losing the chance to return to school, to develop her gifts, and to pursue the career she dreams about.  This Christmas, please remember your sisters and mothers and daughters in places like South Sudan.  We are all kin!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Heading Back to South Sudan

It's that time of year again: MBB is hosting its annual Leadership Training workshops in South Sudan. That means I hop on marathon flights today from San Francisco to Seattle to Amsterdam to Nairobi, then sleep a few hours before boarding another flight up to Lodwar, still in Kenya, then hop into a rented "taxi" for a 6 hr drive through the desert to Lokichokkio (affectionately dubbed "Loki"), where we will meet up with the vehicle cum driver from St Bakhita School who will ferry us the final 3 hours across the border to the first training site in South Sudan.  Banditry along these roads has increased ominously over the past few weeks. Pray that all the workshop participants and staff, including me, can arrive unscathed.

Wilson airport in Nairobi from which I will fly to Lodwar:

Each year I am heartened by the maturity of the Scholars. We'll be having fun together while also learning new material on female growth and development, adding to our computer skills, and exploring the values which are the hallmarks of every MBB Scholar: personal integrity, academic excellence, and compassionate action.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Light Work

A Scholar in Haiti checks out her new solar lamp. MBB provides a lamp to every young woman accepted into our Scholarship program.  Most use them to study at night, after all the household chores are finished. Some use them long before dawn, waking early to do their homework before walking to school.  Either way, the light helps them to keep up academically.  Light works!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Slippin' and Slidin'

Mud-slinging isn't just for politicians. In S.Sudan during the rainy season it's for everyone who attempts to take a vehicle onto the roads... Twice last month, our Micro-Enterprise coordinator ended up mired in mud when trying to get from one village to another to visit our women's groups. Of course, there is no AAA or cavalry to the rescue. You just look for stones to wedge beneath the tires, and you wait... and wait... and wait for another car with a winch and a good-hearted driver to help out.  Emmanuel waited 8 hours in the muck on this particular trek--plenty of down time to snap photos!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Little Slip on a Girl

What does it take to look like a beauty queen in South Sudan?  Just a pillowslip with armholes and spaghetti straps!

Mercy Beyond Borders thanks volunteers Virginia Fisher in Oregon and Sr. Lillian Connolly (along with her sewing circle) in Iowa who have combined their talent and pillowcases over the past year to send several hundred colorful, creative, climate-appropriate dresses to the pre-schoolers at St. Bakhita Girls Primary School in South Sudan.  Wish you could see the girls dancing in their new "gowns." There's nothing like a pretty dress to make a girl feel special!

All the girls at St Bakhita Primary join MBB in wishing you a wonderful THANKSGIVING!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is She Rich?

She's putting 1,000 Uganda Shillings into the till in her small roadside shop in Nimule, South Sudan. Is she rich?  Not quite: that bill in her hand is worth only 37 cents.  You'd need 3,000 Uganda Shillings to top $1 USD.  Though she may not be rich, she's happy because, after decades of war and destitution, she is finally on her way up from extreme poverty.  Having received business training and a small loan through the Women's Micro-Enterprise program operated by Mercy Beyond Borders, she expanded her roadside kiosk and doubled her monthly income. Now she can eat every day.  Buy medicine when her children are sick. Sleep better at night. These are big changes in her life. She's on her way up!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Haitian Beauty

Many people focus on what Haiti doesn't have, such as a robust economy, education for all, or enough jobs... Mercy Beyond Borders, on the other hand, focuses on what Haiti DOES have: beautiful people, eager learners, and a vibrant culture. Even in the most modest of houses in the mountains, you will find great care taken with color and decor and you'll be welcomed with an abundance of hospitality.

Early explorers called Haiti "the pearl of the Antilles." Once you meet Haiti's women and girls, you understand why. Here's Michenata, one of MBB's 104 high school scholarship recipients, smiling from the window of her family home.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Serving Raspberry Pi?

Neither a fruit dessert nor an irrational number, RASPBERRY PI is an ingeniously compact, remarkably powerful computer that fits in the palm of a hand. When augmented by a memory chip filled with instructional lessons and paired with a laptop server, the device becomes an instant library with its own built-in  local area network that makes the content available to all the laptops in the room.

They're perfect for our MBB Scholar computer labs in South Sudan and Haiti, where internet connections are still just a dream. Once the Raspberry Pi devices are configured, MBB staff will bring them to the sites where our Scholars are clustered, so that the students can access everything from A to Z--algebra lessons to zoology.  What a boon for schools that lack books or libraries!
We thank MBB Board member, Garick Chan, for moving this project forward!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Memento Mori

Photo by Elisa Divoux at a Haitian cemetery 2014

Memento Mori:  Remember Death.  In much of the West, where cultures obsess about youth, we go out of our way to skirt the topic of death. Not so in Haiti, where the deceased are still very much involved in the affairs of the living.  Voodoo practices engage the dead for blessings or curses. Cemeteries serve as meeting places for religious rituals. Such prayers evoke celebration as often as fear, in the awareness that generations living and dead remain linked.  In the words of a Haitian proverb: "When we dance, it is not only the living who are present." Think about that tomorrow night on Halloween, the eve of All Saints.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Paving the Way to Gros Morne

In many parts of Haiti, especially along the main south-north road, gravel is giving way to beautifully paved streets.  The transformation is nearly complete in downtown Gros Morne, where Mercy Beyond Borders works in Haiti,  Already, the sidewalks are finished on one side. Week by week, workers make progress on the street itself. Utility poles promise electricity soon. Lamp posts are now appearing here and there, always with a cluster of students beneath each one, studying into the night.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rainy Season Blessing and Curse

Rain in Haiti refreshes everything, sluicing away the dust from trees and trucks, making already-vibrant colors positively shimmer, and providing water for parched farms. Rain brings blessings.

Rain in Haiti also brings trouble. Rain breeds mosquitoes and causes serious erosion. Mountain streams swell to torrents that spread water-borne cholera,erode the topsoil, and make it risky for students to ford rivers on their way to school.

Intrepid MBB staffer Darline leans into a swift-flowing current when heading up into the mountains to visit the family of an MBB Scholar.

Photos by Elisa Divoux, MBB Country Coordinator in Haiti

Thursday, October 9, 2014

So Much More than an Exam

Photo at St Bakhita School by MBB's IT Specialist, Achemi Bakhita Adam 
Exams in South Sudan are so much more than academic measures. If you are a girl in S.Sudan, your very life may depend on the marks you score.

A low score means you cannot remain in school.  Not remaining in school means early marriage (most likely to an elderly man who can give your parents plenty of cows as a dowry). Early marriage means pregnancy and childbirth before your body is ready.  That means you stand a good chance of becoming a lifeless (literally) statistic: 1 in every 7 pregnancies in S.Sudan ends in the death of the mother before or during childbirth.

Your support of Mercy Beyond Borders helps girls stay in school and do well in their exams!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What's Round and Black and Flat All Over?

The creaky yellow school bus had seen better days; but the price was right, so 30 MBB Scholars and 6 staff, myself included, piled aboard on a recent Monday morning in Gros Morne, heading south to the Haitian coastal town of Arcahaie.  We expected a 3-hr ride to the conference center where we would enjoy a Leadership Training week together.

Every 20 minutes or so, the driver pulled to the side of the road, opened the hood, and poured water into the radiator. About halfway down the mountain, we heard ominous thumps. We thought luggage had fallen off the roof, but no, a tire had blown, spewing heavy strips of black rubber behind us. The driver inched the old bus forward for the next hour to a town that had an auto mechanic. We all stood in the noonday heat until the tire was replaced. C’est la vie. There is no hurry in Haiti.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Death and Life in Haiti

Invite an American high school freshman to write an essay on something memorable she has experienced, and you’re likely to hear about the first rock concert she attended or her recent vacation to Yellowstone.

Invite a Haitian girl to do the same and steel yourself to read about the early deaths of her parents, the disappearance of her brother during the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake (body never found); the motorcycle accident in the mountains that permanently scarred her arm. But these memories are balanced by joyful moments, too: astonishment at seeing the ocean for the first time while attending the MBB Leadership Training, or the excitement she could not contain on the day she was awarded an MBB Scholarship—so much so that she burst into tears, starting jumping around the house, and could not find words to explain to her neighbors her good fortune.

Death is never far away in Haiti, but that makes life each day all the more precious.  

MBB Scholars rejoice at the 2014 Leadership Training.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pesky Little Thing

All it takes is one.  One tiny, whiny, dive-bombing mosquito aiming for my ear in the dead of night.  An insect so miniscule that its mass barely registers as there at all can reduce my 120 lbs to a sleepless, irritable mockery of my usual self. 

I thrash about in the dark (as if that’s going to scare it away). I try wrapping myself in the sheet (good for approximately 10 seconds, until death by malaria, dengue fever or chikungunya seems preferable to death by stifling heat). 

I extricate myself from the mosquito net, grab my flashlight, and search for holes. Aha! a tiny rip! It might as well sport a neon sign: ENTER HERE, All Ye Who Come to Suck Blood!  I scrunch the netting around the hole, pull it into a cord and tie off the hole with a satisfied flourish. Done.  

I tuck the netting back under the mattress with great care and collapse back onto the bed, only to hear that same maddening buzz. I realize that I have sealed the mosquito inside with me. Aaargh. We begin again, Goliath v. David.  It promises to be a long night here in Haiti.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Anniversary at the Beach

48 yrs ago I entered the convent. (OK. Do the math. I entered before I was born. Ha!)  On that day back in 1966, I felt that I was giving up everything in order to surrender my life to God. What a surprise to discover, over and over, that I had it entirely backwards: abundant blessings are coming my way every day. Proof enough: here I am, nearly five decades later, on a Caribbean beach, smelling the fresh salty air, enjoying the warm breeze, watching small fishing boats ply the waters.  It’s as if God pulled this scene from the magician’s hat: “Voila! A little something for your anniversary, Marilyn.” 

You may be wondering what I am doing on a Caribbean beach… Actually I am in Haiti, participating in the annual MBB Leadership Training with 30 of our best Scholars.  We’re working, but playing, too. Above all, we are busy giving thanks simply for being here….

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Don't look if you're squeamish!"

These are the moments that age me.

The night started out as any other Haiti night: humid and pleasantly warm. Heavy rain drummed on the roof and porch of the lovely old house where I stay in Gros Morne. I had just emerged from the toilet cubicle and, without bothering to turn on the light, walked through the dark corridor to my bedroom. Another volunteer then walked into the same corridor, flipped on the light switch, and lurched backwards, yelling, “Tarantula!”  Screams echoed off the walls.

There it was: a hunched, angular mass with impossibly hairy legs scuttling along the tile floor – exactly where I’d been walking a few seconds earlier. The monster was larger than my hand and considerably scarier. Our panicky shouts brought cavalry to the rescue. Hardier residents thwacked the dense black intruder with brooms and doused it with chemical spray.  I cowered at a safe distance, afraid to look directly at the battle, but more afraid of not knowing which way the besieged tarantula might run.
Suddenly there was silence. Dust hung in the heavy air. The bravest among us scooped the corpse into a dustpan and tossed it into the garden but my drama wasn't over quite yet. Somewhere I’d read that tarantulas travel in pairs. Who knows if it’s true? Perhaps it’s an urban legend but just to be sure I spent several tense hours perched on the side of my bed, eyes scanning the floor til long past midnight... 

Yes, such are the moments that age me. (I warned you not to look.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Laughing Her Head Off

As you read this, the top 30 MBB Scholars in Haiti are participating in the annual MBB Scholars' Leadership Week at a beachfront conference center.  Though Haiti is a small island, some of them have never before been to the coast.  The Scholar in orange enjoys the ice-breakers so much that she literally appears to be laughing her head off.

Besides having fun together away from stresses of home and school, these promising young women are exploring what it means to be an MBB Scholar and how they will, in their daily lives, be true to the Scholarship Program's 3 core values: personal integrity, academic excellence, and compassionate action.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Down and Dirty in S.Sudan

Does this look like a brand new vehicle to you? Well, it is!  But a few weeks on the roads--I use the term loosely--in South Sudan can take a serious toll on man and machine.

Pictured here is our intrepid MBB Country Coordinator, Bro Emmanuel, on his way to visit the remote villages where he supervises our women's micro-enterprise groups.

The photo below shows how much fun it can be to travel in the rainy season. Mud isn't the worst of it, though. Ambushes by bandits on one mountainous stretch of road between two of our program sites have claimed 15 lives in the past few months. Getting to and from the various MBB program sites is literally the most difficult and dangerous part of our work in South Sudan....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Important Moment for Hope

You've gotta love the spirit of the Haitian people!  Here is a mortuary in the town of Gros Morne (where MBB operates its Scholarships Program for girls). It's called "The Optimist Funeral Home." Feeling kinda dead? Not in the pink? Wondering if you've got your priorities straight?  This just might be the place that sparks adjustments in your attitude toward life...  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Smoke but No Mirrors

It's a common sight in the villages of South Sudan: women as well as men (and young boys) puffing on home-made pipes. Some of the pipes are plain, functional; others are carved and quite intricate. Either way, they deliver the buzz of nicotine to people who seek the temporary easing of hunger pangs, sadness, or the countless other burdens that accompany a life of extreme poverty.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weighing In

Not a fancy digital scale, but it works. (And there's no need to take your shoes off when you're not wearing any!) Here an MBB graduate and now Auxiliary Nurse at Kuron Medical Center in a remote corner of South Sudan carefully measures an infant's weight in kilos, one way to track healthy growth. Underweight, malnourished children get special attention.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fashion Comes Out A-Head

This young girl in South Sudan makes a fashion statement with her beads and braids. She's an eye-popping beauty!  Even those who live in extreme poverty somehow make themselves look GOOD. Amazing.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rain Rain Go Away

I write this from California, a state perennially parched and desperate for rain.  Not so in South Sudan, where water pours from the skies at least 6 or 7 months of the year. Great for crops and thirsty cattle. Not so great for traveling by car.  If you look closely at the far upper left corner of the above pix, you will see the African equivalent of a AAA tow-truck: a farm tractor to winch hopelessly stuck vehicles and drag them to higher ground.  More than once, MBB staff and Scholars have had to spend the night sitting in such a swamp, waiting to be rescued. The mosquitoes enjoyed it more than they did!

Thursday, July 10, 2014


In some regions of the world, folk traditions portray storks as deliverers-of-babies. Whether flying the new arrival into Mom's house on a beak-slung diaper sling, or dropping it carefully down a chimney, storks play their whimsical role from country to country.  In South Sudan, the storks look large enough to deliver full-grown adults!
Pictured here is a saddle-billed stork, all decked out and ready for duty. The photo was snapped in E. Africa by Kathleen Connolly, RSM, an avid birder.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Too Many Legs to Stand On

Those of you who know me or have read my book are aware of my deep-seated fear of spiders.  Each morning while in South Sudan, I meticulously scan my clothing with a flashlight and shake each item vigorously to dislodge any creepy-crawlies. During the day I watch where I step. I examine smudges on the walls of the outhouse to make sure they do not have 8 legs. At night I worry that every shadow has legs.  I especially fear the spiders that hop (they love the outhouse, by the way). How can I defend against that? The locals laugh at me, but I don’t care.  They say I should instead worry about scorpions and snakes and centipedes and even certain thorn bushes (all very poisonous, some quite deadly). 

One night I heard loud thwacking in the kitchen adjacent to the room where we were eating dinner: “Thump! Thump! Thrrrump!” This continued for several minutes, accompanied by muttered grunts.  The cook had discovered a centipede, about 8 inches in length and apparently venomous, and was dutifully dispatching it to the afterlife.  I later viewed the corpse with curiosity but did not share the horror exhibited by the cook. THAT, I reserve for spiders!

Before its demise it looked something like this (a picture which I found later on the web).  And no, that is definitely not MY foot!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bruce, the Bat in my Tukul

Enjoy this excerpt from a FaceBook post by Valki , one of three wonderful American volunteers spending their summer vacation teaching at St Bakhita Girls' Primary School in Narus, South Sudan:

Valki in Haiti with an MBB Scholar (no pix yet from S.Sudan)

“Love my little tukul (hut). It’s round with teal door and teal windows. The walls are brick, concrete and the roof is thatched. I sleep under a mosquito net… The girls are sweet and full of song…. They come from many tribes. The Toposa have nose piercings (not allowed in their classes) and they giggle at the fact that I also have one. I tell them I am also Toposa because of this and they cheer loudly!
 “So far I am known as the one who attracts animals and bugs of all sorts, including a bat, Bruce, who hung out on my tukul for some time. I tried to feed him a raisin, but it seems he is not a fruit bat : )  In this first week I have two spider bites, a cat scratch, and a sizable ant managed to get trapped in my bra (and defend himself).  It is 9:25 pm now and—no joke—I opened my door because of a noise…and now I have a toad in my tukul. I think it is the very one that I caught yesterday.  Ha ha!"

Stay tuned for further installments of "The Adventures of MBB Summer Volunteers."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pharell Williams, Eat Your Heart Out

Pharrell Williams may think he has a corner on what HAPPY looks like. But he hasn't been to Narus, South Sudan. He hasn't seen the faces of these exuberant young girls rejoicing at the arrival of the new Land Cruiser that Mercy Beyond Borders brought to St Bakhita Primary School this month!


(I think there is a car in there somewhere...)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How's Your Creole?

With a bit of French vocabulary and a flair for sounding things out phonetically, you can decipher this public health billboard in Gros Morne, Haiti.  Oh, and it helps if you like rebus puzzles.

"Hygiene and Sanitation are the best protection against cholera."

Cholera did not exist in Haiti until after the 2010 quake. Epidemiologists have traced the start and subsequent deadly spread of the disease to one of the UN peacekeeping contingents sent to help the country recover from the quake. Thousands of Haitians have since died for lack of adequate prevention and access to health care.

As of May 2014 a cholera epidemic has also erupted in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. Over 170 have already perished. Again, its epicenter was a UN camp.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Long Way Home

When you travel in the mountains of northern Haiti, you will see people walking, walking, walking up and down the steep paths. Usually they carry heavy bundles on their heads. This woman has been down in the ravine to wash clothes in the river.  It's a long way down, hard work once you get where you're going, and then a long way home.  I think of this woman every time I pop my laundry into the washing machine at my place. I no longer take such luxury for granted.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Her Tattoos are WHERE???

It's a relatively recent craze for EVERYONE these days--not just athletes and entertainers--to sport a few classy tattoos.  The Toposa people of South Sudan, however, have a long head start over the rest of us. They have been wearing visual art for centuries. Forget tattoo parlors: their markings are inscribed with the sharp tip of a thorn, and then rubbed with ash to create a raised bas-relief effect.  Check out the artwork on this young woman in Narus, South Sudan!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Tiny Diplomat

Meet "John Kerry," born in Gros Morne, Haiti, last month and now perhaps the world's tiniest diplomat.  We met him at Alma Mater Hospital outside of the ward where his mother was being treated for malaria.  Proud Auntie was pleased to introduce Mr, Kerry to the visiting team from Mercy Beyond Borders!  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Saints alive!

Students who become MBB Scholars are permitted to select which high school they will attend (there are 4 in the town of Gros Morne). 70 of MBB's 84 Scholars in Haiti have chosen to attend Jean 23rd Catholic high school, perhaps because it is considered to be the premier school in the area or because most of the population is Catholic.  Here the Scholars are pictured with volunteer Elisa Divoux just a few days after the school's namesake was officially declared a saint by the Vatican.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ready, Set, COACH!

Elisa D. is no ordinary volunteer. She's already survived a 6-month stint in South Sudan, and is now embarking on another 6 months with Mercy Beyond Borders in Haiti. A native of France, Elisa converses easily in French with MBB Staff and Scholars in Gros Morne.  She will draw on her many years as a mother, organizer, community health educator and life coach to serve as mentor for Darline, the MBB Haiti Scholarships Coordinator, as we grow our programs there.  She's shown here with Darline, reviewing a weekly report. Welcome, Elisa!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Making Friends with Dinner

Living as I do in the United States--and being a city girl, not a farm girl--it isn't often that I get to talk to my dinner before eating it.... But on occasion I have actually ridden for several hours in the same car all the way from Lokichokkio, Kenya, to Narus, South Sudan (a distance measured in hours, not miles) with very feisty, vocal, unsuspecting roosters.  Here, the cook in Narus is having a few final words with our dinner.... Let's hope they were comforting!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Poverty Costs an Arm and a Leg

Women living with Hansen's Disease in Mapuordit, S.Sudan

Most areas of South Sudan are still mired in extreme poverty. Perhaps that makes you think of hunger, or lack of access to education. True enough. But it also means lack of available health care, a deficit that can literally cost you an arm and a leg.

Hansen's Disease (leprosy), when not treated on time and consistently, maims its sufferers. Victims lose fingers and toes, perhaps even a nose. Despite its lingering stigma, this disease is completely treatable--that's why it is almost never seen in developed countries.  That it still exists in places like South Sudan is a wrenching reminder of how our world's resources are not equitably distributed.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Hair-Raising Experience

MBB Scholars in Haiti pledge two hours of volunteer service in their communities each month. In Gros Morne, a group of Scholars spend their time with the residents at Maison Bon Samaritan, a place for neglected elderly. Last week two girls braided the hair of the women there while others washed clothing or helped with general cleaning.

Volunteerism is a new concept in many developing countries.  MBB believes it's vital for all of its Scholars to give back, generously and regularly.  Volunteer work builds the Scholars' self-confidence and provides opportunities for them to demonstrate leadership, and at the same time it benefits the local community. It's a win-win!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Leadership Camp HAITI

What did you do during the week between Christmas and the New Year?  The highest-performing MBB Scholars in HAITI spent their vacation week at a 5-day Leadership Training at the beachside town of Arcahaie. What a treat!  They returned to Gros Morne not just with MBB tee-shirts, but also with bragging rights about having stayed in a beautiful conference center far from home, learned new skills, made new friends, and enjoyed free time in the surf.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Caribbean Idyll

Too often, we image Haiti as a desperately poor place in need of development. It is that, surely, but it is so much more!  Haiti is a country of stunning beauty: Caribbean beaches, palm trees, mangoes in abundance, mountains upon mountains, abundant rains alternating with dazzling sunlight, colors upon sun-dappled colors.... And most of all: warm,welcoming people. 
Next week MBB staff and several board members will be in Haiti to learn from the people how MBB might best expand our investing in the women and girls there.Wishing you could be with us!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pillowcase Beauties

St Bakhita Primary School has seen a surge in enrollments because of families fleeing violence in other parts of South Sudan. Some of the new arrivals are recent orphans from the fighting; all are displaced. MBB provides nearly the entire annual operating budget for the school. In addition, several dozen lucky young girls received these charming pillowcase dresses, lovingly made by seamstresses in the US and carried to the school by Sr Marilyn in 2013. For these girls who've already suffered so many losses, getting a brand new colorful dress is cause for rejoicing! They're ready for a fashion show!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Can You Multiply by 300,000 ?

What would you see if you multiplied this scene by 300,000?  The number of South Sudanese people --nearly a million, most of them women and children-- displaced by the rebel movement that tried to oust the government in December and which continues to ravage villages. That fighting has now devolved into ethnic revenge killings; it shows no signs of abating.
The devastation is too huge for us to grasp. But look at this one young mother with her children: her house burnt; her husband missing; no shelter; little food. Can you multiply by 300,000?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Really Lucky and Really Bright

Rural Haiti looks a lot like this: multi-generational families in simple, often-overcrowded stone houses with thatched roofing. Girls who are lucky attend primary school to 6th grade.  After that, the vast majority have no way to continue with formal education. They become farmers, vendors, or restaveks (children placed in others' homes as domestic servants).
Girls who are really lucky and really bright become MBB Scholars, supported through high school and beyond.  A scholarship is a life-changing development for the whole family, a chance to break the cycle of grinding poverty. $300/year: that's all it takes to give Benase Pascal, the MBB Scholar shown here in the school uniform with her family, a brighter future!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy at the Helm in Haiti

 Darline stands at the helm of MBB in HAITI. She heads our Scholarship Program and our annual Leadership Training Week and she supervises the House Mother at our Scholars' Lodge as well as the instructor for our daily computer classes.

As our programs in Haiti grow, Darline is learning new skills and discovering new resources within herself.  She is fluent in Kreyol and French and is studying English. She is a good role model for the young women MBB works with. We are happy to have her heading our Haiti team!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What a smile conveys...

Do you see that smile on Sr Edvine's face?  She is the MBB Scholarships Coordinator in South Sudan. A tough job that requires traveling around the country on dangerous roads, visiting all the schools where the MBB Scholars are studying. No job description could cover all that she faces in the course of any "typical" week. At times, she's had to push her stuck vehicle out of a sandy wadi, swelter through temps as high as 120 F, wait hours at immigration border crossings, take feverish Scholars to remote clinics, counsel girls whose parents have just died,  cope with recurring bouts of malaria herself.

And yet she smiles!  Edvine loves her job, loves the fact that her work enables more and more girls in S. Sudan to move on to higher education, loves the satisfaction of seeing them succeed, loves being part of the MBB team, and loves the challenge of growing the program to enroll more and more young women.  We salute you, Edvine!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mother of All Scholars

Jeanine, shown here with one of her daughters, knows a thing or two about being a mother. She is strong, wise, caring, and strict: all the qualities needed to manage a girls' boarding house!  She is the HEART of the Scholars' Lodge that Mercy Beyond Borders operates in Gros Morne, HAITI.  She runs a tight ship with a loving hand.  She has organized the 22 resident Scholars (7th, 8th and 9th graders) into teams for keeping the house sparkly-clean and maintaining a safe and attractive environment that fosters their studies.   Being our MBB House Manager brings to the fore her many skills: thrifty buyer, excellent cook, marvelous supervisor, calm negotiator of teen angst (and hormones), and steady promoter of girls' education.

But Jeanine is, first and foremost, a mother.  I ask those of you who have parented teens in your own home: CAN YOU IMAGINE PARENTING 22 TEEN GIRLS AT ONCE?  Jeanine makes it look almost easy!  Frankly, we are a bit in awe of Jeanine, and we thank her for her important work with MBB in Haiti.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Business Booster

What does it take for a woman in South Sudan to start a business of her own? A dream, determination to beat the odds, lots of hard work, an infusion of cash (well, actually, a loan) from Mercy Beyond Borders, and a boost of training and encouragement from Bro.Emmanuel.  He has long been dedicated to promoting the advancement of women and girls in S.Sudan, initially as bursar at St Bakhita Primary School, and now--after obtaining a master's degree in Finance Administration--as the Coordinator of MBB's Micro-Enterprise Programs in S. Sudan (not to mention: he's also our tech guru extraordinaire).  

Besides all his expertise, Emmanuel has a wonderfully positive outlook on life, with a quick laugh that  lifts spirits wherever he is.  MBB feels lucky to have him on our team!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Cessation of Hostilities"

Peace is, surely, much more than the "cessation of hostilities."  The agreement signed between warring parties in South Sudan on Jan 23rd commits the combatants to ceasing their acts of violence.  It will be, at best, only the first step in a long, long process of reconciliation, trust-building, and national unification.

South Sudan is less than 3 yrs old and, like a toddler, is still unsteady on its feet.  Too many men carry AK-47s. Too many hearts carry bitter memories of atrocities committed against family or friends.  Too many government leaders seem more intent on amassing personal power and wealth than on fostering development throughout the country.

MBB stands with the women and girls of South Sudan. They are the ones who can promote reconciliation. They are the ones who can move beyond tribal thinking. They are the ones who realize that "cessation of hostilities" is only the first step to lasting peace.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Everything you can imagine

Haiti is, of course, part of Hispaniola, an island in the Caribbean; it is the western half of the island that also contains the Dominican Republic.  Haiti has everything that you imagine a Caribbean island would have: palm trees, beaches, stunning views of the sea, lively music, plentiful tropical fruit, beautiful people. What it does NOT have, however, is a comfortable standard of living, because its assets have long been controlled by a few families while most of the population live in desperate poverty.
The week after Christmas, Mercy Beyond Borders treated its highest-performing Scholars to a week at a beachfront conference center for our annual MBB Leadership Training. There, the young women enjoyed a rare respite from poverty and a glimpse into the kind of development that can transform their homeland.  Today, Haiti is known primarily as "the poorest nation in the western hemisphere."  MBB is investing in Haiti's talented young women so that some day Haiti will be known as a beacon of reforestation and development, a mecca for businesses and tourists, a success story proving that educating females offers the surest path out of extreme poverty.