Young women rising in such unlikely locations as earthquake-and hurricane-ravaged Haiti and war-torn South Sudan–both amongst the poorest countries in the world–is the inspiring story of Mercy Beyond Borders (MBB), a Santa Clara-based, grass-roots nonprofit founded in 2008 by Sister of Mercy Marilyn Lacey.
MBB changes the lives of marginalized women and girls in Haiti and in South Sudan through education–more commonly the privilege of boys. Its mission is “forging ways for women and girls in extreme poverty to learn, connect and lead.”
At the MBB Annual Gala Oct. 23 at Quadrus Center, Menlo Park, 101 supporters were touched by the inspiring individual stories of people whose lives have been changed by MBB, whether by giving or by receiving.
“I feel like a proud grandmother watching my children succeed,” said MBB CEO Sister Marilyn Lacey after dinner when she introduced the honored guest and speaker, Keni Jafer Shanas Locho. The young woman from South Sudan is one of MBB’s first scholarship alumae and now teaches a class of 67 in South Sudan.
MBB flew Shanas to California to share her story of survival. Civil war found Shanas caught between the north and the south, where the friends she was with were killed in a bombing. She escaped on foot, ending up at a school in South Sudan, where she survived another bombing. In time, thanks to a scholarship from MBB, Shanas graduated and became a teacher.
“I see MBB as my parents, my dear mother,” said Shanas. “To donors of MBB, thank you very much. Don’t stop of giving your heart to these needs.”
“Never underestimate the power of telling the story of the things you are passionate about,” said Sister Lacey in introducing Donor of the Year Laure Woods, who has pledged $250,000 over four years.
Woods sings in a band called “Los Tranquilizers,” and MBB board member Bill Coats from Portola Valley plays bass in the same band. He had shared the story of MBB with Woods.
Concluding the gala program, Lacey presented an award to Volunteer of the Year Jo Marie Guastello from Kansas City. For the last four years, Guastello has thrown a weekend-long block party to raise money for MBB, raising $40,000 in 2016.
“Because I have known you, I have been changed forever,” Guastello told Lacey, paraphrasing a line from the song “For Good” from the musical “Wicked.”
Sausalito resident and board member George Lula mingled with guests as the gala began and shared that he was drawn to MBB after meeting Lacey. A father of two well-educated daughters, he particularly values MBB’s dedication to educating young women.
“Sister Marilyn should be up for sainthood. She’s an amazing woman,” said Lula. “She’s a terrific administrator. There is no waste anywhere.”
Gala guest Beth Garriott from San Mateo, who works for a different nonprofit, met Sister Lacey at a seminar focusing on African women.
“Sister Marilyn is clearly a visionary. And she’s a doer. She goes to where the need is greatest and gets things done,” said Garriott, pointing out that MBB is not constrained by the restrictions of government funding.
Visit the MBB website (www.mercybeyondborders.org) for a full description of the educational programs MBB supports in the rural town of Gros Morne, Haiti, and in four of South Sudan’s 10 states.
“Continue helping young women and girls in South Sudan and Haiti. I’m grateful and I’m happy for the prayers you’re praying for my country,” said Shanas.
MBB headquarters is at 1885 De La Cruz Blvd., Suite 101; phone: (650) 815-1554. Visit the MBB blog: www.mercybeyondborders.blogspot.com.