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Helping Our Friends Overseas, Part 2: Featuring Communities Without Borders

By Kristen Bosse

Communities Without Borders, also based out of Newton, is another organization lending a helping hand to citizens overseas that are less fortunate. The mission of Communities Without Borders is to educate orphans and other vulnerable children in Africa. Our approach fosters building ongoing community-to-community relationships at the grassroots level. They strive to build long-term relationships with communities in Zambia in hopes of expanding their educational opportunities, get a deeper cultural understanding (on both sides), and to provide sustainable support for the women and caregivers of children in the area.

The organization carries out their mission with annual summer service trips for members of U.S. communities to visit Zambia. The trips are a vital part of establishing and nurturing the relationships between the American and Zambian communities. Visitors building relationships with those in the Zambian communities, help make contributions to education or health, and to understand and learn more about their culture (including the way AIDS has impacted the children and adults of the community). The organization itself supports these goals by providing funding for primary and secondary school students to pay for partial school tuition, books and uniforms as well as funding for nutritional lunches, health screenings, and teacher training. A lot of these efforts are worked on within CWB's Healthy Learners Program.

Healthy Learners Program
The foundation for this program began in 2007 when three CWB-sponsored Harvard medical and public health students partnered with the Angels of Mercy, a Zambian NGO experienced in community health care delivery, to complete a comprehensive survey of the health status of schoolchildren in one of the compounds. The survey revealed high rates of acute illness among schoolchildren. A critical obstacle identified for these children was lack of access to free preventive health care after the age of five. Subsequently, when funds were available, CWB engaged Angels of Mercy to conduct preventive health screenings.

Tree of Life
For years in the past, Zambia partners asked for CWB to provide some kind of psychosocial support for the children of the communities. Most of them have gone through tragedies that we in the United States would only encounter in our worst nightmares: loss of both parents, dire poverty, and many forms of physical, sexual, and mental abuse. In 2010, social workers went over to Zambia and started the "Tree of Life" program that gives children a constructive outlet for the children to let go of hate and move forward. As pictured below, the trunk represents the strengths that the child manifests. The branches are the care-givers and mentors from whom the child has learned. The seeds are what the child hopes one day to give back to the community. So, the child has created a visual narrative of her own life. Then, everyone's tree is posted on the wall and the resulting forest becomes a metaphor for a community of support.

The town of Newton has been consistently supportive of the CWB mission, specifically the Unitarian Society of Newton (FUSN) that has been very active in holding fund-raising events, providing volunteers and donations for CWB activities. Susan Warren, Vice President of Communities Without Borders, elaborated on what her members have said about the program in years past.

"People who travel with CWB to Zambia to do volunteer work in the schools and communities that CWB supports in Zambia consistently tell us that it changed their lives. Some examples of what Newton high school student travelers have said: 'I discovered that even though the US and Zambian communities are separate they can ultimately be one larger community.' 'There are so many things we found in common with the Zambian students - love of sports, school, friends.' One physician from Newton commented that he had developed a new appreciation for the incredible medical work they are doing at the clinics in Zambia even without the high tech medical equipment we have here."

Information about the Communities Without Borders Organization was provided by Susan Murphy Warren, Vice President of Development.

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