Be the Change: Help Mothers Without Borders Aid African Orphans

Posted November 4, 2013 in
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Items from the Mothers Without Borders. Photo: Leah Jones

When the consumerism of the impending holiday season can be manipulated to serve those in need, we can all feel a little better about our oft-excessive purchases. November 15–16, Mothers Without Borders will provide a charitable opportunity by hosting “Be the Change,” its 8th annual fundraising boutique featuring a variety of hand-made African and American crafts for sale. All proceeds will help support orphans in Zambia.

Mothers Without Borders began in the late ’80s aiding countries around the world, like Romania, Bolivia and Indonesia. In 2000, under the leadership of founder Kathy Headlee Miner, it became a non-profit corporation focusing its efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa. The mother of seven children, Headlee Miner offered no hesitation explaining her reason for beginning Mothers Without Borders: “I was born,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in people and I’ve always felt an interest in children of the world and what they’re experiencing.”

Headquartered in Zambia because of the debilitating impact of AIDS there, the corporation strives to nurture and care for the one million children either orphaned by the virus or left parentless for other reasons. Ninety percent of these children become a significant burden on their community, Headlee Miner explained. They may live on the streets or with extended family incapable of providing proper care.

Generally, Mothers Without Borders has worked to create self-reliant orphan care programs in its host countries. “We go into a community and work with the leaders of that community,” she said. “In some cases there are local people who have already initiated something to assist and meet the needs of the orphans in their community, so we look for ways that we can support them.” Once the project is self-reliant, she explained, they move on to another.

However, in Zambia, the corporation’s presence is more permanent. There, the Children’s Resource Center provides food, housing, medical treatment, education, and even teaches agricultural skills to children who had been previously living on the streets or in neglectful households. The orphan care center provides for 30-40 children who are offered education at the non-profit’s African Preparatory Academy. Among other subjects, English is taught to the students who typically only speak one of the country’s 70 tribal languages. Zambia’s business and working community operates in English so it is essential to a child’s early education.

Orphans arrive spontaneously at the center and their intake can be costly. Sometimes sibling groups require care; Mothers Without Borders is one of the country’s only programs that will keep these fragmented families intact. In recent months, for example, a set of 8-year-old triplets came to the center who had been living with their mentally ill mother, surviving primarily on the streets. Tragically, other orphans often come from child-headed households. “Sometimes you’ll find 8, 9 and 10-year-old children who are the head of household, and they take on the responsibility of trying to feed their siblings, care for their siblings and everything else, which is pretty frightening,” said Headlee Miner. The end goal, she added, is to transition these children back into the community, reuniting them with somebody who can properly care for them.

Shoppers at “Be the Change” will provide funding for these children while also aiding Zambian artisans. In the country, Mothers Without Borders works with a partner organization through which it purchases items, from wooden carvings to nativity sets to purses, from local artists. “We purchase the items at fair market value from these people and bring them to the United States, sell them for more and our profit margins go back into the orphan care community. These vendors know that that’s what’s happening, so they feel really good,” said Headlee Miner. Also for sale are projects created by orphans at the care center and items donated from within the United States. At least one handmade quilt will be auctioned as well.

In addition to buying material items, a shopper can choose to sponsor a child for $30 a month, make a donation in the name of a friend or loved one, or can sign up to give someone in Zambia a chicken or goat.

The boutique will take place in downtown Salt Lake City at the Greek Orthodox Church at 279 S. 300 W. and will run November 15, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. and November 16, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. There will be free admission and parking. For more information about the boutique and how to volunteer or donate go to motherswithoutborders.org.

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