Our History in Brief
When Dr. Richard Bail learned in 1999 that 700,000 Zambian children in the country’s population of 10 million were left as orphans by the scourge of HIV/AIDS, he created a program to help meet this calamity. To this effort he brought first-hand knowledge from his previous work in Africa with the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
In 1999, he and a friend, Newton civic activist and architect Peter Smith, founded Communities Without Borders. Since then, CWB has evolved and flourished using a variety of strategies, while remaining true to its stated purpose: “to enable a better future for orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia through access to education and related care, particularly by providing school fees, books, uniforms and teacher training.”
Since its inception, CWB has depended heavily on pairing institutions in suburban Boston with particular communities in Lusaka, Zambia. The U.S. institutions have included Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, Eliot Church in Newton Corner, First Baptist Church in Lexington, First Parish Church in Lexington, First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Watertown, Pilgrim Church in Lexington, Union Church in Waban, and Wellesley Village Congregational Church.
Working with these organizations and the Society for Women and AIDS in Zambia (SWAAZ), CWB began providing educational support for primary school students in government schools and developed health and educational facilities in individual communities in Lusaka.
Over the years, CWB also enhanced its mission by providing health screenings, psycho-social programs, eyeglasses, school feeding programs, school supplies, textbooks, and books for school libraries. CWB funded a complete health center and housing for health workers in the rural community of Simukanka. By making available sewing, knitting, and nut grinding machines to student caregivers, CWB provided them an income-generating means to reduce pressure to keep children working at home. CWB also began its support of a particular preschool in the impoverished Lusaka Garden community, paying its teacher salaries and school upkeep. It took up the funding the university fees for degrees for promising teachers in impoverished schools. Teachers visiting from the U.S. on CWB trips began leading training sessions for their Zambian colleagues.
In 2005, CWB started yearly service trips to Zambia. Travelers, who pay their own way, include teenagers and adults. Many have shared their valuable skills, and all have learned of the challenges faced by poverty-stricken communities. Travelers are often transformed by the experience, with life-changing results including commitment to public service.
In 2013, CWB decided to focus on supporting hundreds of students whom it had previously assisted in primary government schools by paying fees for their secondary school education through graduation. Government high schools, where available, require books, shoes, uniforms, tuition and other fees out of the reach of struggling families. Every year since, CWB’s largest yearly investment has been the support of high school students who have passed the prerequisite Zambian nationwide 9th grade exam and are eligible to attend a government high school.
Also in 2013, CWB initiated a shift in strategy from concentrating on students who attend government primary schools to focusing on supporting “community schools” where all the students are orphans and/or at-risk children. Such schools receive little or no government support.
In 2014, CWB chose two schools with which to work: Living Hope School in the Roma district of Lusaka and the Sekeleka Community School in Lusaka West. Citizens of these communities started their community schools in the absence of adequate or affordable government schools. The two schools operate on a shoestring, with minimal supplies and poorly paid but dedicated teachers. Each school has more than 300 students. A long-range goal is to establish these community schools as models of excellence.
In these schools, CWB has recently funded sanitary facilities and electricity. CWB has supported the establishment of a library with a librarian, provided computers and textbooks, bought desks, paid tuitions to train teachers, and supplemented teachers’ salaries. It offers funds to all students who pass the 9th grade exam to continue their education through high school.
Over the last two decades, CWB’s programs have helped more than 6,000 students finish their education. In 2020, our work continues to assist more than 600 students in Living Hope and Sekelela schools. In addition, 381 students are individually receiving tuition and other support for their secondary school years in over 50 schools throughout Lusaka.
Until his death in May 2019, Richard Bail actively participated in the decisions guiding our work today, particularly in regard to Sekelela. His vision and dedication to CWB are sorely missed. However, the current boards in the US and Zambia are resolved to build on his work and his deep concern for Zambian children.