On September 22nd, after 3 years of writing about it, talking about it, and trying to walk the talk, my UW-Madison colleagues and I launched our global service learning program, Wisconsin Without Borders.  What’s the big deal, some might say. Aren’t their already Doctors without Borders, and Engineers without Borders?  The answer is yes.  There are also teachers, lawyers, architects, nurses, sociologists, builders and acupuncturists. I had planned to end this post with the idea of starting a Clowns without Borders, but they are already active, spreading laughter and joy.  And the Knitters without Borders are making blankets and sweaters and sharing their dyeing and design techniques. I tried everything to find a new idea, but struck out again and again….Bloggers, Dentists, Geeks, Monks…they are all out there, without borders.  I stopped playing fair when I found a web reference to Mariachi without Borders! Cynically, I searched for Fence Makers without Borders. That would reveal the hypocrisy, show that the term was losing its meaning, would it not?  But the Without Borders world held, there are no Fence Makers without Borders, at least not yet….

Why do so many of us want a Life without Borders? What are we trying to say about ourselves?  Perhaps simply that we are open to the world.  We like to travel.  We want to make a positive difference in the world, to be part of the solution, at least for a moment.  But there is some kind of poetry at work here also. The phrase evokes the wild beating heart, a sense of freedom, sunlight, a loosening of chains.  It expresses a desire for union with people who are different from us, it says we are willing to risk ourselves to explore the differences, celebrate them, and watch them dissolve.

Even now, when there is so much need for healing in our own communities, my students and colleagues and I are finding a lot of support for the idea that reaching beyond the boundaries of our state is both a duty and a privilege.   Our students can be global leaders, they can act both locally and globally to promote justice, human flourishing, and care of the earth.  Our event featured 13 projects from around Wisconsin and the world that are inspired by the “Without Borders”  spirit.  Posters can be viewed at: http://centerforglobalhealth.wisc.edu/389.htm

You can see my brief Intro Remarks Explaining Wisconsin Without Borders  (Hi Mom!):


Also, see one of our student leaders, Megan Hall, talk about our Women’s Health and Microenterprise Program in Ecuador:


The program also featured remarks by John and Tasha Morgridge, who have generously supported The Morgidge Center for Public Service for the past 15 years, and Bob and Sara Rothschild, who presented their work in Botswana, where they are working with communities to build public libraries. Their presentations and the entire event can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/MorgridgeCPS