Bears Without Borders
Bringing warmth and joy to some of the most troubled and impoverished regions of the world sounds like a Herculean task. It’s also a particularly poignant one, given that so many of the afflicted are children who have known nothing but deprivation. For a disadvantaged and desperately ill child who has never been given a toy, a hug from a teddy bear can be a small miracle.
Making the world a happier place for children living on the front lines of global health crises, such as the catastrophic AIDS epidemic in Africa, has become not just a mission, but also a passion with Aviva Presser, a Harvard University graduate student. Through Bears Without Borders, an organization she started just over two years ago with Erez Lieberman, her husband and cofounder, that mission has taken root and is spreading.
Harvard was a key ally in getting the bear exchange program under way. A collaboration was forged between Bears Without Borders and the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Hospitals Global Health Rotation program, which proved enormously helpful in circumventing many distribution problems faced by Bears Without Borders. Exchange residents, supported by up to forty volunteers, sent abroad by MGH to its many satellite global health-training programs each carry with them a delegation of bears. In this way, bears arrive in impoverished areas in many parts of the world, bringing comfort to their small, helpless and often desperately ill recipients.
A doctor at a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, described the joy occasioned by the arrival of a shipment of bears at the children’s ward: “There were cheers from the adults and ward staff. The children were shy at first—confused about actually being given a teddy bear. Smiles were slow to come, but that changed once they had their arms around their teddy bears.” Aviva’s bears have truly become global ambassadors, bringing hope and healing to a troubled world. And they’ve only just begun.