In this series of blogs, we want to go a bit deeper into how World Villages for Children ends poverty through education; our work with the Sisters of Mary, how we operate together, the children we care for and educate, our children’s lives after school, and how we spend the funds so generously donated to us.

two children sitting in a rubbish dump, honduras
Young boys working long hours with little food, on the rubbish dump of Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Early life

The children that come to our programmes are usually between the ages of 11-18 years old. There is one elementary school in Brazil caring for children aged 5-11, and four day care centres around the world that cater for younger children (aged 3-5 ), as well as a training centre in Tanzania that provides for young, out of school women.

The children who come into the care of the Sisters are the poorest in their regions and all have their early lives marked by struggle, hardship, and extreme poverty.

Complex social and family issues

Poverty causes a range of complex issues in children’s lives. It is not just a struggle to meet the most basic survival needs like food, shelter, healthcare, proper hygiene, and education, but also leads to a range of issues that have a lifelong impact on the child

Young girl, Miriamu, at school in Tanzania
Miriamu - Photo courtesy of Agape Visuals


Many of our children come from loving homes with parents desperate to secure a better future for their children. However, many other boys and girls come from families that have a range of difficulties linked to poverty.

In some of our children’s families, like Mercedes from Tanzania, there may be an abusive parent or family member. In some families, there may only be one parent like Miguel in Brazil, whose mother passed away from Lupus, and whose father is struggling to care for him and work to support them. Other families may be burdened by illnesses resulting from hunger and extreme poverty, like Miriamu and her six siblings who relied solely on their mother, who was very sick with HIV.

Some other children also come to us as orphans either from disease or violence. In the Philippines, one of our students, Sherlyn, became an orphan during her time at school with the Sisters of Mary and we have many children in our care like this.

All of these family circumstances influence how well children can grow and learn at home, and have an impact on their ability to develop and thrive in their future life.

Girls holds bucket to receive water from new well

Environment and Climate

Many of our children and their families come from remote, rural areas so they are subject to extreme weather events and the damaging effects of climate change. This is a global issue and the poorest and most vulnerable people, especially those who rely on farming and fishing for their livelihoods are deeply impacted.

In Guatemala, Erick David’s family struggled to survive due to drought and failed crops driven by extreme weather conditions.

Children like Lesly in Guatemala are unable to access clean drinking water, a basic human right, because of drought.

Many others have to navigate regular natural disasters like typhoons in regions like the Philippines which leads children to living in physical insecurity and facing the threat of injury or death on top of extreme poverty.

boys standing outside with book and backpack

Violence and Physical safety

For many children, a life of violence is common and touches them directly. In Guatemala, Henry’s parents were both shot and killed when he was four years old. His early years living with extended family in crowded conditions created a chaotic and difficult life.

In countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, children in poverty face the very real threat of involvement with gang violence and drug related crime on a daily basis.

Children may also be exposed to violence within their homes, and girls are particularly vulnerable to abuse and sexual violence often leading to unwanted pregnancy.

Four ladies standing in front of a doorway
Sharmin and her family, Tanzania 2022

Gender inequality

Poverty is not fairly distributed. Research shows that girls feel the greater effect of poverty and carry a heavier care burden than boys of the same age. Many societies and cultures expect girls to give up education to support in the home.

Girls in extreme poverty also face early marriage as marriage means one less mouth to feed at home and the chance of a dowry, which helps a poverty-stricken family.

Early marriage perpetuates the cycle of poverty, locking young girls into poverty and early childbearing, limiting their education and employment opportunities. Education has the power to end child marriage[1], breaking generational transmission of marriage and giving freedom from early marriage and poverty to generations of girls.

[1] Education has the power to end child marriage, September 2022 – Research by UNICEF

girl pressing on chair, filling in form

Sisters of Mary schools

The Sisters focus their education work on all these children.

They spend many months each year working in the most deprived communities to locate the poorest children most in need of their care and, with funding, they offer a place at school.

Education for the most vulnerable girls is a priority, promoting quality teaching and equality of opportunity and in each country of operation a school for girls will always be the first programme established, as in Tanzania,

The schools prioritise safety and protection ensuring the children have a stable and safe environment in which to learn and grow. Schools become a haven and a place to thrive and in time the most vulnerable, deprived children will grow into strong, independent and self-sufficient adults.