This month we spoke with Sister Gertrudes and Sister Mela at our girls school in Biga, the Philippines, for an update on the girls at school there. They told us of the joy of welcoming the new children last year but the challenges that face them during their community work reaching out to these poorest children and how the newest girls struggle to catch up with learning lost. We also spoke with Sister Hortencia in Guadalajara, Mexico, about the progress of the youngsters in her care. Also she spoke of the difficulties faced by the poorest families but how, with your help, the boys are now excelling at school.

a nun stands in a doorway with a family of 7, with a mother and young children

Finding new students

The Philippine Sisters reported that they were approached by more than 4,000 young girls during their most recent community visits. All these children were desperate and deserving of a place at school. Heart-breaking decisions have to be made, but, with limited funding, the Sisters ensure the school places go to those children who are the most in need; to those impoverished children who will benefit the most.

Over the last few months the Sisters have been visiting even more remote areas, with some new locations requiring 14 hour bus rides to reach! This is time well spent for the Sisters and a life-line for poor communities. The Sisters are able to reach the children who have been most neglected and deprived of services due to their remote location and these are some of the most deprived children in the entire country.

Life at home in the Philippines

The Sisters estimate around 75% of the young children who come into their care have already given up school to work full time. Many children’s education has to take a backseat in order to support the survival of the family and this limits any future prospects. Girls also face particular challenges, many facing the prospect of early marriage.

638 new girls were welcomed into school in Biga in July 2023. On arrival their learning levels were assessed and those girls who needed extra help received extra, one-on-one reading programmes and additional support. This helped the children catch up from the lost learning of the pandemic and the pressures of poverty that prevented them from attending school.

Jade sits at the dining table with girls in her family eating and laughing - Credit Agape Visuals 2024
Credit: Filmed & edited by Jordan & Cassie Timpy of Agape Visuals,

Food at school

The Sisters told us that one of the biggest current challenges at the schools is the price of food.

A healthy and balanced diet is so vital for the children’s learning, hungry children cannot concentrate in class and so managing this financial challenge is an urgent priority. Rice is a staple in the diet of the children and it has almost doubled in price over the last few years. Consequently the schools now grow more of their own food and encourage the children to take part in gardening during their spare time hobbies on the weekends. The home grown fruit and veg now supplements their diets, makes the food budget go further and teaches the girls valuable agricultural skills. The Sisters told us that the girls find it a joyful experience particularly when they are able to harvest the lemons from the lemon trees they have grown.


Two boys holding up new t shirts

Poverty & Gangs in Mexico

Spring was a busy time for the Sisters in Mexico and when we spoke to Sister Hortencia at the boys school in Guadalajara she was able to update us on the 559 new boys who joined her in August.

In Mexico she told us how rising levels of poverty in Mexico have led to an increase in gang activity in the poorest communities. These gangs are out to recruit young boys that should be in school, lured by promises of money to support their families. The Sisters are having difficulties visiting some villages as the gangs hold such a high level of control over who can enter. Despite this, the Sisters continue to try to find and help these boys, depending on people that the gangs trust to give them safe passage to these villages when they can. For the Sisters, it feels like a race towards getting the children at a certain age before the drug cartels get to them.

Three boys planting trees with smiles on their faces

Life at school

Despite their difficult start in life the boys now at school are thriving. Now they are properly nourished they love their lessons, learn fast. The Sisters love their energy and keep them busy all the time. The boys are particularly excited by the addition of new courses in agriculture and beekeeping! These are valuable skills that will help the boys find specialist jobs in the agriculture industry once they graduate. This also gives the additional benefits of producing food for the school. A new greenhouse is under construction and will soon be producing even more fresh food for the children.

In the classrooms, we were so excited to learn that two boys were selected to go to Indonesia as part of a Maths, Science and Technology competition. The competitions give the children confidence and Sister Hortencia was pleased to accompany them. The boys had a great time meeting children from 30 countries and then competing against them. One of our boys was awarded a bronze medal for his efforts!