a group of girls in an electronics class with their teacher smile at lightbulbs on a circuit board

Sister Elena's report on progress and needs

In an annual meeting with Sister Elena, we received a detailed report about how the education programmes progressed in 2023, highlights from the year, the joy of their work and the challenges they faced in the day to day running of the programmes.

Thanks to our supporters, the Sisters were able to care for a staggering 20,879 children in their schools during 2023 and every one was able to thrive in their care and receive a quality accredited academic education.

Vocational training continued to be a focus for the Sisters, particularly for the girls, and new courses which are tailored to the skill needs in the local economies were added, including digital training, medical transcription, cyber security, caregiving, agriculture, solar technology and plumbing.

Mark standing by a lathe in a classroom

Vocational learning leads to employment but challenges are faced

The vocational subjects ensure that the children can either find work or set up their own businesses to earn a living and, as a direct response, the employment rates of children leaving school are gratifyingly high, eg in the Philippines nearly 100% of the 2022 graduates are now recorded as employed.  This is the ideal. Not all their countries of operation reach this level but it is the mission to ensure that they do and support the transition into work of all the children once they leave school.

The provision of  workshops and equipment for new vocational training as well as the maintenance of the schools and urgent repairs needed for the older buildings (the Philippines schools were built in the late 1980s) does however continue to be a key financial challenge where support from donors is very much needed.  The other financial challenge is the rising day to day cost of food for the children. The Sisters and children at each school have done much to contain these increases by dedicating land to growing much of their own produce, but more help is urgently needed.

boy with nun

Children are always the victims of poverty

During 2023 the sisters travelled extensively and even further into the remote and deprived regions throughout their countries of operation to reach even more children in need. For the first time they were able to navigate the remote villages and communities around Dodoma, Tanzania and welcome 160 boys into their new school there.

The phase 1 building in Dodoma was completed and officially opened in September and was a milestone moment for the Sisters and all the WVC team. This programme is a focus for development over the next few years with two further phases planned for 2024 and 2025 to bring the eventual total of boys in their care here to 1200, together with a training centre for out of school boys/young men and in time a medical and dental clinic to address the desperate need for safe and adequate medical care for children in this country.

Within all the communities in the countries they serve, 2023 saw a deterioration in the lives of the poorest families and a variety of issues affecting the children.  They found that many children are no longer safe in their families, particularly in countries like Mexico and Honduras. Children experience not just hunger and malnutrition but abuse and violence from those closest to them.

Esteffanny standing outside holding her sister. She is with a nun and her mother

Catching up on Lost learning - the chance for a brighter future

Poor children accessing state education have also not been able to catch up on learning lost during the pandemic and many regions, particularly in Brazil have not reinstated schooling which was cancelled during the pandemic.

The Sisters met nearly 20,000 children in 2023 who needed and deserved a place at their schools and with your generous help they have been able to welcome 4921 who are joining in 2024.

Sister Elena stressed her deep gratitude for the help of our supporters. This year will mark the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mary and they exist to help the poorest children. Their work and the improved lives of these children would be impossible without your generous humanitarian kindness – Thank you.