Despite the numerous challenges that have faced the Sisters of Mary since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were delighted to welcome new girls to our secondary school earlier this year in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Cases of the virus are still very high in the country and restrictions for internal travel remain. As a result, the Sisters haven’t been able to undertake their routine community work to meet children living in desperate poverty who would benefit from their interventions.

Last November, through the help of local parish priests, around 500 extremely vulnerable girls were identified and put forward for a virtual interview and entrance exam.

In January, 181 girls were enrolled at the school and were rigorously tested for COVID-19 on arrival and were required to be quarantined for two weeks before joining their other class-mates.

The Sisters tell us that many of the girls were very thin and malnourished and some were experiencing anxiety as a result of the pandemic. They have now settled in well and are very pleased to be in the safety of the school environment and the care of the Sisters.

They also tell us that they had to adapt quickly to remote learning methods. For the first time, they used Zoom to bring the teachers into the classroom. This has meant investing in new laptops, a sound system, projectors and cabling to enable the education programme to continue un-interrupted.

This new type of learning has enabled the girls to keep up with their studies and sit their annual exams, which graduates helped supervise along with a teacher on Zoom.

The pandemic continues to have a financial impact on the Sisters of Mary programmes with the price of staple foods such as, wheatflour, vegetables, milk, rice and beans doubling. Supplies are often hard to come by as many of the markets have been forced to close. Despite these challenges, the Sisters have maintained three nutritious meals a day for all the children.

At the time of writing, the vaccination programme hasn’t yet got underway in Honduras, but we were delighted to learn that Israel has recently donated five million vaccines so hopefully this situation will change very soon.