Young boy on rubbish dump Tondo Philippines

Poverty continues to affect millions of families in the Philippines and many lack basic necessities including safe shelter, nutritious food, healthcare, and clean water for drinking and sanitation. Without access to education and stable employment, this cycle of poverty continues.

The Sisters of Mary Philippine programmes were founded by Father Al Schwartz and officially started work in the Philippines in 1985 at the request of His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila.

The programmes which were initially set up in Cavite, near Manila, responded to the extreme poverty in the country and the desperate difficulties of its very vulnerable children. That poverty continues to affect millions of families today. In the poorest communities families scavenge in city rubbish dumps and by the roadsides. They migrate to these places in the hope of good employment prospects and regular income but without education only menial, low paid jobs are available and with little income there is no hope of access to an education or a better future for their children.

Group of girls jogging

The foundations of the Philippine humanitarian programmes

The first Sisters of Mary education programme started in August 1985 with just 15 boys rescued from the streets in Sta Mesa, Cavite.  The Sisters provided care and education to these boys and soon were welcoming 150 children into their care. By 1986, girls had been welcomed into this first programme and a joint girlstown and boystown school was formed.

In 1990, His Eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, then Archbishop of Cebu,  requested the extension of the programme to the island of Cebu to help the deprived communities there and this resulted in the opening of the Talisay and Minglanilla dedicated Girlstown and Boystown schools.  Through 1991 to 2002 demand for the original programmes in Sta Mesa grew and the schools were moved and separated into the girlstown school in Biga and the boystown school in Adlas as they are today.

School places rely on the funding from our generous supporters but, at maximum capacity, these four schools across the country accommodate 11,000 boys and girls from the most deprived communities throughout the Philippines.

Group of girls lined up wearing masks outside of the library

Our programmes are providing a vital response to extreme poverty caused by the Covid 19 Pandemic

As well as live-in accommodation and full-time care, the children receive healthcare and an education accredited by the Ministry of Education. Supported by full-time teachers, the children study the full syllabus of academic subjects from age 12 to 18. They also have TESDA  (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) accredited technical training to learn skills which are relevant to vacancies with local employers and will help them find work.

Our support has never been more needed. The poorest Filipino communities have been devastated by the impact of Covid 19. Families who relied on low paid menial jobs have lost this vital work and with very little state support they are facing starvation. With schools closed, their vulnerable children have lost all access to education and the essential interventions it provides like school feeding. Demand for places at our schools, which have remained open throughout, has never been higher.