A sister walking through the streets of a shantytown

Our work focuses on ending poverty through education in schools run by the Sisters of Mary

These amazing women devote their entire lives to caring for and educating the poorest children – for them, it’s a vocation and a blessing. They are experienced educators and carers, highly skilled working in the most deprived countries and living on-site at schools providing 24/7 care.

In turn, we focus on what we do best: raising funds and providing support for the Sisters’ work, raising awareness of the crisis of poverty,  engaging with the generous donors who make our work possible and measuring and reporting impact.

It’s a warm and profoundly collaborative partnership based on mutual trust and respect that has worked well since 1998 and together we deliver a truly excellent provision for the most deprived boys and girls in our care worldwide, at a fraction of the cost.

A Sister holding a child with a student nearby
Sisters in community work, Tanzania

About the Sisters of Mary

The Sisters of Mary currently consist of more than 390 Sisters who operate their programmes in the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras and Tanzania.

The Sisters are a congregation by decree of the Catholic Church and recognised by the Pope. They are headquartered in Biga, near Manila in the Philippines.

The Sisters welcome any child in poverty regardless of religion, gender or race. Under their care the most deprived boys and girls enjoy an accredited, value-led education that provides a sound framework for the development of capable, independent and empowered adults. When the children leave school they are confident, hopeful and have the technical skills they need to find employment and in turn to support their families and local communities out of poverty, extending the humanitarian impact of our work.

Class shot of new starters sitting on the steps of the school
New girls welcomed into school January 2019

About the schools

The schools, the majority of which are live-in and known as villages are set up in the most deprived regions at the invitation of Governments. Invitations can only be considered where there is sufficient support in terms of land which can be gifted for building, where job opportunities exist and where there is government policy emphasis on the importance of education to the relief of poverty.

Together with the teachers, the Sisters nurture and support the children. The programmes are modestly run, they deliver many of the principles of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGS), deliver enormous economies of scale in the care of the children and significant impact on poverty relief in the communities and countries where they operate. Their operation relies almost entirely on the support of all our generous donors and in the 12 live-in secondary schools, with regular funding, we can accommodate almost 20,000 children each year from age 11-18.

Sisters meeting children on the refuse dump, Honduras
Sisters meeting children on the refuse dump, Honduras

The Sisters visit the poorest communities over several months each year

They are referred to the most vulnerable children either by parish contacts or graduates and alumni of the programme. The Sisters travel enormous distances and frequently put themselves in harm’s way to reach children in the poorest and most remote communities. With sufficient funding and the blessing of the families, the Sisters can offer a school place to the most needy and the children generally join the schools either in January or August.

Demand for places at the schools has never been higher. The sisters are innovative with the budgets for the programmes to accommodate as many children as possible. They ensure funding goes a very long way but the need for this care is enormous. In 2021 over 49000 deprived children sought a place at the schools worldwide.

“The Sisters really help me a lot. Whenever I experience a problem, they comfort me. They comfort every student here in school. I can describe them also as my second parent.”

Joriz Adlas Boystown, the Philippines
Our education programmes


Children have so far received a life saving education


Children each year have a place at one of our schools worldwide


New children were welcomed into school in 2022

Superior General and Chair of World Villages for Children

Sister Elena Belarmino

Sister Elena was elected Superior General of the Sisters of Mary in 2023, succeeding Sister Maria Cho as head of the congregation and charity programmes. She has been with the Sisters of Mary for more than 30 years. Sister Elena is now responsible for all the communities and operations at the schools and education programmes worldwide.

She is dedicated to the care and support of the most impoverished children, guides the development of the programmes and spends part of  every year at each school overseeing progress with their humanitarian work.

“Father Al said, “The secret of joy is found in charity”. As a member of the Sisters of Mary we are dedicated to doing good to people, concretely by providing free educational and vocational welfare for underprivileged children, but also medical care to the sick and the dying and shelter service to the homeless and helpless.”

Sister Maria