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.
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.
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.
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.
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.