On 15th August every year our Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption, but for 20,000 of the world’s poorest children, this day has an added significance – it is their ‘birthday’. Most have never known a birthday celebration, and many don’t even know their age or birth date. They have never had the luxury of a gift, or birthday cake so this special celebration is a chance for them to experience the precious joy of childhood, that so many are able to take for granted.
Thanks to the dedication and loving care of the Sisters of Mary in schools, nurseries, training and medical centres in the Philippines, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, and Tanzania, the children receive free education, food, clothing, and care and learn the vocational and social skills they need to find local employment, gain confidence and self-respect.The Sisters of Mary offer hope to the most vulnerable people in the poorest communities through practical support, education, and training. Every child finds friendship, security, love, and hope when they come to the Sisters of Mary. They are given three meals a day, academic and vocational education and training, sporting activities, and pastoral care. And in August the sisters also celebrate Every Child’s Birthday, giving them each their own small gift and birthday celebration.
Life before the Sisters of Mary
One of those joining this year’s celebration will be Mercedes, who was living with her mother and siblings in a small village outside Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania. Mercedes and her family have been struggling to survive and their mother rarely has enough money to buy food. With a violent and abusive stepfather, they have been relying on the generosity of neighbours to survive.
“My mother, her work is selling nuts or peanuts. But the money she can obtain is not enough for our basic needs,” says Mercedes.
Mercedes dreamt of a better life, but had no real hope of realising her dreams.
“But even if I was very poor, I was trying my very best to study very hard. And I was most of the time excelling in my primary school,” she says.
Then in July 2021, Mercedes met the Sisters of Mary, who welcomed her to Kisarawe Girls School, near Dar es Salaam.
Life at the Sisters of Mary School in Tanzania
“I never expected I could be in a beautiful school like this where I could take good shelter and education,” says Mercedes.
“To be here in the Sisters of Mary School, this is like a miracle God did, that He really chose me. Because he saw me, that I gave up”.
Mercedes now has the education and skills she needs to realise her dreams, to build a better life, and to give her siblings hope. She has three nutritious meals a day, safe shelter, friends, and the Sisters who care for her. Most importantly, Mercedes has an education.
“I want to be a doctor so that I can treat the poorest of the poor in our country who are suffering from different diseases. So if I can be a doctor, maybe I will be able to save them or to treat them. After that, they will be able to save their families,” she says.
Mercedes dreams of the day she can support her family and become a doctor to help other people, so that they in turn can help others. Her story is one of hope and empowerment, showing how giving equal opportunity to children trapped in poverty can improve entire communities.
The challenges facing our children around the world
Children like Mercedes face many barriers to education. They are required to work long hours to support their families, learning materials are expensive, schools are far away, and transport for impoverished communities is inaccessible. They are deprived of basic services like healthcare, clean water for drinking and sanitation, and electricity. Poverty means that generations of people are trapped, unable to improve their situation in life, suffering needlessly from preventable disease, malnutrition, and death.
The Sisters of Mary offer hope to the most vulnerable of these communities through practical support, education, and training. World Villages for Children supports the education programmes of the Sisters of Mary to run live-in schools for the most deprived boys and girls across the world.
You can help this vitally important work now by making a donation to support the work of The Sisters of Mary, and be part of “Every Child’s Birthday” …