Construction of the new Sisters of Mary Girlstown in Tanzania is set to begin later this year, on land given to them outside of Dar es Salaam. In the interim, the sisters have opened a small training center for young women in the area where they are learning sewing and other skills. Among those accepted to the training center is 15 year old Maria Gustafo. Though she is younger than the other young women accepted, whose ages range from 17 to 22 years old, the sisters accepted Maria because of her family’s situation and her eagerness to learn so that she will be able to help her mother provide for their family.

Maria is the oldest of five children. Her father is sick and unable to work. Her mother sells fruits and vegetables to support the family, but income from this is unpredictable and oftentimes the family does not make enough to buy food. Maria’s family lives together in a single room, without running water or electricity. They cook the little food they are able to get over an open fire outside their home.

Each day, Maria walks 45 minutes from her home to the Sisters of Mary training center. At the beginning, she was quiet and reserved. But now that she has been coming for several weeks and is receiving enough to eat through her participation in the program, she has warmed up to the other students and is working hard to learn. Maria and her family are so grateful that she’s been accepted at the training center and has the opportunity to learn skills which will help support their family.

Maria, in the back left, pictured with members of her family outside their home

A glimpse inside the Gustafo family's home