Honduras welcomes new boys

With your generosity and support, on January 31, 2017, we were delighted to receive the first 250 children at our new Boystown - Villa de los Niños in Spanish - in Amarateca, Honduras. 

Our newest children have come from all over Honduras, with nothing more than a plastic bag full of their belongings. 

Each child was overjoyed to receive their new backpack, school uniform, and sportswear. 

On their first day, the children also enjoyed their first meals with the Sisters. Many of our children will now be eating three healthy meals a day for the first time in their lives. 

Meanwhile, construction of the sports facilities and workshop building continues. 

By the time you read this newsletter, the official inauguration will have been held in the presence of Mr. Juan Orlando Hernández, President of Honduras.

New students arrive at the Boystown in Amarateca.

New students arrive at the Boystown in Amarateca.

Boys receive backpacks at the newly constructed Boystown in Honduras.

My Dear Friends,

I have a special announcement to share with you!

Every five years, the Sisters of Mary hold a General Chapter meeting. I am pleased to share with you that as a result of this meeting, Sister Maria will be the head of the congregation for this next term. 

I will, of course, be continuing my work as a Sister of Mary within our Children's Villages in Korea. 

In the near future, you will notice that updates about the progress of our mission will be coming from Sister Maria. As the former head of the congregation, I can assure you that our work will continue to thrive under her direction. 

Please let me tell you more about Sister Maria's life: Sister Maria Cho was born on November 11, 1956 in the town of Kwang-Ju in South Korea. After graduating from the Kwang-Ju Women's High School in 1975, she worked as a cashier at the Central Bank. Six years later, she entered the congregation of the Sisters of Mary. She was initially responsible for the kindergarten in Busan, and later placed in charge of the Boystown in Seoul. 

In 1990, Father Al sent Sister Maria to Manila and entrusted her with responsibility for patients at the Q.I. Hospital. 

During the years that followed, she worked in our Children's Villages in Silang and Talisay. In 1999, she was given leadership of the finance department. Prior to her election as Superior General, she was in charge of Biga's Girlstown, with 3,400 girls. 

Please keep Sister Maria and the other Sisters of Mary, as well as the children under our care, in your prayers. The success of our work depends on you!

Thank you so very much, and may God Bless You, 

Sr. Michaela

Sister Maria Elected Superior General

Excerpt from Sister Maria's forward of her report for the General Chapter: 

"Courageously I take the baton and together with our general councillors and all the Sisters and benefactors, continue the symphony that our beloved founder Father Al started. Without your untiring support and the selfless collaboration of many, I cannot accomplish anything. My thanksgiving to each one of you."

-Sister Maria Cho, Superior General

The General Council following the 2017 General Chapter Election

From left to right: Sister Michaela, Sister Elena, Sister Maria, Sister Margie, and Sister Gemma.

Remembering World Villages for Children in Your Wills and Trusts

In a recent sermon, I heard a priest quote Woody Allen, saying something like: "Death doesn't bother me; I just don't want to be there when it happens." I admit that death is not a pleasant subject, but as believers in Christ we know that there is far more beyond this life. 

I like to look at the plaques and engravings at my church that tell about gifts from someone or are in memory of a loved one. I sometimes see the name of a family that has been at the church for a long time. There are inscriptions at the end of most pews, on the chalices and collection plates, in Bibles, on lecterns, and even on some pieces of furniture. In many cases, they were likely gifts from estates, meaning a planned gift in someone's will designated to leave money to the church for general purposes or a specific need. 

Have you ever considered making such a gift to World Villages for Children? No one could have imagined the impact Father Aloysius would have on tens of thousands of children, even now, more than 25 years after his death. You can help to continue his legacy. 

Please consider including World Villages for Children in your estate plans. For more information, contact us at (301) 779-4141.

A child's life touched by your generosity

Andrea, 13 years old, Girlstown in Chalco

I come from a small village in Mexico. There are not very many people, but it is quite beautiful with lots of trees and nature. 

My family has always been poor, that is why all of us must try to do our best to contribute to meet our basic needs. Before the Sisters of Mary accepted me, I used to help my parents with the housework in the morning and attend classes at the elementary school. In the afternoons, my brother and I would quickly go to the cornfields to help our father clean the corn. We would have to run because the journey from my village to the cornfields takes about two hours. 

After the long walk home from work, my mother would have something prepared for us to eat for supper. Often it was very little, and it was not very expensive food, but I always thanked my mother for the food she prepared for us because she always did it with lots of love. 

Now I am at the Sisters of Mary School and I am very happy to get to know so many girls from all over Mexico and that I have the Sisters of Mary to take care of me. I am grateful to God and to our donors for giving me the opportunity to be in this beautiful place, because after I finish my studies here I will have lots of opportunities to find a good job and then support my family. 

Andrea's family visiting her at our Girlstown. 

An interview with Mauricio Solis

architect and long-time partner of the Sisters of Mary

Mauricio knew long before he became an architect that he wanted to put his life at the service of a greater mission. In his younger years, he was a seminarian in Guatemala. Though he ultimately did not pursue priesthood, Mauricio became friends with several priests. One of them invited him to attend a mass he was officiating at the Boystown, back in 2005. It was then that he was introduced to the works of the Sisters of Mary. 

Mauricio was deeply moved by the experience. He remembers asking Sister Acela, the local superior at the time: "How can I help? What can I do about this poverty?"

From there, the young architect went on to translate building plans from Korea. He has since participated in numerous projects in Central American for our charitable programs, applying his talents with great pride to help our children. 

What is your most vivid memory working for the Sisters of Mary? 

I remember with great clarity the transformation in the new girls who had just started school in Honduras in 2012. What an astounding difference: at first, the shy, frail little girls arrived from all over the country, seemingly lost and malnourished... And then, as I returned 6 months later to help finish the workshop buildings, to notice the change in everything from their skin tone to the way they moved and how they expressed themselves. They were visibly so much happier and healthier!

What was the first project that you participated in? 

The first large-scale project that I worked on was the filling of a ravine in the center of the Guatemala Boystown. Where the soccer fields are now located, there used to be a gaping hole at least 60 ft deep. It took many trucks to fill the hole, and they kept on coming for months and months!

It was particularly satisfying to see the determination of the Sisters and their drive to see their end goal met. Even though they lacked the knowledge and the funding at the time, they had that confidence. And they made it happen somehow. I remember thinking "The Sisters can do anything!"

Explain how the Sisters collaborate with local companies to provide the right vocational training for the children: 

I've got the perfect illustration with Toyota. At the time when we were planning the auto mechanic workshop in Guatemala, Sister Acela had secured a meeting with a local executive from the company. 

She asked me to come along and help translate for her, and convey what the Sisters needed. By simply asking, they developed a partnership that continues to this day. Toyota supplied some training materials and samples, and the teachers developed the curriculum around the skills needed within the organization. 

Today, the boys are learning exactly the skills that are needed by Toyota, and many of the students go on to apply these skills working for the company after graduation. 

Left: The library at the Boystown in Guatemala.

Right: Mauricio Solis and his firm designed the Honduras Girlstown

(An interview with Mauricio Solis, cont.)

Does design truly matter for our children? 

I remember meeting with Sister Michaela in Seoul in 2010 to explain to her just how important design is! It wasn't easy, but I managed to convince her that design is a gift to make a building more uplifting. I did so with an analogy; I related how the Sisters usually arrange fresh flowers in the chapel for the Virgin Mary where they hold their daily morning prayer. The flowers simple made the "everyday" more beautiful. 

Sr. Michaela agreed with my advice just as long as we kept the buildings modest and not extravagant. I was thrilled, because the truth is: a good design does not require more money!

That's when we went on to build the new library at the Girlstown in Guatemala. To me, it helped send an important message to the girls: Someone did this work for you, because you are special and you are worthy of this effort. 

Have you worked for the Sisters outside of Guatemala?

Yes, I helped with a small project for the bakery at the Girlstown in Mexico. My firm also designed the Day Care Center in Chalco. I also participated in the conceptual design of the Brazil campus, and helped the Sisters find a reputable contractor. 

More recently, in 2012, we helped with the construction of the Girlstown in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. And I've also worked closely with the local architect who developed the Boystown for Honduras - the latest project that was just completed. 

What was the hardest project you took on for the Sisters? 

Probably the construction of the Aloysius Day Care Center in Guatemala. It was complicated and dangerous because of the local crime. There was a lot of gang activity. It also took a lot of tact and negotiating to get the buy-in from the local community. They felt that the land we were given by the government was theirs, so that created a lot of tension initially. But that was a long time ago! Now, the community loves the Sisters and over 120 families benefit from the free childcare services they offer, which serves mostly single mothers. 

You are such a great ambassador of the Sisters of Mary! Anything else you wish to add? 

My inspiration and commitment to serve the Sisters' projects runs very deep. The Sisters and I may be doing different things, but we are looking in the same direction. 

What we are accomplishing together is truly effective at breaking the poverty cycle. I've seen it with my own eyes. It is hard to imaging that the small children we see on the rubbish dumps of the city, and the children that fill the schools of the Sisters are in fact the same children. The difference is that by giving them this opportunity, the Sisters are truly changing their destiny. 

Students during an auto mechanic workshop at our Guatemala Boystown.

Students during an auto mechanic workshop at our Guatemala Boystown.

The Day Care Center in Guatemala

The Day Care Center in Guatemala.

The library at our Girlstown in Guatemala.