Communities Without Borders

Photo Sarah Whiting

Growing up in Roseville in a family of 10, there was always a whirlwind of activity. I was among the older kids. My parents guided us to pay attention to the needs of the younger ones: listen to them, include them, adapt games to accommodate them, because they counted too. Another family value was to be kind and friendly with family and neighbors. These always felt like simple things.

Later, as a student at the University of Minnesota, I met a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet in the theater department. She led a class called Teaching Teachers How to Teach Drama. I realized that what she was really teaching was how to coach children to love themselves unconditionally. After the class ended, knowing that I understood her approach, she invited me to join her in her consulting work.

Through that instructor, I met many other sisters, all paying attention to the needs of others, caring about the disenfranchised, discussing root causes of poverty, adapting to address needs. It was exciting to see everything that a community of caring, concerned individuals could accomplish. In my mid- twenties, I asked to join them.

An insight I had early on was that sisters do not just move in and fix things. They first listen to the needs expressed by people who are disenfranchised and then together work on solutions.

Eventually, I began to imagine what could happen if the 650,000 sisters across the world had resources to address root causes of poverty. Sisters are already in place, living and working in areas of greatest need.

There have always been two obstacles to that vision, however. Sisters have not been easily connected to each other, nor have they had ready access to resources needed for their work.

In 2015, I gathered a merry band of sisters, including one sister’s talented cousins in the tech and communications industries. We tested a hypothesis about whether donors might be excited to support the work of global sisters. The answer was a clear yes. We launched Sisters Rising Worldwide (SRW) in 2017. In 2019, our innovative technology platform called the PeaceRoom was launched.

The PeaceRoom allows sisters to privately communicate their needs and share best practices with each other. Sisters Rising Worldwide has a public website that enables people to make a contribution of time or talent. To date we have raised over $1 million and been able to fund 30 programs in 13 countries.

Examples of Sisters Rising

Sisters in Visakhapatnam, India, educate and prepare young women for jobs. However, the cost for regular transportation was not affordable. Women walked to their internships, making them vulnerable to traffickers. With SRW funds, a small bus was purchased, and today the women are safely transported to their internships.

In Philadelphia, Dawn’s Place offers a safe and caring residential setting for survivors of human trafficking. It is a pioneering program that provides a safe space for survivors to develop a recovery plan, heal, and successfully return to society. SRW funding enabled them to hire a social worker who helps women transition to independent living.

Three Sisters manage the Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI) in Wau, South Sudan, which trains nurses and midwives. In 2010, when CHTI opened, there were only 83 registered nurses and 19 registered midwives in the country.

Since 2013, CHTI has graduated 154 nurses and 71 midwives. More than 50 percent of the student body is female — in a country in which many girls do not go to school beyond the fourth grade. With SRW funds, CHTI can now accept more women into its three-year program, which offers a good education and is key to preventing human trafficking and early marriage.

In 2021, the first shipment of computers arrived at a sisters’ school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The school is located in a village near the borders of Burundi and Rwanda. In 1994, the village was destroyed by genocide. To reconstruct elements of society, sisters use those computers to work with young women to prepare for future careers.

Sister Helen in Mindanao, Philippines, convinced farmers that people are paying the price from years of pesticide use and the solution is organic farming. After five years of helping them rehabilitate their land, fishing, and forest resources, those practices are working. Sister Helen received funding from SRW to begin building an ecology center that will allow farmers from farther away to come to week-long workshops for hands-on learning. Boundaries are not needed if we want to solve problems.

Details: srw.org