Millions of children in the world have no parents to care for them; no grandparents, no aunts or uncles. They are orphans, left alone with only their little siblings after the adults were killed by the ravages of AIDS or war. Sometimes the head of household is only 7 or 8 years old.
Thankfully, there are groups trying to help.
Sister Mary Beth Lloyd, from the Institute of the Religious Teachers Filippini, travels the globe telling stories of destitute children and recruiting people to help provide for their education. Locally, one of her dedicated group of volunteers includes a collection of senior ladies from Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant. They gather at least twice a week for fellowship and outreach at the parish Beach House.
One batch of women makes rosaries and crochets hats for a variety of people all over the world, including the orphans. Another bunch sews dresses and skirts for them.
On a recent Monday, Elaine Boone, Lynda Strenck, Rosemary Giordano, Mary Graesch, Dot Comar, Dolly Thomason, Fran Franzone and Lois Cummings circled up with cups of coffee and all their supplies on tables in the community room. As they worked, there was a lot of good-natured teasing and laughter.
Boone and Strenck grew serious as they talked about the children they’re trying to help — especially the young girls. They explained that the children must receive at least an eighth-grade education, which is the minimum they need to qualify as an adult and earn a living. If they don’t, girls as young as 10 who are the head of the house will end up prostituting themselves to support their siblings.
“She’s really looking out for these little girls,” Boone said of Sister Mary Beth. “It’s very important she gets them this education so they have a future.”
To get the girls to go to school, the Filippini sisters pay them a wage, used to support their siblings. The children learn 21 skills, including agriculture, cooking, sewing, beekeeping and housekeeping.
“If you live in a hut where there’s no bathroom and you sleep on a floor, you don’t know how to clean a bathroom; you don’t know how to polish a dining room table or anything like that,” Sister Mary Beth said in an interview with New Evangelization Television. She said the housekeeping certificate is invaluable because it guarantees a job with any hotel in the girls’ country.
Recently, the sister spoke to a group of students at Bishop England High School about her mission. Mary Nemeth, the school’s director of Ministry and Missions, said the teens were riveted by the stories and anxious to help.
It is a daunting task. In the U.S. alone, there are almost 70,000 new orphans every year, Sister Mary Beth said. A great need here is a hostel-style place where runaway children escaping a bad situation can be safe at night. The needs in the mission countries are greater, but there is always faith and hope.
The ladies at Christ Our King said they feel both every time they package a dress, skirt, cap or rosary.