Tuesday, 29 July 2008 14:59

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Sister Maria is, and always has been, the heartbeat of the Human Development Foundation. From our organization’s earliest days, she has kept our foundation focused on our primary mandate to help the very poorest of the poor.

Born in Macau and raised in Thailand, Sister Maria is a founding pioneer of The Daughters of the Queenship of Mary Immaculate, where she has been the Mother Superior in one form or another for over fifty years.

For over a decade, beginning in 1972, she and Fr. Joe walked the slums. Always listening: seeking our slum neighbors’ advice and asking their needs. Their first project was a free health clinic, operated in a rented lean-to shack, but they were able to provide world-class health care.

As the years passed, always standing together with their slum neighbors, Sister Maria and Fr. Joe continued to find shacks they could renovate and use for the poorest communities; and they began opening slum kindergartens. Today we have 22 Mercy Kindergartens, most of them still rented shacks, across Bangkok’s poorest neighborhoods.

Together through the past 40 years, Sister Maria and Fr. Joe developed the foundation’s long-standing projects in preschool education, child protection, and slum community development. When AIDS entered Thailand in the early 1990s, they also developed a comprehensive and compassionate system of HIV/AIDS outreach, a home for abandoned mothers and children, a shelter for adults, and a homecare program throughout the slums.