There are resources enough to take care of the world’s needs. Those resources just aren’t in the right places.
This was the premise when Sisters Patty Johnson of St. Louis, Judy Molosky and Suzanne Jabro of Los Angeles and Irene O’Neill of St. Paul got to chatting. Together, they agreed that sisters working on the ground likely understand the root causes of the poverty around them and what’s needed to address them.
Meeting periodically, Sister Irene recalled the foursome asked: “Do we really believe that any sister working and living close to poverty could name its root causes? Are there really enough resources? Aren’t Catholic sisters the largest movement of women the world has ever known?” Their answers were: Yes! Yes! Yes!
Sister Irene recalled going to the United Nations with Sister Patty, where they discovered there are over 40 sisters working at the UN representing 200 congregations globally, but they didn’t have a database of sisters and their ministries. “We were shocked to learn how siloed sisters and their communities are,” said Sister Irene. “Without a master database, how could we connect the 650,000 sisters in 190 countries doing life-changing work?
The seeds for Sisters Rising Worldwide (SRW) were sown.
“If a platform to connect us doesn’t exist, we’d have to create one,” continued Sister Irene, now president of SRW. Technology would be required to find out where sisters are, discover what they believe is causing the poverty near them, give them a way to share their knowledge with each other and people willing to support their work and build a way to move existing resources in ways that can reduce or eradicate poverty around the world.
Kelly Mallon-Young, Chief Operating Officer (left) and Sister Irene O’Neill, CSJ and President of Sisters Rising Worldwide (right).
Sister Patty suggested connecting with her cousins Kris, Kathryn and Kelly Mallon. Technically sophisticated, well connected and highly successful, the siblings immediately took to the project. They storyboarded a prototype for donors and suggested working with Wonderful, a company that appreciated that sisters are a global movement addressing root causes of social injustice. Working
together, they created two platforms:
PeaceRoom: a private, secure platform that connects sisters globally to share best practices and crisis alerts.
srw.org: a public website where donors can directly fund sisters’ projects around the world.
“Now, we’re talking about the potential for real systemic change in the world!” said Sister Irene. “Take human trafficking. We learned about sisters in one community who saved 50 people from being trafficked. Barely a dent. But when their numbers were added to the global sisterhood’s anti-trafficking movement – along with sharing what to look for, how to address it, and finding ways to fund their work – you start appreciating how sisters are making significant inroads to eradicate this blight. The potential is tremendous.”
Only two and a half years into this project, the platform is working. The SRW website highlights an array of projects including a mobile children’s book program in the Philippines, providing basic electricity in Malawi, improving rural natal healthcare in Tanzania, and providing scholarships to address gender inequality and discrimination in South Sudan. So far, the donors have given more than $1.2 million to 84 programs in 23 countries.
Recently, Sisters Rising Worldwide:
In addition to raising funds, SRW is working on developing university relationships to find students in need of research projects to help with efficacy research.
Currently, nearly every penny raised by SRW goes to sisters’ programs. Impressively, to date the organization’s executives work for free. “We’d like to endow some or all overhead to contract with younger talent and keep up with growth, so 100% of donations can go to programs,” concluded Sister Irene. “Most importantly, if everyone reading this could give $5 a month (a cup of coffee?) we’d be well on our way.”