7The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of the East-West Province initiated a Ministry at the Texas Border offering opportunities for our Sisters to volunteer.   By the end of this year, 41 sisters will have served in McAllen, Texas in a Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Brownsville Diocese. Collectively, they welcomed thousands of Central Americans during their unforgettable time there. Some of these Sisters share their reflections with us.

Sister Claire Pierz: My trip to McAllen was filled with many moving opportunities to8 experience the plight of people coming to our country—the kindest most patient people you could want to meet and so grateful for everything. At one point, I held a baby for a mother so she could eat her breakfast. One man even offered to pay for his soup. They were so grateful… even for a smiling welcoming face.

Sister Denise Rajotte: Over the last two months, two experiences have stayed in my mind and heart: a stream of faces of asylees runs in my head numerous times during each day and a sense of singlemindedness, communion with all the asylees and a clear focus on the needs of the present day. Indeed, a blessing!

9Sister Mary Friel: A beautiful Mayan mother Maria, with her teenage son had walked to the Mexican/US border in 15 days, fleeing violence and fear of forced membership in gangs… a young Honduran father said how his parents, aunt, uncle and two cousins had been shot dead. I was in tears, and he was too…

Sister Betsy Flynn: …we could hear the cries of small children… screams of troubled children, hungry children, and babies… I listened to the cries of the poor, and these cries opened my heart to the hope and courage of their mothers and fathers…risking their lives for the hope of a better life and future for their families.

Sister Mary Alice McCabe: …we have met an army of volunteers, St. Joseph Sisters of Philly, Anglican Deacons-Trinity on the Border, Rabbis, pastors, groups of Presbyterians and Methodists and many local folks like Marcia who dedicated her week off to the respite center. …the clinic gave over the counter meds …the Doctor pulled out her wallet and gave personal money to Sr. Maryann to run to the drugstore for more boxes of medicine.

Sister Ginny Scally: The gentle father I met was from Nicaragua. Gangs had murdered


Sr. Denis Raiotte & Mary Friel

his aunt, uncle, and two cousins. He had a job, but it paid next to nothing. He made a choice with his wife, to flee with his family, to the United States. He desired only to work hard to earn decent money so they could have “a future full of hope” … and a semblance of dignity and honor.

We thank each sister for her profound and touching reflections.  There will be a continuation of these reflections in August. We extend our gratitude to Sisters Ellen Dabrieo, Judith Flahavan, Betsy Flynn, and Mary Alice McCabe for their initiative, planning, organization and on-going vision of this much-needed ministry. Prayers and donations for supplies at the Center will always be appreciated.

My warmest appreciation too, to Sister Rita Raboin, who generously edited and organized these reflections.






5By Salma Hamida Sahnoun, Intern, SNDatUN: In 2017, an estimated 271 million people, or 5.5 percent of the global population aged 15-64, had used drugs in the previous year. In 2019,  35 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorders. The above statistics are taken from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). To raise awareness on the urgency of the issue, the UNODC launched the  2019 World Drug Report on June 26.  The World Drug Report is a yearly publication that presents an assessment of the global drug problems, with a focus on the illicit drug situation. It also provides information on trends in the production, trafficking, and use of hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamines. The report is based on data collected and prepared by Governments, the UNODC, and other international institutions that attempt to identify trends in the evolution of global illicit drug markets. Through the World Drug Report, UNODC aims to enhance Member States’ understanding of illegal global drug trends and increase awareness on the need for a more systematic collection and reporting of data relating to illicit drugs.

According to the report, only 2 in 10 people who need drug addiction treatment receive 2it, and over 70,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2017. This is unacceptable, especially when there are effective treatments for addiction. To deal with the issue of drug addiction society needs to put an end to the culture of stigmatization of drug addicts. Much of the stigma of addiction borders around the presumption that drug abuse is a moral failing, and that using the drug is an issue of free will. But, current scientific evidence shows that addiction is similar to other chronic illnesses. Addiction is a medical issue with both mental and physical manifestations, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes. So why can we treat cardiovascular problems, but we cannot treat addiction?

Read more:

2019 World Drug Report:




For the fourth year since the adoption of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the UN hosted the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals from 9 – 18 July 2019. The theme for the 2019 HLPF is “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” The High-Level Political Forum is the UN central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Global Agenda. The HLPF provides for the full and active participation of all Member States of the UN, UN specialized agencies, Civil Society Organizations, and other stakeholders.

collageA vital component of the HLPF is the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) of the SDGs. The VNR provides an opportunity for the follow-up and review of the implementation of the SDGs by the Member States. This year, forty-seven countries presented their national voluntary review for the second time since the adoption of the SDGs. 2019 also marks the completion of the first cycle of the HLPF. The following SDGs; 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17 were reviewed.

One of the highlights of the HLPF and most UN conferences is that these provide the


Sr. Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN

occasion for governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to sponsor side-events on relevant topics at the margin of these conferences. So, on 9th July, SNDatUN, Society of the Sacred Heart at the UN, International Presentation Association, Associated Country Women of the World, and the Justice Coalition of Religious at the UN (a coalition of 20 Catholic Religious NGOs of women and men accredited to the UN), co-sponsored a side event.  Our side event with the title; “SDG4: Quality Education is at the Heart of Sustainable Development,” had four panelists who spoke on the theme from the viewpoint of their respective organizations


Representatives of the co-sponsoring NGO’s

Sister Kristin Hokanson, SNDdeN, presented the Notre Dame perspective. She gave an overview of the two hundred plus years efforts of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in providing quality education to children and adults in five continents where the SNDdeN have a presence. Sister Kristin who is also the founder and principal of Notre Dame Virtual School (NDVS) then focused the rest of her presentation on the NDVS, explaining how she uses technology to create awareness about the 2030 Global Agenda and other social justice issues. Through the NDVS, Sr. Kristin also makes educational resources available to Notre Dame schools (students and teachers) around the world. According to Sister, NDVS offers her the space to do what St. Julie instructed the Sisters; “to teach whatever is necessary to equip the students for life.”

The SNDatUN NGO Office is grateful to Sister Kristin, for her very insightful presentation on the work of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in providing quality education. We were also honored to welcome Sister Karen Hokanson, who accompanied her twin-sister, Kristin. It was quite an enriching experience. At the end of the very interactive session, the participants presented some policy recommendations which we intend to integrate into our advocacy strategy at the UN.

Read more:

2019 High-Level Political Forum of Sustainable Development:



5The World Day Against Child Labour, which is celebrated on 12 June every year, was launched in 2002 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to raise awareness and inspire actions to end child labour. The theme for the 2019 World Day Against Child Labour is; Children should not work in fields but on dreams. This assertion, sadly, is not the experience for the millions of children who are forced to work every day to support themselves and their families, sometimes under very hazardous conditions. The ILO data indicates that over 218 million children around the world are forced to work full-time. Child labour robs children of their childhood. It exposes them to situations of abuse, deprives them of leisure and fundamental freedoms, adequate education, and healthcare. Child labour endangers the lives of children and violates their human rights.

States must ensure the protection of the human rights of children as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments. As Nelson Mandela rightly noted, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Below are some facts and figures from the UN website, illustrating the prevalence of child labour in the different regions of the globe.

  • Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.
    Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.
  • In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa; 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.
  • In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6%) are in child labour, whilst prevalence in other regions is between 3% and 7%: 2.9% in the Arab States (1 in 35 children); 4.1% in Europe and Central Asia (1 in 25); 5.3% in the Americas (1 in 19) and 7.4% in Asia and the Pacific region (1 in 14).
  • Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years. 6
    Forty-two million (28%) are 12-14 years old, and 37 million (24%) are 15-17 years old.
  • Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old. Nevertheless, up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old.
  • Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys, and 64 million are girls.
  • 58% of all children in child labour and 62% of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour.
  • Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding, and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming; 17% in Services; and 12% in the Industrial sector, including

Read more:

Convention Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment:

Learn about the Convention on the Rights of the Child:




3By Ms. Salma Sahnoun, Intern, SNDatUN: On 7 June, the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea hosted a conference to commemorate the World Oceans Day (8 June) under the theme: “Gender and the Oceans.” Storytellers and speakers from around the world came to share their perspectives on how to ensure cleaner oceans as well as ways to promote gender equality in ocean-related activities such as; marine research, fisheries, labour at sea, migration by sea and human trafficking.

Mrs. Aunofo Havea, the founder of Vaka and Moana, was one of the panelists at the conference.  She is also the first licensed female captain in all of Polynesia, and the creator of the “Swimming with Whales Industry” in her native country of Tonga. Mrs. Havea inspired the audience with the story of her struggle to save Whales in the shores of her region since her youth. She shared the experience of the horror she felt as she watched the last whales in the coasts of her country being killed for profit by the seafood industries. This was what inspired her to engage in the advocacy for the preservation of biodiversity in the oceans as she encouraged more women to follow her lead.

Besides the emphasis on the importance of women in advocacy for the health of the oceans, another speaker, Mr. Tun Lin, spoke on the issue of human trafficking. Mr. Tun Lin, (a trafficking survivor from Myanmar) spoke about his personal experience of being sold by a ‘friend’ to fishing vessel operators from Thailand. He was enslaved and forced to work on the fishing boat for 11 years. He could not escape, despite several attempts to do so because of the threat on his family by his traffickers. Mr. Tun Lin narrated his ordeal of being tortured, sometimes with electric shocks.  He eventually escaped in 2014.  Mr. Tun Lin noted that, he was at the United Nations to share his story so that more people would become aware of the prevalence of human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the seafood industry.”

Lastly, Ms. Patima Tungpuchayakul, the co-founder of the Labor Rights Promotion 4Network, also spoke. According to Ms. Tungpuchayakul, the mission of her organization is to investigate human trafficking incidences, to rescue victims of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. They also offer services such as healthcare, education, and shelter to the victims. Ms. Patima  Tungpuchayakul said that her organization has so far rescued over 5000 children, women, and men who were trafficked and enslaved on fishing vessels. She noted that modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the fishing industry is not just a South Asian problem,  but that it is a global issue.  And as such, she urged the UN to come up with internationally agreed regulatory policy to ensure for just wage, safety, and human rights of men and women who work in the fishing industry.

Read more:


UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea:

The UN World Oceans Day:




15 June is observed as the World Environment Day. The theme for the 2019 Environment Day is, “Beat Air Pollution.” The World Health Organization estimates that over seven million people die each year from illnesses linked to air pollution. Nine out of every ten people around the world breathe bad air. There are several causes of air pollution. While a few are caused by natural events, many are as a result of human activities.  Protecting our environment is crucial to the survival of the human race and other species who share the earth planet with us. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, was unequivocal in his message to world leaders and other stakeholders to mark the 2019 World Environment Day.  His words; “It is time to act decisively. My message to governments is clear: tax pollution, end fossil fuel subsidies, and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy, not a grey economy.”

Issues related to the environment has continued to gain more attention at the UN since2 the first conference (Conference on the Human Environment) was convened in Stockholm, Sweden, on 5 June 1972. On 5 December of same year, the  General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 5 June as the World Environment Day. The purpose for observing World Environment Day, according to the UN Environmental Programme is to raise awareness and generate political momentum around growing concerns such as the depletion of the ozone layer, toxic chemicals, desertification, and global warming.

Human beings are both “creatures and moulders of their environment, which gives them physical sustenance and affords them the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social, and spiritual growth” – UN. How are you contributing to creating cleaner air and greener environment where you live?

Read more:

“Breath of Life:” Video by the World Health Organization on how air pollution impacts the human body:

Air pollution – a major global public health issue:




5By Ms. Salma Sahnoun: Intern, SNDatUN: I got very interested in an internship experience with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur after representing the organization at Harvard National Model United Nations in February 2019. It became evident to me that I share a common value on the importance of education, especially the education of women and girls with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I am happy to have been accepted for a summer internship at the SNDatUN office in New York with Sister Grace.

I began my internship on May 13, 2019. During the first week, I attended a meeting of the NGO committee on Stop-Trafficking in Persons, where we listened to reports from some of the members on the just concluded UN Forum on Indigenous Peoples and another report from a research on the 2018 US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. We also watched a video clip on Nadia Murad and her attorney, Amal Clooney’s audience with the UN Security Council on ISIL war crimes against the Yazidi people. I also attended the meeting of the NGO Committee on Social Development, where the topic of discussion was on the issue of homelessness. I felt privileged to be part of this meeting because as I gathered from the discussions, this would be the first-time issues around homelessness will be the focus of deliberation in any UN Commissions. The NGO committee has begun to strategize for advocacy with the Member States during the forthcoming UN Commission on Social Development in February 2020. The group is also planning to organize a “sleepout campaign” on December 7, 2019, in New York City. The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness on the issue of homelessness.

My first week ended very well. I look forward to learning more from Sr. Grace, who is6 also teaching me the basics of social justice, especially from the African perspective. I think I will find this perspective very helpful since my studies are focused more on the Middle East. One of my wishes for this internship is to expand my knowledge of other regions of the world. The UN is the heart of global governance, and having the opportunity to be here will undoubtedly be a booster towards my studies, my personal and professional life. I meet people from different nationalities here at the UN every day. The encounter with such diversity of cultures will be one of my most cherished memories from the internship. I have so far discovered that it is just alright to speak with an accent at the UN.