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Overlooked: religious Sister wins million-dollar humanitarian prize

Sister Catherine Mutindi

What happened?

A religious Sister who founded a project which helps poor families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has won a $1 million (£780,000) humanitarian prize. Sister Catherine Mutindi, a member of the the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, was awarded the Opus Prize, which recognises religion-based social enterprises.

Why was it under-reported?

The Church’s status as the biggest charity in the world remains an underreported fact. Sister Catherine’s work began in 2012 when a bishop invited her to the city of Kolwezi to help widows and orphans. The area is dominated by the mining industry, where there is often violence and exploitation. Her project, Bon Pasteur Kolwezi, has worked to offer training, financial support and services, helping children to access education and mine workers to find alternative work in agriculture or textiles. It has also addressed human rights abuses.

What will happen next?

Sister Catherine’s project is expanding: as well as the community of Kanina, where the project began, it will now be extended to six other mining communities around Kolwezi, and go from serving 5,000 to 23,000. There will be much work to do: human rights are “systematically violated” in these areas. Her approach could potentially become a model for addressing the conditions of workers in the DRC’s cobalt mining industry. Amnesty International say that Bon Pasteur is the only organisation “working effectively” to protect women and children.