Sister Act

Published May 1, 2012

i dream of a dorm Youngest rape victims need a special wing, says Sister Doreen.
Photo: Ali Symons

It was 3:00 in the morning when a drunk man scaled the fence of the Christian Care Centre. He was looking for his wife and he had a weapon.

Sister Doreen was ready for him.

She caught the man by his collar and spoke to him in a local dialect. She calmed him down. She made him leave.

Confrontations are semi-regular events at this centre in Tenaru, Solomon Islands. A project of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Christian Care Centre is one of few places in the country where victims of domestic violence can find refuge.

“Auntie Doreen” is its charismatic leader. Short and sturdy with a blazing smile, she leads a staff of six sisters from two Anglican communities: the Melanesian Sisters and the Community of the Sisters of the Church.

The sisters opened the centre in 2005 after seeing families displaced by ethnic tensions. They offer short-term hospitality, medical care and counselling to women and children who arrive by foot or police escort. Most are victims of rape, some as young as 10.

Sister Doreen’s dream is to set up a “Rainbow Wing” dormitory for these youngest survivors, who need active distractions such as music. Currently, the centre’s facilities include 20 rooms, a chapel and access to the ocean. In 2011, the sisters welcomed 120 women and 73 children.

They reach only a few of those who need them. The Solomon Islands has the world’s highest rate of sexual violence against women, according to a recent World Bank report. A reported 64 per cent of women have been physically or sexually abused by their partners.

The sisters are also concerned about foreign loggers and fishermen who exploit children. In 2007, the centre published a report exposing activities such as child prostitution and early marriage near logging camps. At first, local leaders were skeptical of the report’s claims. Now, some see the sisters as trailblazers.
Progress is slow and their security is shaky, yet the sisters remain committed. “I’m passionate about this,” says Sister Doreen. “It’s stressful and draining, but it’s good work.”

To donate to the Christian Care Centre, call 1-888-439-GIFT or donate online at


  • Ali Symons

    Ali Symons is a senior editor with General Synod.

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