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Marianne (left) and Margaret
The Marianne & Margaret Nobel Peace Prize Project

To honor the sacrificing work of the two Austrian nurses Marianne and Margaret, it is our mission to make it possible that they will be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The people of South Korea think that they owe a great debt to the nurses.

Marianne and Margaret are genuine role models for voluntary work beyond borders, nations, and religions. They worked on Sorok Island – the Korean Leper Island – as nurses for more than 40 years without getting a proper wage since they used the money they earned for their patients. After graduating from nursing school in Innsbruck, Austria, Marianne and Margaret started working at Sorokdo National Hospital on Sorok Island in Jeollanamdo, South Korea in the 1960s to treat leprosy patients and their families. At that time, it was a miserable situation for the leprosy patients, also known as Hansen’s Disease, who were poor and abandoned from their families. When Marianne and Margaret came to Sorok Island they were like mothers to the patients and became their friends.

While the other nurses and doctors working there wore masks, gloves, and quarantine gear in fear of possible infections, Marianne and Margaret were touching and treating the patients with their bare hands. They made it their mission to restore the dignity of the people suffering from Hansen’s Disease.

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Marianne (left) and Margaret after their graduation in Innsbruck, Austria.

In the past, Sorok Island was a symbol of human rights violations and discrimination. Beatings were common, and the patients were forced to abortions and sterilization but with the help of the two nurses it is now made into a place for human rights, peace, and service. Marianne and Margaret not only corrected the misconceptions about leprosy, but they also provided the patients with medicine and other amenities. They asked their relatives and friends to send medicines, and provided food supplements as well as milk powder for the children who suffered from malnutrition. They invited foreign doctors to perform surgeries, and payed for medical facilities and physical therapy of the patients. For the children, who had to live separately from their parents, they built a day care center.

Thanks to all these efforts, the number of patients dropped. The medical team of the Damien Foundation (a Belgian anti-leprosy organization), which took care of the patients along with the two nurses, left the island in 1971, but Marianne and Margaret stayed.

The two sisters continued to volunteer for the next four decades until they returned to Austria in November 2005. They left Sorokdo in silence, without a “goodbye” or a farewell ceremony. With them they carried only the suitcases that they had brought there 43 years earlier.

However, they left a short letter to the people of the island: “Being old means not being able to work well and saying goodbye. Thank you for the great respect and love you have shown us, and please forgive us if, as non-Korean women, we have ever hurt your feelings. ”

It was a quiet modest farewell. The people on the island, however, would have been sad if they had known that the two Austrians were planning their departure, and that would have made the two women even sadder. When the people of the island discovered the departure of the two, they stopped their daily activities and prayed for them.

Now, it is our turn to show our gratitude to Marianne and Margaret which is why we initiated the Marianne-Margaret-Project. The main goal of the project is to nominate the two nurses for the Nobel Peace Prize to honor their work. Therefore, a national committee was formed with about 50 influential and famous persons in South Korea to support this project.

The History and Current Situation of the Project

① Registration of Marianne and Margaret’s home as a cultural heritage
Marianne and Margaret’s home on Sorok Island was registered as a cultural heritage on April 4th, 2016 and is kept in good condition ever since.

② Honorary Citizenship Award
Between May and June 2016 Marianne and Margaret gained the Korean Honorary Citizenship and the Goheung-gun honorary citizenship. After Guus Hiddink, the Dutch Trainer of the Korean national football team, they are the second and third person to receive the Korean Honorary Citizenship (awarded on June 8th, 2016 by the Ministry of Justice). For the 100th anniversary of Sorokdo National Hospital, they received the honorary citizenship of Goheung-gun (awarded on May 16th, 2016 by the administration of Goheung-gun).

③ Nomination and Award of the Manhae Prize
On August 12th, 2016 Marianne and Margaret received the Manhae Prize awarded by The Society for the Promotion and Practice of Manhae’s Thoughts. The Manhae Prize is awarded since 1997 in memory of Buddhist reformer and independence activist Han Yong-un. The prize is awarded in the following six categories: Peace, Social Service, Academic Excellence, Art, Literature and Missionary Work.

④ Establishment of a fund to secure livelihood
To secure their living, Marianne and Margaret each receive a subsidy for 10 years. Sorok Island also supports the nurses with a monthly pension.

⑤ Book publication and Documentary film production
In March 2017 the Book “Marianne and Margaret of Sorokdo” written by author Sung Ki-young was published. One month later, on April 20th, 2017 the Korean documentary “Marianne & Margaret” was released and screened in Korean cinemas. The documentary  as well as the book is about the lives of the two nurses and tells their story of 43 years of voluntary work on Sorok Island.

Watch the short version of the movie on our Facebook Page.

⑥ Establishment of a voluntary school
Currently, the “Marianne-Margaret-Voluntary-School” is under construction (expected completion: April 2018). With a total of 3 billion Won (about 2.36 million €) an educational institution with the focus on voluntary work is being built. The facility is equipped with classrooms, accommodation for students, and memorial sites.

⑦ Introduction of an award for nurses who do voluntary work
The Korean Catholic Church and the Korean government plan to establish a “Marianne-Margaret volunteering award”. This prize is to be awarded to nurses worldwide who are working as volunteers similar to Marianne and Margaret and is promoted by Goheung-gun, Jeollanam-do and the Marianne-Margaret-Association, as well es the Archdiocese of Gwangju.

⑧ Planned Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize
To nominate Marianne and Margaret for the Nobel Peace Prize a national committee with 50 influential and famous persons was formed in South Korea. Currently, a collection of signatures is organized to spread the atmosphere and participation.

If you have any questions on the Marianne-Margaret-Project, feel free to contact us at sorokhalmae@gmail.com.

Follow the Project on Facebook.