Preda Newsletter July 2011
July 31, 2011 · By Preda Information Office
Dear friends and supporters of children’s rights,
Opening doors to freedom is one of the most successful programs of the PREDA Foundation. It’s a fantastic experience to see young teenagers walking free from jails where they have been unjustly imprisoned and to see the happiness on their smiling faces when they realize that they are being set free. It takes a day or two for them to come out of shock and the trauma they suffered in the brutal jails where they are thrown-in, sometimes with adult criminals. After months of enduring hunger in the darkness of overcrowded cells they can at last walk free into the sunlight with a warm welcome and a decent meal. This is what Jesus of Nazareth wants us to do and support when he said he was “sent to proclaim liberty to the prisoners… and set free the oppressed” (Lk. 4:18) and he was one with the jailed victims of injustice when he said: “Whatever you did to the least and poorest of my brothers you did to me”.
There are over 40 youth presently in the home, hundreds of others have been helped and reintegrated with their families. These teenagers have been rescued from the very dangerous and bad conditions of the jails of Metro Manila. Most are arrested without warrant or evidence against them, many are innocent, and some have been framed up by corrupt police. A few have committed serious crimes and have been sent to the PREDA home by a compassionate judge who believes they acted with diminished responsibility and under extenuating circumstances.
They are now out of the sub-human conditions and happy in the freedom of the PREDA Home for Boys where there is no punishment, guards and fences but plenty of respect, affirmation and emotional support. There is therapy, education, skills training and spiritual formation. 90% agree to stay voluntarily proving that there is no need for every child in conflict with the law to be incarcerated behind bars. This we have proved to all.
Reconciliation and family therapy is one of the most important events at the PREDA home. It was a very special day for Richard, 15, after five months of incarceration in a government run youth detention, this occasion was the only time he was able to hug his mother and siblings again without metal bars between them. Richard was rescued together with 3 other minors from a congested Metro Manila youth detention center.
The recent family day celebration at the PREDA Home for Boys was a remarkable day for him because he felt he is really important and cared for by his family. The other PREDA boys had the same feeling of worth and value when their families arrived and spent time with them. Most of these children were deprived of love and material things when they were little, and obviously they are longing for their family’s love and acceptance, something that PREDA is trying to re-establish family support. Thank you for being a part of this important work.
Saving Girls from the Abusers
Angelica, 13 years-old is another child that emerged from sorrow to happiness last February when freed from the abusive power of her 28 year old sexual assailant, a distant relative of her parents. As a result of the information dissemination and awareness campaign of the PREDA / Irish Aid project, the police were informed by a member of the public and the perpetrator was arrested. The parents refused to bring the child to PREDA. Weeks later, unknown to PREDA the parents of Angelica secretly reached a shocking settlement for money with the abuser and his family, they withdrew the charges and gave the child to the abuser as his sex partner. PREDA was informed and demanded that the child be rescued. A social worker and a team went to the house of the perpetuator and rescued Angelica and she was brought to the PREDA home for girls.
She was traumatized from all the sexual abuse but began to recover in a few days and soon found a smile, and today is playing, going to school and is growing in self-confidence as she understands her rights and dignity and wants justice. A new case has been filed against her abuser and the fight for justice is on. Education and counseling will be given to the parents if they agree to cooperate in the recovery of their daughter.
The Angel Annie hot-line mobile phone, part of the IRISH AID project to protect children has helped save yet another child from sexual abuse. Georgina, 8 years-old was abused continually by the live-in partner of her mother. When the mother was absent he showed Georgina child porn to groom her for the abuse. Despite our advocacy for the implementation of the law banning it, it’s a slow process. Soon he was her regular abuser and she was terrified by the threats of the perpetrator and was unable to tell anyone until her grandmother took her for a short vacation. Then she tearfully revealed what had being happening.
Georgina’s auntie had heard of the services of PREDA through IRISH AID posters and comics and they contacted the PREDA child rescue team by texting the hot-line. Immediately a rescue team was dispatched, the members coordinated and met up with the local government social worker and the women police and Georgina was taken into care and protection. Legal charges are being filed against the abuser even though the child’s mother is refusing to testify. Just one more of the 46 girls from 8 to 17 years of age saved from abusers and traffickers and sex slavers. We won’t rest until justice prevails. Help us make it happen.
Trafficked children rescued, case filed in court
In our fight against the traffickers and sex slavers PREDA has pursued a father and son, Filipino-Americans, who took two ten and 11 year old sisters into their house in Olongapo city having paid the mother for them. Four years later one, the 15 year old, Laura escaped and ran to PREDA with the story of the abuse. PREDA planned and organized a police raid with National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The children were rescued and lived safely at the PREDA girls’ home. The computers on which the suspects stored the videos of child pornography made using the children was confiscated as evidence. These were taken by the arresting officers as evidence also a gun and unknown amounts of money. Later this evidence disappeared in NBI custody and the trafficking charges were dismissed. The perpetrators fled back to California. So that is what we are up against in fighting trafficking. Undeterred the PREDA legal team then filed a child abuse case (RA 7610) against the suspects and lobbied for the case to be filed in court. This time we succeeded. The culprits will be ordered to appear in court, if they fail to show up they will get an arrest warrant and extradition will be requested. There is a long battle ahead. But this we must do.
A NEW HAVEN FOR CHILD VICTIMS
The construction of the new PREDA Girl’s Home is underway in a perfect therapeutic setting in the countryside. A drainage canal has been already installed to divert water from the mountains. A strong supply of water will support the needs of more than 50 girls once the PREDA Girl’s Home is constructed hopefully this November or early in 2011. This home will be the new haven for all these victims of sexual abuse and child exploitation giving them a safe and better life.
Almost every week, there are rescues and referrals of young victims for protective custody and recovery. Take the case of Shealy and Gina, 12 and 15 years old, prostituted by an adult whom they believed to be their savior but now rescued and having a better life recovering and healing at the PREDA home for girls. When the two ran away from their dysfunctional home, they had nowhere to go but live in the streets. The pimp, Maggie took them in her shanty and provided them with food and clothing. Shealy and Gina thought they found a new family that would care for them, but Maggie sold them to different men for sexual abuse. Almost every night, the two girls were prostituted and many times the two were taken to the cemetery where they were raped and abused. Maggie forced them to do this in exchange for their stay in her house. When they refused she outrageously shouted and berated them that they have a “debt of gratitude” and must repay Maggie for her kindness.
Their misery ended when the police and barangay (community) officials conducting a raid in the cemetery knowing that prostitution is rampant in the covered tombs. Luckily the two girls were saved and brought to PREDA for therapeutic intervention while the pimp was captured and charged for trafficking of minors.
Shealy and Gina are now happy at the PREDA children’s home are gaining weight and overcoming skin disease picked up from the abuse. They are looking forward to a better life and going back to school. All these children are saved because of public awareness and community education on the rights of the child supported by IRISH AID.
Meeting the Minister Jan O’Sullivan
Last June Father Shay Cullen, founder and president of PREDA was in Dublin meeting with the Minister of State for Trade and Development, Jan O’Sullivan, accompanied by Grainne Kelly a well known campaigner against drug distribution and a celebrated European Woman of the Year Awardee. An interesting sharing of information and discussion on the PREDA projects funded by Irish Aid ensued. An Irish youth group will be going to visit the project this year. Many thanks minister for the gracious welcome at short notice given to Fr. Shay. The same day, former classmate of Fr. Shay, Sean Barrett, speaker of the house of the Irish Parliament, welcomed Fr. Shay and Grainne Kelly for a private meeting to discuss the work of PREDA and to reminisce times past.
During the same visit to Ireland, a meeting at the St. Andrews Resource Center on Pierce St., PREDA partner, brought together the Young Irish volunteers who are preparing to travel to PREDA this October 2011 to participate in the activities with the PREDA children. St. Andrew’s Center staff will accompany them as in the past. It is a life changing experience for these active young people who relate with people of foreign cultures and join their lives and make friends. These youth leaders will give seminars and presentations when they return to Ireland and help Irish youth to respect and understand the people of different races and cultures and life styles.
Two PREDA staff will travel for the third time to Ireland in late July as volunteers to help those with HIV-Aids at the remarkable Open Heart house in St. Mary’s Place, Dublin. This is a small gesture in comparison to the dozens of volunteers and interns hosted by PREDA every year. Last June 14 to 17 Fr. Shay was a participant and contributor to a workshop in Cologne on International volunteerism hosted by German sending organizations.
FAIR TRADE AND MANGO
PREDA Fair Trade’s mission is anchored on the principles of responsible and just trading practices to help impoverished families and communities overcome poverty and break the cycle of trade injustice at the same time empowering individuals. Fulfilling this mission, PREDA has been continually supporting poor farmers and their families. Besides paying a just and fair price for mangos PREDA in 2010 distributed tricycles and sidecars to 59 families in Davao, small farmers and farm workers. Besides Fair trade, earnings partly support the rescue of abused children and the homes and legal action. Fair Trade must oppose evil trade.
This harvest season in Luzon and especially Zambales was another happy time for the mango farmers when PREDA bought their crates filled with mangoes and direct premium, bonus payment to many farmers they could reach.
PREDA dried mangos are available in most supermarkets in Ireland and the UK, and in the World shops in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
The PREDA scholarship programme is now in full swing as many youth are helped through high-school and 17 intelligent but very poor students are given college educational assistance for them to win the struggle against the cycle of poverty, a generous donor helps this work. For the youth of the Philippines education is the only way out of grinding poverty as millions still live below the poverty line. PREDA is at the frontline in creating livelihood projects and helping students overcome deprivation and hunger so that they too can, in-turn, help their family.
We wish all our friends and supporters every blessing and heartfelt thanks for help and support.
Fr. Shay Cullen and the PREDA Staff.
Donations to PREDA Children’s home P.O. Box #68, Olongapo City, Philippines. Or Fr. Shay Cullen, the Columban Missionary Society, Navan, Ireland. Or Permanent TSB #990604