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Preda Newsletter February 2011

February 27, 2011 · 

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DEAR FRIENDS AND DEFENDERS OF HUMAN RIGHTS,

Last year was another remarkable year for all of us who continuously support the work for social justice and children’s rights. Even at the end of the year, the work was endless in helping the impoverished children and families. Christmas parties and relief operations were organized and conducted even to the remote communities of the indigenous people of Zambales, Philippines.

At the same time, during a big Christmas celebration at Preda, more than 350 people from nearby poor communities received a bag of goods which they shared for Christmas Eve. Many thanks to all of you who helped and inspired them overcome life’s challenges.

There were several joyous, noisy and exciting children’s parties and beach outings for the Preda children and those who are safe to go home were allowed to stay with their families for the Christmas break. Now, these boys and girls are back at Preda continuing their recovery, education and training.

THE NEW PREDA GIRL’S HOME. The Preda Girl’s Home expansion plan has already begun. The site preparation is already completed – electric power lines and transformer are installed and fencing is done. The beautiful site is surrounded by tree-covered hills, and a small river runs alongside it and there are beautiful views. It will give them protection, peace, community living and privacy. It will provide accommodation in spacious rooms like small apartments, each good for five girls.

They can have a new start in life leaving behind the terrible abuse they experienced. The healing, counseling and affirming and supportive life-style will give them hope, self-confidence and a restoration of trust in adults. Much of this they already experienced at the present home but in the new location it will be amplified and greatly enhanced by the beautiful location and environment. We have sufficient funds already for 3/4 of the home and we know the rest will come in and we plan the opening and transfer of the children November this year.

There are now 58 girls in the home all happily recovering from the abuse, exploitation and terrible neglect. Nineteen (19) of them were rescued from traffickers, pimps and sex bars, and 38 were abused by their fathers, live-in partners, relatives and paedophiles. We cannot but face the disturbing truth, the depravity of sinful weakness of human nature, the selfish uncontrolled urges that bring about such suffering to children and youth. This is our work together – to save the children, protect them from the abductors and abusers, help them heal from the emotional wounds and give them the good life they deserve. This we do well, professionally, with compassion and care by our trained social workers, psychologists and care givers.

It is a daunting task helping these traumatized children. Some were sold into sex slavery, others beaten, raped and molested by parents, pimps, and pedophiles. Last year alone, the Preda Home for Girls was able to protect and care for a total of 172 young girls, all victims of abuse and commercial sex exploitation. The sad reality is that there has been no decrease in the number of child victims, in fact, the Preda Human Rights department funded with the help of Irish Aid and the Missio-funded school education programme have given the victims knowledge, hope and the courage to get help. The picture cards distributed by the Education teams give them the Preda hot line number that they can call or text for help. Immediately the Preda Rescue team will respond and go to their aid.

Many good people work to restore their stolen childhood. But despite all efforts of the NGO community in the Philippines to advance children’s rights and do much to raise public awareness and to influence public opinion to curb the spread of the international sex industry, it is not enough and abuse still proliferates. Sex tourists are still coming here to abuse children.

Julie, 15, was seduced by a well-connected wealthy man in her neighborhood. Her family was befriended, and gifts and money showered on them until finally the man lured Julie away and forced himself on her and abused Julie. He then overpowered her and held her in his house until she became docile and submissive. She was scared to run away as he was violent at times and she was afraid her parents would be angry at her. They wrongfully took money from the wealthy pedophile and did not protest when Julie was made his sex slave. He convinced her that she was bringing benefits to her impoverished family.

The mother of Julie sought help from Preda and Julie was counseled by Preda social workers. Julie then realized how she was being exploited especially when the man beat her into submission, and she decided to come to Preda and she told her story. She disclosed that the paedophile who abused her has many other photos of young girls who are probably victimized also. According to her, he is heavily armed, has bodyguards and armed goons and is dangerous. Julie is recovering now at Preda and will soon be ready to testify against her abuser and a legal case is underway.

THE LEGAL BATTLE CONTINUES. In 2010, the Preda legal department assisted in the surveillance, detection, gathering of evidence and accompanying police in investigations which has resulted in more cases of child abuse being filed in the court.

Another victory was that of Karmina’s case. She was 9 nine years old when her stepfather started abusing her. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone but she found the courage to tell her mother. A neighbor of them told Karmina and her mother about Preda and immediately they went for help. Preda assisted Karmina and her mother all the way and after 4 years of legal battle, a conviction was finally achieved. The abusive stepfather is now in prison and Karmina is happy and back with her family. She is in first year high school and Preda continues to support her studies. She plans to go to college and become a social worker.

The Preda legal department has also assisted many boys rescued by the Preda Jail Rescue team from the horrific dehumanizing conditions of prisons. Many of the children and youth have been framed-up and forced to confess by corrupt law enforcers. What could be worse for these kids than to be accused and be locked up and suffer for a crime they never committed? Most are street kids arrested over night for vagrancy by the police or if they stole food, they are then accused of a bigger unsolved crime so the corrupt police can claim success and get promotions. Due to legal petitions, the cooperative judges are releasing the children to Preda.

THE PREDA HOME FOR BOYS PROJECT. The Preda Boy’s Home had a notable year 2010 with 90.71% retention rate of the children rescued from prisons by voluntarily staying and enjoying the freedom of living at the Preda Bukangliwayway(New Dawn) open-center and organic farm. The suitable therapeutic and rehabilitation center environment, the non-punitive and restorative program based on trust, affirmation, love and care made it possible to achieve a high percentage of kids responding positively to the program.

Jamil is 15 years old and a street child, one of the thousands seen begging on street corners. He was hungry; no one would give him a crumb. Desperate, he took a lady’s shopping bag filled with food and was too weak to run far. He was easily caught. When held in the police station, another woman arrived and accused him of stealing a huge sum of money. It seemed like a set-up. The woman may have stolen the money herself and Jamil is her scapegoat.

Jamil was charged, innocent as he may well be. He was rescued from the police cells and brought to Preda where we will fight for justice for him. However, not all are innocent and those who committed serious crimes and sent to Preda are undergoing a life transformation and spiritual conversion.

There were a total of 226 boys who have been rescued and cared for at the Preda boy’s home last year. Sixty one (61) of these youth successfully completed the program and were returned back to their families in the reintegration process. These boys and their families will soon be part of the Misereor-funded livelihood assistance program to help them augment family income and keep them from committing crimes. Some are getting skilled training at the Preda vocational training center learning to rebuild old Volkswagen cars and vans.

PREDA HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION PROGRAM SAVES MORE CHILDREN. More than 10,000 people were reached by the Preda Human Rights Education Team last year in its campaign to end the abusive system victimizing young kids. The local communities and their leaders in three provinces in Central Luzon were reached and educated in the recent years on human rights particularly on children’s rights. The local councils for child protection were strengthened and networking was established to get the citizens to respond quickly and report and help rescue abused children. This was made possible through the support of Irish Aid. The increased number of reports and referrals of children into the Preda protective program were the indicators that the education program was very successful.

The case of Michelle is one good example. Michelle is a small 14 year-old child that looks like an 11 year-old Filipino and she was sold by her mother to a rich Australian pedophile sex tourist on a beach in Olongapo City who then took her to live in an apartment provided by another Australian. Michelle’s sister, Angie who was also prostituted by her mother told the situation to a friend, Maria, who had happened to have attended a Preda seminar on children’s rights. Maria knew exactly what to do. She contacted the police and the Preda rescue team and Michelle was rescued. She is now in the protection of Preda with many other child victims who have been rescued and saved.

The sex tourists are in federal police jail now. They have the mother in their influence and pay her money. They plan to get the child victim witness out of Preda with a “habeas corpus case”. Preda plans to forestall this by filing charges against the mother for pimping her child. Preda faces possible counter-charges like kidnapping from the mother and suspects, a common tactic used to halt efforts by child protection agencies like Preda. Even the government social welfare department is facing the same problem.

Another good project, the Preda public education program in the schools and communities educates and builds-up awareness with puppet shows and theater shows for interactive learning. They had a milestone success in reaching an audience of 21,968 in a day-to-day education effort involving young children, their parents and teachers. They teach them their rights and empower them to report abuse and not to be scared. Knowing that they will be believed and listened to gives them great self-confidence.

GUESTS AND VOLUNTEERS WELCOME. The Preda Center welcomes guests, journalists, professionals and students from all over the Philippines and many countries. They come for internship, to volunteer, to have a social education and the chance to meet the people in the many projects of Preda. It’s a holiday and a learning experience. Low cost accommodation and good healthy food add to the happy and enlightening experience. There were 735 people and 90 groups that visited Preda last year. The visitors were of all ages, senior citizens and young people from UK, Canada, Ireland, Spain, New Zealand, Germany, Japan, USA, Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy, Korea, Sweden, Austria, and the Philippines. The positive exciting experience encourages them to have empathy and be one with the poor and the vulnerable and to get a spirit of commitment. Many do get involved in development and justice issues when they return to their homes. They become enlightened and enthusiastic about life. Many become Preda supporters also. For information about visiting Preda see www.preda.net/www.preda.org.

There are the hundreds of Preda supporters whom we thank and without whom all the work for children cannot be achieved. You are always in our thoughts and prayers and the work goes on despite the threats and the dangers. We know that you are standing with us whatever challenges we are facing. In the end, it is justice for children that matters and we can never give up saving and helping them, come what may.

Thanking you sincerely,

Father Shay Cullen, the Staff & the Preda Children

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