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Preda Newsletter June 2009

June 2, 2009 · 

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Dear Friends, Supporters and Defenders of Children,

Greetings and welcome to our Preda Newsletter with the latest updates on the action and developments since March this year. There has been remarkable progress in the services for children, many more have been rescued from jail, brothels and abusers and many are recovering. They are finding a happier safe life and going through a personal transformation and discovering their stolen childhood. We are also expanding the program and building new homes with the help of generous supporters. At the same time we never let up on the advocacy and lobbying campaign to curb sex tourism, and for the government of the Philippines to pass new child protection laws. We are campaigning now to get the Philippine president to pass the Anti – Child Pornography Bill. Also, small farmers are happy that Preda supporters in Ireland and the UK are buying more and more Preda /Forest Feast dried mangos.

Many throwaway-abused children have been found and rescued by Preda and given a new home and are living happily again. Angel at 9 years old was abused by a relative in Angeles city, 60 kilometers from Preda. She was warned to tell no one or she would be killed. Her mother was jailed for drugs and theft and Angel went begging on the streets to get food. At 11 years old, a female pimp took her in and soon she was sold to foreign sex tourists from the UK and elsewhere. She was traumatized at that very young age and ran away from the pimp and Preda social workers were called in to rescue her.

Angel is now happily recovering, safe and secure at Preda Children’s Home and going to school with 56 other young girls rescued from brothels and abusers. All this is possible, thanks to you, our donors and partners. Many of the children have on-going cases in court against their abusers and we are fighting for justice with them, it is a healing process for the children also and they feel empowered when they can bravely testify.

Dedicated Lay Missionaries, volunteers and students come to help. They are from several countries like Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Korea, the USA, and Japan and they come to the Philippines to help Preda, they are our “Lay Missionaries”. A group of Irish teaches from the West of Ireland organized by our partner Preda-Galway and led by Philip Cribbin spent several weeks at Preda sharing their skills, talents and care for the children. They also gave an English improvement course to the Preda Staff. Also, the individuals and Preda support groups in Ireland, Preda Galway – Greystones, Sligo and many parts of Ireland and the UK bring positive moral values into Philippine society through the work of Preda. We use mass media and the internet to spread the message of justice and peace.

Their presence has a big positive impact on the children, besides all the affirmation given by the Preda team, the additional attention the children get from the volunteers confirms for them that they are truly important and valued since the lay missionaries come from far way to be with them. The children who once felt so low now are inspired to study and remake their lives. The Lay Missionaries, volunteers and interns have a life changing experience too and it’s a spiritual awakening for many of them.

Trafficking of children and women is growing in most countries. All who believe in the dignity and equality of the human person are rightly outraged and disturbed by the blatant and shocking wave of international trafficking and sale of human persons as sex slaves and exploited unpaid workers. Many think that slavery was abolished but how wrong. It is thriving in a new form and using all modern forms of electronic communication and media to promote it. Child pornography drives this dehumanization of children and women, denying their dignity and value. We are now promoting the new law which Preda helped draft to combat child pornography.

Margie and Angie are the latest success among the older teenagers who were rescued from sex slavery and are now turning around their lives. They were lured by pimps from their villages in Samar province, and trafficked to the sex bars of Angeles City where the politicians give the bar permits to operate, most bars are operated by foreigners from European countries. The two girls were lured into the sex business and locked in a den with debts and threats hanging over them.

They were rescued when the Preda rescue team received a text message that said they were forced to be prostituted and they wanted to escape from the sex bar where they were imprisoned and forced to service 10 to 12 men a night and never got paid. They were beaten up when they refused to have sex. Margie thought she was pregnant and the Mamasan said she must have a forced abortion, she did not want it. She had to escape. After a secret agreement by text, they climbed over a wall and ran to the waiting Preda van.

They are now safe at the Preda training home and turned 17 years old in the past few months. They have quickly picked up skills in shirt and sportswear making from which they have good earnings and have some extra to send home to their family so their brothers and sisters can go to school. Our partner organization “OneChild” in Canada is ordering T-Shirts made under Fair Trade criteria for students who want sport clothes free of exploitation and child labor.

Margie and Angie and many more will have a good livelihood as an alternative to what they were forced to do before. They are discovering a new life of dignity and proudly showed off their new found knowledge and skills. Both have achieved high marks in academic studies, reading, writing and basic math. They are happy to be able to study and learn and earn. Before they were practically illiterate having had to drop out of school and work at an early age. Now they are at school, receiving skills training and finding a new life of dignity and respect at the Preda Girl’s Home.

The second Preda home for children 5 to 16 years old who are victims of pedophiles and sexual abuse by their relatives is also full. Their first great joy is to escape the clutches of the abuser and feel safe and protected and welcomed in the children’s home. This is a happy sanctuary where they can recover and heal from their ordeal. The tears and depression soon turn to smiles and laughter as they join in the community games and singing and other fun activities and share their stories.

More than 50 girls recovering from sexual abuse at Preda are back to school. Moreover, six girls who graduated from high school this March are now enrolled in college to be social workers and psychologists. They are very much inspired to help other girls as they themselves were once helped too. Several of the Preda staff were victims themselves so they are greatly trusted and have a unique understanding of what the abused children have suffered and are best qualified by experience to give counseling and support.

The success of the Home for Boys rescued from jails and detention centers is very encouraging. After enduring such confinement, hardship and derivation, and sometimes brutality, they are happy and free at Preda home. There are no guards, gates, fences or punishment. But they accept the code of mutual respect and self improvement and find a new life of dignity where they can learn skills and literacy and go to school. Our therapeutic recovery home for boys likewise is overpopulated now, but we can’t say no to a young boy rescued from prison who needs a caring home. Some boys who a have completed the therapeutic program are sent back to their families this summer, but scholarship for the child and assistance to their families will still continue for more months. There are 54 boys at the center now, mostly homeless kids arrested by the police for sniffing glue or false charges.

Take the case of Mike, an abandoned street child. Mike was a frail little child when he first came to Preda. He was abandoned by both parents to the care of his ill grandmother. He ran away from home when he was 12 years old because he can’t endure being abused by his alcoholic uncle. In Metro Manila, he started life as a street kid and tried every odd job to make a living. But living on the streets alone was very difficult for Mike, so he became acquainted with other street children. Until one night, Mike was awakened by the noise of a gang fight.

The police came but the fighting kids had run away. Frustrated, the police arrested Mike and the other kids and dragged them to the police station and charged them with illegal possession of a deadly weapon. Mike stayed in the filthy and overcrowded cell for months, enduring the heat, lack of food, poor sanitation, and abuse of the adult inmates including sexual abuse plus the inhumane treatment of the jail guards.

From street boy to a college student. A new life began for Mike when the Preda rescue team found him and got him freed and he was brought to the Preda Boy’s Home. Mike is one of the very first clients helped since the start of the project. Mike, together with other boys graduated from high school last March and is now going to college studying psychology. He is an intelligent kid and a top student. He is now assisting the staff in caring for the new boys in the center and has learned driving recently to assist Preda in its outreach work. Mike and three other boys are now in College and three more are enrolled in high school. Mike is taking up psychology and the others took up computer related courses. The other boys are taking their non-formal schooling at Preda to prepare them for formal schooling next semester. It’s amazing that the former semi-illiterate street boys have recovered and developed themselves, and they are growing intelligence and ability to be able to take a college course. Once wrongly and unjustly branded criminals and treated as thrown-away children, now they are very much the opposite, they are law-abiding and hard working youth, studying for a bright future.

Your support makes this a more just world for children. Not only are we saving the children from the streets and the victims of trafficking and abuse, but we also work to tackle the root causes of poverty and criminality. When people see the children recovering and overcoming the trauma and speaking out bravely, they too are encouraged to support the work. We need public support for this and so it is important to create awareness through public education campaigns and to end the case-fixing whereby pedophiles pay-off the parents and local officials. All this are part of our daily work. Irish Aid, the government human rights support fund is a big help in this.

Also we thank the individuals and Preda support groups in Ireland, Preda-Galway – Greystones, Sligo and many parts of Ireland and UK who bring positive moral values into Philippine Society through the work of Preda. We use mass media and the internet to spread the message of justice and peace in several countries.

This May 2009 I was invited to Bremen by KNH, a children’s rights organization in Germany to join a hugely popular singing group, ”The Wise Guys” in concert and deliver an important message. There were 64,000 people at the open air concert. I was invited to give a message on the dignity and rights of the human person and to inspire young people to join the campaign for human rights and against the trafficking and abuse of children. This, I said, is the road to peace in the world.

Preda Fair Trade chemical-free dried mangoes save children and alleviate poverty. Prevention is better than cure and the Preda fair trade provides hundreds of families with jobs through its fair trade projects with small mango farmers. Even one tree is enough to give the poor family enough money to send the children to school instead of to the streets. The earnings from dried mango sales also directly give educational supplies to the children of farm helpers who are the poorest of all.

Supermarkets in the UK and Ireland and in the World Shops in Europe are very supportive to our work here. Everyone can help us save children by buying the Preda dried mangos in most major supermarkets – SuperQuinn, Dunnes, Tescos in Ireland and the UK, also Somerfield, Waitrose, and Sainsbury’s. If you can only call your local branch and ask them if they have a stock that is a very big help to remind them to order in more. Imagine just one phone call can generate many sales. Some supporters of Preda make it their mission to call the supermarkets three or four times a week telling them to be sure to have a stock of Preda dried mangos. In these hard economic times, every sale makes life better for children here.

The construction of the new home for boys is almost complete, all this thanks to your generosity of spirit and continued commitment to support the children. This HOME will house more than 100 kids rescued from the jails and give them a new life with dignity and success. A bigger Home for Girls rescued from the sex industry and abusive homes is set to be built when the Home for Boys is finished. Despite the recession, good people know that children can’t wait for better economic times ahead, they need a home now, so thanks to those who donate.

A new home for trafficked girls is to be constructed soon, thanks to “OneChild” organization in Canada and Minga in Boston, USA and other donors. A new bridge has been constructed to reach the site, thanks to Governor Amor Deloso of Zambales, who prioritized that project. Reaching the beautiful area is a joy; it’s surrounded by hills and beside is a small river and waterfall. It will provide a beautiful home and meditation center and learning institute for up to 53 girls in the future. The existing Girl’s home on-loan from the Columban Fathers is now full and there is a big need to expand the project since more and more children are being rescued and referred to us for recovery and protective custody. We are grateful also for the VAN that the Columbans’ have donated; this will be a big help in bringing the children to school, to the river for outings, to the mall and to the Preda Rescue Team in saving children from their abusive homes and jails.

Many more people are becoming aware of the best practice of Preda in handling children as the Preda Human Rights education team reaches out to the many villages and communities to educate the people about laws protecting children from abuse and exploitation and how Preda can give assistance to the local people in different ways. The team has reached thousands of people already including community leaders, police and social workers this year alone. Recently we launched the Preda comics with five different stories of oppression and triumph based on the stories of the people that we helped at Preda. It will be a good educational tool especially to young people that will help encourage them to commit to social actions. Everyone is welcome to order especially the Filipino partners here and abroad because the text is in Tagalog and English.

Likewise the Public Education Team continues its good work of awareness-building in the schools and communities and enlightens children and youth, community leaders and parents about the rights of children and what can be done to protect them. The education team brings an AKBAY youth puppet team for the fun-filled education of elementary and high school students about children’s rights and child protection. Through this, we are able to gather many reports of child abuse from the community which are almost covered up and neglected. But because they become aware that Preda is ready to give assistance, the child victims get the necessary help and the culprits face justice.

Television and magazines and newspaper continue to report the work of Preda. We continue to assists local and international media for bigger public awareness and just recently, Preda was featured in a national TV program (CASE UNCLOSED GMA7) that tackled pedophilia cases in the country in the past and present, taking up the Preda historical cases as a take-off point. A documentary on the Preda program for the children in conflict with the law will be made soon for another national TV program. Journalists from Sweden and Norway also came to visit Preda recently to do a story about our work here.

The Preda children went to the House of Representatives to call for quick legislative action for the passage of the pending Anti-Child Porn Bill. The Preda-Akbay Theater Group made a powerful presentation also together with other youth groups to show the reality of child pornography and trafficking as the worst form of child abuse, and why this evil thing will still go on without a comprehensive law to oppose it. Presently, we are circulating an Open Letter to the President of the Philippines so she will instruct the Congress to make it an “urgent” priority. Child pornography is a vile form of child abuse and it is advertising for the sex industry. We are fighting this and Preda staff and youth and children marched in a big rally to support the passage of the Anti-Child Porn Bill in the Philippines.

Preda received another award of acknowledgement from the International Justice Mission of its work helping achieved justice for children in conflict with the law.

The work is growing with the help, generosity and sacrifices of our friends, supporters, defender’s of children and people of good will. We thank all who make this work for children possible.

Sincerely,

Father Shay Cullen, the Staff and the Preda Children

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