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Preda Newsletter October 2009

October 2, 2009 · 

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DEAR FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS OF PREDA,

I have to open this newsletter with the sad news of the kidnapping of Columban Father Michael Sinnott. Father Michael is a true dedicated self-sacrificing missionary. He is my former professor at the Columban Seminary in Navan, Ireland and co-missionary here in the Philippines. I appeal for all to pray for his safe release and return to his mission and the people he served for so many years.

He was taken as hostage by four men as he took an evening stroll in the garden of the Columban Missionary House in Pagadian, Philippines. Four men barged in, grabbed him and bundled him into a van that was outside the gates. Later, it was found burnt and Father Michael was seen being taken away in a boat across the bay. No one has taken responsibility for the abduction.

Father Michael has a heart condition and needs his daily medication. At his age, 78, he will be greatly challenged by this terrible ordeal. We appeal to the people who abducted him to respect his dignity and medical condition, treat him with kindness and not harshly, and provide him with his medication. There is a wide search going on all across Northern Mindanao as I write this and we can only hope and pray he will be released unharmed. The outpouring of love and respect for him by the people all over the Philippines is overwhelming.

TEENAGERS SAVED MANY USING INFLATABLE MATTRESSES. You will have seen the report on television of the horrific floods here in the Philippines and the hundreds that have died in the waters, landslides and collapsing buildings. Thousands of people have lost houses, lands and livelihoods are now marooned in remote roadsides and hills shivering under plastic streets. There are many heroes. One man saved dozens of lives and finally exhausted himself, and died while swimming to save a small child. When flood waters covered even the roofs of houses, teenagers went out on inflatable rubber mattresses and used them as life rafts and brought many more to safety.

Preda social workers mounted a relief effort and we made relief packs of rice and canned fish, peanut butter and other foods and gathered clothes and other basic needs and finally made it through the flood waters to the beleaguered people. We are continuing this work as I write this. The children at Preda are all working making up more relief packs.

Your help and support for our work is important to help more children and protect and heal those rescued. Continuously we are spending more money than ever on the many children that we are helping. That’s because we are rescuing more children in dire circumstances. You will be saddened by the fact that many children are still being abused due to the international sex tourism coming from many foreign countries. This is tolerated by corrupt local government officials in the Philippines and we continue to challenge them about it. As yet to no avail.

But we have been working successfully in helping draft a new anti-child pornography law with the legal team of Senator Jamby Madrigal. This has now reached its final phase having been approved by the House and Senate and soon to be signed by the President. Thanks to all who prayed and did the letter writing.

The new law against child pornography will compel the internet business companies that provide access to the internet to install electronic blocking filters so that people cannot access child porn and such illegal images will not appear uninvited or unsought on a computer screen. I will go to the UK in November to get help from Internet Watch Foundation and British Telecom so I can learn how this can be done.

Irish Aid is supporting our human rights education project that informs people about the rights of the child and what to do when they know of an abused child. Because of the Irish Aid support, we have flyers, brochures and a new comic to teach through stories the children’s rights and what to do when they are sexually abused.

PREDA COMICS SAVED A YOUNG GIRL’S LIFE. The Preda Human Rights Team continues its work in disseminating information and orienting the teachers, social workers and the village leaders about the rights of children and women. They give out info materials and the new Preda comics as a social handbook for teachers and students after every seminar. The 13 year old student, Sheila received a comic book and read all the stories in the comics when she got home. One story told the story of a girl, Maria who was sexually abused by her Uncle and how Maria got help.

After reading the Preda comics, Sheila got courage and the following day she did what Maria had done, she disclosed to her teacher the abuse of her stepfather repeatedly done to her. The teacher contacted Preda and immediately the Preda team rescued Sheila. Like Maria in the story, Sheila told she wanted to be free from her sex maniac stepfather and wanted to have a new life.

Sheila is now recovering well at Preda and going back to school, while her abuser is still nowhere to be found because of the delayed action of some indifferent prosecutors. But at least Sheila found a safe haven where she can cry out her deepest trauma of being sexually abused through the emotional release therapy given by Preda psychotherapist. Almost 70 percent of the children at Preda disclosed more abuse inflicted upon them by other person and even parents because of the primal therapy, their deepest fears are able to come out because of the positive reinforcement and they feel they are secure.

There are 59 girls doing well and going to school at the Preda Girl’s Home. Last month, the children and their families had a reunion at Preda in a family day celebration and the children were happy to have their parents and siblings present in a fun-filled day of learning, activities, outing and family counseling sessions. The children were able to tell their families how they feel and their family members shared their feelings likewise. Then there was reconciliation.

A child recently rescued is only 4 years old. A participant in a Preda-Irish Aid seminar, after she heard of a case of abuse immediately called the Preda Child Response Hotline. She told us that the victim was raped twice by the live-in partner of her guardian. The Preda Child Rescue team immediately responded and with the help of a government social worker and the cooperative police, were able to rescue the child from the house of the abuser.

MORE YOUNG BOYS SAVED FROM CRUEL CONDITION IN PRISONS AND JAILS. From July to September, 25 boys were saved from imprisonment where they suffered hardship and were beaten. They were admitted to the Preda Home for Boys where they now received legal assistance, particularly the 11 boys who are charged in court and the five boys who are under investigation at the prosecutor’s office. Without assistance, these legal cases would drag on and the children would suffer in jail for several months, sometimes even for years.

Take the case of Jonathan and Paulo. For stealing a cellphone worth P1,500 (approximately 25 euros), they were arrested and arbitrarily detained in a police station for five months even without going through a preliminary investigation by the prosecutor. The failure of the local social worker to determine whether or not Jonathan and Paulo acted with discernment contributed to this.

SAVED FROM PRISON AND ABUSE. On April 17, Jonathan and Paulo were released to Preda and participated in the rehabilitation program. After a few months, they started to exhibit a remarkable change in character and behavior. In light of this, the Preda paralegal officer wrote the prosecutor informing him that the case of the two boys qualifies for diversion. This led to the dismissal of the case and to the happy reunion of Jonathan and Paulo with their families.

REINTEGRATION. Jonathan and Paulo are only two of 16 boys who were reintegrated with their families during this period. Jethro who experienced abuse inside a government-run rehabilitation center was referred to Preda in May 2008. At a very young age of 15, he went to Manila to search for a job but became a member of a gang. This led to his arrest and detention. At Preda, he was transformed from being a troubled youth to someone with a vision and who is trust-worthy and at peace with himself. When the case for robbery against Jethro was dismissed, he went back to the province and lived with his family once more. Just one more of several great success stories where injustice, cruelty and abuse ended and a young person was restored to a life of dignity and freedom.

CHRISTMAS IS COMING. We appeal to al our friends and supporters to be extra generous this coming Christmas as we will be having more food relief and Christmas parties for the many children of the refugees and flood victims. Please send your donations to the Columban Fathers, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland Or Widney Manor Road, Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands , UK B93 9AB.

God Bless You All,

Father Shay Cullen, the Staff and the Preda Children (www.preda.org; www.preda.net)

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