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Preda Newsletter September 2007

September 4, 2007 · 

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Dear supporters and defenders for children,

My apologies for not writing to you before now. There has been a lot of activities, rescuing children, caring for them, campaigning for children’s rights and overseeing the construction of the new children’s home and vocational training center.

Child rescue. Last week, we had an appeal for help from an unmarried, distraught mother of a ten-month old baby, Pedro, who had been abducted by his father. Our legal officer, Robert A. Garcia, investigated and discovered the father had fled to the distant province of Tarlac. Robert got the mother, two policemen and a government social worker and he as driver set off in hot pursuit.

The Preda Special Human Rights Education team teaches village officials how to respond to cases of child sexual abuse and juvenile delinquency.

The Preda Special Human Rights Education team teaches village officials how to respond to cases of child sexual abuse and juvenile delinquency.

The mother feared that the deranged father might kill the child. After a 24-hour operation and a chase during which the Preda van broke down, got stuck in mud, then ran into a rice field, the father was cornered. Robert, an expert negotiator, talked him into returning the child to the mother. It ended peacefully. Just one more successful rescue.

Irish Aid helps save children. The human rights advocacy, education and rescue team has saved many sexually abused children in the past few months. This is due to the Irish Aid-supported human rights advocacy and education project. They help reform the village or barangay councils that rule the neighborhoods. They reach community leaders, teachers and parents during the seminars and meetings. The new awareness helps to end the negotiated settlement between the village officials and the suspected paedophile. Usually that ends in a pay off to the officials and they give some money to the parents.

There is no help for the traumatized child and the abuser is free to repeat the offense. That’s why the training project and the Preda Home for abused children is so important. The government provides no facilities. When families know about the Preda Home, they bring the abused children to us. Preda receives no government support of any kind.

Families and concerned citizens are reporting cases of child abuse to the Preda mobile phone by text message. But much more has to be done. There are hundreds more village councils and communities that have to be reached and developed to establish child protection units.

Families of the girls at the Preda Center participate in the family meeting and reintegration program.

Families of the girls at the Preda Center participate in the family meeting and reintegration program.


Home for abused girls.
There are now 56 children in the girls’ home as a result of this three-year old education and awareness building programme, over a hundred have been reintegrated. Abused children as young as seven years old to 16 are reported to Preda social workers and they are rescued. Of course they are hurt, traumatised and frightened when they are first rescued, fearing that the abusers will try to kill them or their brothers and sisters. With the good care of the Preda staff and therapists, some of them former victims themselves, these children soon lose the fear and feel safe and secure and start to play and participate in the daily activities.

Last March 2007, 19 children passed their grade level education, 20 children passed secondary education and one child passed her first year in college. Eighteen had home schooling at Preda. Many were integrated happily into a safe family. In June at the start of the school year, 21 girls were enrolled in high school, 20 enrolled in elementary and one enrolled in college. Fifteen of the children are not yet ready as they are newly admitted and have non-formal schooling at Preda.

Saving children. After the Preda human rights team gave a seminar to teachers and parents in a school in Bataan province last month, a teacher reported that she heard of a seven-year old child, Susan, who had been sexually abused. Immediately the team went to the rescue despite the raging typhoon, rain and floods. They hiked almost two hours to the remote bamboo and grass-roofed hut crossing rice fields and swollen streams to save the child. The father was the abuser and was later arrested and jailed awaiting charges to be filed. Susan was safely brought to the Preda Home.

We are planning to expand the rescue work in brothels and on the streets soon. Since the new anti-trafficking in persons law was passed, the dirty business recruiting the children has gone deeper underground and it is more difficult to find and rescue the children. When we do rescue some of them, they are already brainwashed into the life of prostitution and refuse to leave it. Unless we can legally prove she is a minor, we can’t take legal action against the sex bar owner or the pimps.

The girls were very active and competitive during the summer sports fest held in May 2007.

The girls were very active and competitive during the summer sports fest held in May 2007.

Angela is a child that was prostituted by pimps near her home and rescued from the pimps by the Preda social workers and brought to the special Preda Home for sexually exploited girls. With therapy and care, they have recovered and have been reintegrated to a normal life with their families.

Vangie is a new arrival and a former prostituted street child. She was lured out of school by a pimp and brought to a distant town with the promise of money. There she was sold to a pedophile. We immediately investigated and eventually found her. She was supported and persuaded by the Preda social workers to come to Preda and she did. She is taking intensive therapy and trying her best to recover. She still has a big challenge ahead of her.

Carina was trafficked from Cavite, south of Manila, to a town in Zambales with six other minors and sold as prostitutes. We saved her when were called to help after she was gang raped and brought her to safety and filed criminal charges against the alleged rapists. Now we we will soon rescue the other children from the sex bar. Preda undercover social workers went there posing as customers to do surveillance and saw the children. The youngest is 15. They were heavily guarded. The Preda undercover social workers offered the manager a large sum of money if she would let them go out with them. But it was refused. Now we have to go in with the police.

The abused children can recover and dedicate themselves to helping others. Three of them are now college graduates and working as professionals at the Preda Home for girls. One is a psycho-therapist, another a social worker and a third, a youth worker.

(From right) Fr. Shay Cullen. Fr. Dave Halpin, representatives from Greystones “Two Coats” Justice Parish and Preda Center for Boys, and from left were Alex Hermoso and Caroline Jones Talbot at the inauguration of the new training center and home for boys.

(From right) Fr. Shay Cullen. Fr. Dave Halpin, representatives from Greystones “Two Coats” Justice Parish and Preda Center for Boys, and from left were Alex Hermoso and Caroline Jones Talbot at the inauguration of the new training center and home for boys.

The new vocation center for boys is almost complete
At last the first phase of the new children’s home is 80% finished. Last August 26, Father David Halpin of Greystones Parish in Co. Wicklow and 16 Irish supporters of Preda came for an initial opening. We just need to furnish it and get equipment and hire teachers. Jubilee Action in the UK has made big contributions to the project. Tatort Foundation in Germany and Rainbow of Hope in Canada also gave big contributions. The land has been bought, the windmill pumps the water, the organic farm is laid out and the fishpond is almost ready. This will provide fresh organic fish for all the children.

Despite the great progress made in the past two years in getting children and youth out of jails and detention centers, thousands are still jailed all over the country despite the new law and a presidential executive order #633 signed last July 16 ordering them all to be released.

Promulgation of new laws and presidential orders in the media are one thing, getting them implemented by the Philippine police and jailers is another. They don’t release the children until NGO’s pressure them to comply. There is no higher force to compel them unless we charge them in court. That’s an exhaustive measure and a dangerous one.

It shows the weakness of the government system and the big, almost insurmountable challenge faced by the president. Officials busy with expanding their private prosperity are distracted and weakened by corruption. Her orders for child welfare are not followed, it seems. Perhaps it’s because she is a woman president perceived as weak.

Corruption is her biggest enemy and even her own close officials are linked to multi-million corruption scandals. Another official got a multi-million contract to set up an overpriced Internet communications system for government and schools without proper bidding and implementation plan. Millions of elementary school books have been found to be of low quality content and have hundreds of factual, grammar and spelling mistakes. Corrupt cronies cornered the publishing contract and allegedly bribed the officials to approve the substandard school books.

The police say there is no alternative to jail for children charged with crimes. Most are eventually proven to be innocent. We visited a center in Manila and found 146 youth there 12 to 17 years old, all behind bars in subhuman conditions sleeping on the concrete floors, in filth and squalor. Some had abscess and gum infections from broken teeth-botched dental work. The food was a spoon of vegetable and rice. We have appealed to the new mayor to take action.

Children crying are still behind bars despite the law and a new presidential executive order.

Children crying are still behind bars despite the law and a new presidential executive order.

Subhuman conditions. Nearby in another building 88 children six to 12 year-old boys were detained in an empty room behind bars. Their food was a plate of a single-piece fish the size of a golf ball. There are no toys, posters, education, TV, games, exercise, sports, medical check ups or fresh air- horrific conditions for children. Not even a basic fire safety code was being implemented. A fire in the wooden, crumbling building would doom the children to death. We offered to take five of the small, sickly children right away to the Preda Children’s Home but the chief social worker seems overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do to have the children released or transferred.

Jail and detention centers like these are totally unfit for children and violate all their rights. The government just doesn’t know how to care for children and youth. They don’t follow their own rules and regulations. For non-government centers like Preda, there are lists of strict requirements to be complied with. Unless we meet them all our accreditation and license will be denied.

Leave no child in jail. We believe that children in conflict with the law, even those charged of serious crimes, don’t have to be jailed. The Preda open center concept has no guards, no fences, walls or punishment. There are 56 rescued kids in the Preda Home for boys at one given time. Ninety-five percent stay willingly and we bring them to any court hearing to have any charges against them heard. It can take two years to have court hearing over and most charges are dismissed by the judge.

The boys go to a regular school everyday by Preda jeep.

The boys go to a regular school everyday by Preda jeep.

All have helped them to rebuild their shattered lives and absorb moral and spiritual values of self-respect and respect for others and strengthen their faith. Our friends and supporters can be proud and happy at this. All the boys together with the girls from the Preda Home for girls and members of the community-based youth organization participated in the annual sports fest held in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. It was a long journey but a fantastic time for them. They also participated in the summer skills camp held in Iba, Zambales.

We enrolled 27 boys rescued from jails into formal school, 13 in elementary and another 14 in high school. Two months since enrollment, all of them are still going to school every day by Preda jeep. What a change from the wretched wrecks of human beings, broken and ragged, emaciated child prisoners that we rescued from the prisons and to see them now transformed, healthy, vibrant, happy and filled with self-confidence and dignity. They are dressed in white shirt, dark pants and shoes going off to school like normal kids. It is a joy to see. All who donated to help rescue and sustain them have lots to be proud of.

Preda Fair Trade staff distributing mosquito nets as protection against the deadly malaria and dengue

Preda Fair Trade staff distributing mosquito nets as protection against the deadly malaria and dengue

A member of the Preda  sewing group with his son while making colorful and durable bags from recycled juice pouches.

A member of the Preda sewing group with his son while making colorful and durable bags from recycled juice pouches.

It’s a lesson for those who believe that jailing kids will change them. Yes, change them for the worst and it breeds criminals that threaten the innocent.

Giving out nets to save children from malaria and dengue. Every year, hundreds of children in the villages come down with dengue and malaria, deadly diseases spread by mosquitoes. The simple mosquito net is the best prevention to protect children. All the Preda children’s homes have screened windows. In the rural villages the poor don’t have such protection. A net costs a few euros or pounds and Preda is giving them out for free. Last July, the Preda Fair Trade Department workers gave dengue-prevention seminars to the handicraft workers that they help. The people were educated on how to control and prevent dengue by keeping their environment clear of stagnant water and other measures. Each participant received a family-sized mosquito net as part of assistance to the producers. High speed sewing machines help families. The Preda Fair Trade Department gave 10 high-speed sewing machines to producers of recycled bags to strengthen their livelihood and help them earn more money. Colorful juice pouches are turned into attractive and durable bags by the Preda sewing group helping 60 families. One of them is Caesar Fuentes, who was able to buy land and built a family house because of his savings in the recycled project of Preda. Preda helps the producers with interest-free loans and export the bags.

Planting trees to save the planet. Fr. Dave Halpin and members of the local community.

Planting trees to save the planet. Fr. Dave Halpin and members of the local community.

Saving the planet by planting trees. The heat, fires, rains and floods and storms everywhere these days is due to global warming and climate change. Preda is doing its bit to help. There is no better gift for our children than to protect and preserve the environment for their future than to plant trees. This year, Preda Fair Trade bought and distributed 1,000 mango saplings two meter tall so they have 85% of surviving. They were planted with the help of the villagers of the five tribal areas of Aeta communities in Zambales province.

“Plant a tree and help save the planet” project of Preda is a way to help restore the environment that has been logged out and to cover the bare mountains with fruit bearing trees. Each sapling costs $4 US. Travel and planting on the mountain for each tree cost $2 US for a total cost of $6 US or about 4 pounds- the price of a coffee and a donut! We are encouraging everyone to plant at least ten trees a year.

PREDA campaigns for responsible mining. People and mineral resources of Zambales have been exploited by the illegal quarrying of precious minerals such as chromite, nickel, manganese and high-value platinum in the areas by the big mining companies.

Saving the planet by planting trees.
The heat, fires, rains and floods and storms everywhere these days is due to global warming and climate change. Preda is doing its bit to help. There is no better gift for our children than to protect and preserve the environment for their future than to plant trees. This year, Preda Fair Trade bought and distributed 1,000 mango saplings two meter tall so they have 85% of surviving. They were planted with the help of the villagers of the five tribal areas of Aeta communities in Zambales province.

“Plant a tree and help save the planet” project of Preda is a way to help restore the environment that has been logged out and to cover the bare mountains with fruit bearing trees. Each sapling costs $4 US. Travel and planting on the mountain for each tree cost $2 US for a total cost of $6 US or about 4 pounds- the price of a coffee and a donut! We are encouraging everyone to plant at least ten trees a year.

PREDA campaigns for responsible mining. People and mineral resources of Zambales have been exploited by the illegal quarrying of precious minerals such as chromite, nickel, manganese and high-value platinum in the areas by the big mining companies.

The Preda Preventive Education team reaches thousands of elementary and high school students every year.

The Preda Preventive Education team reaches thousands of elementary and high school students every year.

Preda human rights team conducted series of information, education campaigns on the abuses of some mining companies and the damaging and alarming effect of its operations on the environment and the residents. Civil society and church leaders have spoken out about the damage to communities, the poisoning of air and water and the landslide and other destruction of irresponsible mining. Preda helps the villagers in their peaceful, non-violent protests. In Zambales province, the new governor, Amor Deloso listened to the people and canceled all mining permits. A big and welcome victory for the people trying to save the environment from the irresponsible open pit mining.

Peace and blessings,

Fr. Shay Cullen, the staff and the children

 

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