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An Austrian volunteer visits a Manila Jail with Preda social workers.

August 19, 2014 · 

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Pia Nenning from Hittisau, Austria   June  2014
Preda Volunteer

I joined the trip to Manila to attend the court hearing of Sammy, the home visit of RJ and a visit to  the Jail  where we rescued four boys. Since I never have been in  a jail  before, that part already has been very interesting for me. Joan (Preda Social worker) informed us well beforehand what we are going to expect and also shared some of her experience with us.

After the hearing we went to the home of RJ. His family lives in very poor conditions and so my first home visit already has been a impressive experience. Again Joan told us about the case since I haven’t had the chance to read the file.  All our questions were answered and I got the feeling RJ adoptive family was really happy to see the boy. They even insisted that we have lunch in their home. When we went to the youth jail I was prepared to see the worst. This is why my first impression was not too bad. The facility seemed clean and lightened. But seeing all the boys and girls behind those bars, with nothing than a wooden board as bed and bathroom facility where you could see right through so no one would ever have some privacy, let me realize the full dimensions of the situation. On the second floor there have been the elder boys. Joan talked to them and presented us to them.

At the ground floor there have been the girls. In one cell apparently those who have been sexually abused. Put behind bares as if they had done something wrong. In that cell there also have been at least one elder woman. Situations which just should not be. Opposite the cells where the girls where in, there where three or four very small cells. Not bigger than 3 X 3 meters ?, tiled with a flowing off and nothing else in them. In two of those cells were two and three boy locked up, obviously with mental issues.

In one other were three small boys. When we asked, what’s the reason for them to be in there, we got three different answers. First they are trouble makers and can’t be in the cells with the other boys, second they also have mental illnesses and third and probably most shocking, they are street kids with no known relatives who would clam them. So these eight kids are looked up like animals. This let me fully understand the need of the work you/we are doing on the Philippines and in the whole world.

I was very glad having RJ with us, his young lightness and his adorable smile let break the ice quite quickly. Not that we had much time to talk to the kids but he at least took our hands, dragged us in front of the bars so we could change some words and ask some of the kids for their names. Volunteer are often timed. Very important also seemed the elder boys from the BL to me, who just went with us as guardians and support. Josh, the eldest boy we rescued has already been waiting for us and seemed a bit lost and afraid, no wonder. But our boys quickly took care of him, talked to him, told him from the BL so he at least wouldn’t feel so alone anymore.

When sitting in the back of the JAC on the way back to Olongapo the boys we rescued have been very quiet and some even crying but I got the feeling that a smile or a hand on their shoulder of a boy who has a similar story as they, helped more to make them feel comfortable than of the volunteers. Most of my time during the last week at PREDA, I spent at the BL. I helped the social workers with the case summaries, planed different activities with the boys and spent a lot of time just talking to one or the other boy. I learned more about their cases, their dreams and hopes, problems and what makes them happy and sad.

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