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"Joy and Sorrow"

March 4, 2014 · 

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by Anneluise Kämmerer 

It is my 2nd stay as a volunteer here at PREDA and I am approaching the 100-day mark.

While last year I was curious about the unknown that I was heading for with many questions on my mind, this time around it was the hopeful anticipation to see all of my friends again and to share their everyday life with them once more. And this hope was not unwarranted, because I was welcomed back with open arms (literally!) and felt at home immediately.

As the move to the new home for girls has not happened yet, the girls are all still living here in the house. A few of them, who do not attend school, noticed my presence quickly: “Anneluise is hereŠ!”

And in the evening, when all the schoolgirls came back home, there was nothing holding them back anymore. They literally ran me over, and their screams could not be drowned out.

A lot of the girls that I got to know last year are still around. Some of them are attending school nowadays, too. I do not see them as much anymore as I used to, as they only get home in the evening and are busy with their homework and with studying then. However, during mass on Saturday evening we are all together.

The girls that are around during daytime, too, as they do not attend school for various reasons, are happy about any kind of activity that we offer them and take part in everything with a lot of eagerness. That’s when the creativity of us volunteers is in need! A very favorable thing that I noticed this year is that after each activity a girl comes to say Thank You.

Everyday life has not changed: morning meeting, the weekly schedule, reports given on important events, feedback, the reading of a bible excerpt followed by reflections provided by Fr. Shay, a prayerŠ and “Action!”

During the first few days after my arrival I was already joining the technicians of the Fair Trade Office on their visits to mango farmers of AETA-origin living in the vicinity of San Felipe.

This activity of our “organic”-colleagues is called “mapping”. An area in which the trees are located is examined, the trees are counted, the inflorescence is measured and all the technical details are discussed. It is a very time-consuming and fastidious kind of work, which is, however, incredibly important for the collaboration with the farmers. After all, in due time the organic certification for this region will be issued!

After that, in the company of Sir Donard I went to Davao, situated on the island of Mindanao. In the area surrounding the capital of the island, quite a few of our mango farmers are located. They are the providers for an excellent mango variety called “Carabao”, which is turned into the dried mangos that we sell in our fair trade stores.

I had already been here last year and was able to hand the “yellow card” and I.D. cards to many new members back then. They have turned into successful farmers in the meantime, who could look forward to the disbursal of their first Fair Trade bonus now. Donard likes to turn this presentation into a little show, which of course creates a great atmosphere. Pictures are taken, people laugh and applaud. And when the farmers with the best harvest – the champions – are given their bonus, everyone beams with joy as if it was their own achievement. You can really feel how the motivation rises to achieve even better next year in order to increase one’s harvest and the bonus.

We also welcomed 30 new farmers, and their numbers will rise even more. Diligently and very faithfully they filled out the forms and presented their trees to us with pride. These, too, are examined by the technicians and everything is recorded.

At “Pro Food” in Davao I was taken through the facilities by their production manager. Approximately 350 people are employed here, and everyone has his / her own task to fulfill: peel the mangos, cut them into stripes. There are no machines, everything is done manually. Every full basket is painstakingly examined, and it is noted down who produced how much and at what time in order to safeguard tracability in the unlikely case of a reclamation.

PREDA-mangos are handled separately from non-organic mangos on specific days that are set aside.

The mangos are dried here, before they are sent to “Pro Food” in Cebu, where they are made ready for shipment after yet another inspection.

It was a very exhausting week, but each day was filled with the laughter of people, who are enabled by Fair Trade to live a good, busy and above all, a decent kind of life.

Unfortunately, not a single trace of decent living circumstances can be found in the areas affected by the Typhoon, in the vicinity of Tacloban and in the North of Cebu.

Since the catastrophe caused by the typhoon, the deployment of PREDA-teams in the affected area has become a big topic. Immediately after the typhoon, PREDA assisted those in need with food and medicine.

Fr. Shay himself has already travelled there a few times to get a first-hand idea of what is really necessary and where help is most needed. (e.g. our teams deliver seeds of various kinds of vegetables, mango trees etc.)

As soon as you exit the airplane, you can see uprooted trees – well, that kind of thing has been seen often enough – but what comes after that, the closer you get to the most severely affected areas, is really hard to describe. Where the world was once still intact (on November 8th 2013, at 7 o clock), there is now nothing but rubbles and destruction. There is not a single house left that is still intact, unless it was constructed in a massive way. In which case, only the roof and a few of the walls would be missing. On one of the houses, a car was laying, and in the midst of the city, you could see a ship that was washed ashore. For three months, there has not been any electricity. Only with the help of a few generators that provide light here and there the spooky atmosphere that fills the city is interrupted in the evening.

A big topic for PREDA is the protection of families, and of children, in particular, from the hands of human traffickers. Illegal adoptions and abductions into bordellos and bars are the highest risks for the children. The children often times wander around outside, as they no longer have a home or have lost their parents, and consequently are an easy target for human traffickers.

In a playful kind of fashion, these kids are educated on what they need to watch out for, what the difference between good or bad touches is, and where they should go to ask for help in case they experience abuses of any kind. The members of the PEPS-team do their work in a very professional manner and adapt very well to the age range of their audience.

The children here in Tacloban and its surroundings are always extremely thrilled when the puppet show begins after all of these teachings, during which Micky and his friends make them laugh.

While the kids get this kind of entertainment, their mothers are also educated through a seminar about their rights.

The psychologists of PREDA are visiting the affected areas, too, in order to talk to the people so that THEY can finally talk. Talk about the trauma into which they slipped, how they are doing nowadays, and so on, and so forth. To narrate, to keep on talkingŠ because there is finally someone listening to them, too.

But life goes on – it has to. The streets have been cleared, and on the side of the roads there are already some stalls going up. Men work on their houses and on the canals, on the electric cables. In the evening, when it gets dark, families sit in front of their dwellings, they chat, play – a hint of normality?!

The trees, which only consist of the main trunk now, have grown new leaves, and I even discovered a beautiful white flower!!!

That’s how joy and sorrow go hand in hand, and I will see what the remaining time at PREDA will still bring.

 

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