The happiest child at the PREDA home for children is ten year-old Rose Ann; she was rescued from her abuser by the PREDA team a few weeks ago. Her mother made a mistake and sent her to her auntie to help in house chores but she was abused by the American live-in partner of her auntie. Charges were filed against him by PREDA but because the police were so slow to investigate he was able to escape back to the USA. PREDA will request his extradition. Rose Ann is overcoming the trauma of abuse. Sadly there are many more children victimized by Filipinos and foreign sex tourists. We are combating this daily.
The successful rescue and recovery of hurt children from their abusers and sex tourists is still the good news from the PREDA center. From fear and terror they find freedom and peace. There are 30 girls, 9 to 17 years old rescued and protected at the PREDA girls home and are living a happy and safe life. They go to school daily and join in sports, recreational activities, outings and have therapy, counseling, singing, dancing and art activities. There are another 19 children that have been rescued from the sex tourists. They too are making a remarkable recovery. We are only mildly successful in bringing their abductors and abusers to justice because of corrupt practices in the police and judicial process.
US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. appealed in a speech to Philippine judges to do justice for the victims of trafficking and he ignited a controversy and was unfairly criticized by Philippine Government officials and tourist operators when he said 40% of tourists arriving in the Philippines are sex tourists. We wrote an article in the newspaper supportive of that claim as no one disproved it and asking what percentage is acceptable to the government.
Sex tourists are the abusers of vulnerable women and children, not one single act of sexual exploitation or abuse is acceptable. Besides, the sex industry is tolerated by the government and it is destroying the moral values of the nation. It is the scourge that spreads HIV-AIDS, moral depravity, child abuse, incest, abortion, woman abuse and corruption throughout Filipino society. Many victims fill the children's refuge centers seeking help and crying for justice. Thousands more victims are left to suffer. The sex industry is damaging the good name of the nation. We are all challenged to oppose it.
The estimated number of children trafficked or lured into the sex trade is said to be between 60,000 to 100,000 children, a statistic that most non-government agencies and UNICEF stand by. The number of women trafficked could be ten times that. In the Olongapo area, a research project learned that 5000 women are working in the sex trade in this city and nearby Subic Town.
Standing against the evil trade in children. With the help of donors and the proceeds of Fair Trade sales of our dried mangos, we are fighting this evil trade and helping the victims. Our goal is to end sex slavery and sex tourism and ask you to continue supporting this important work for human rights and the dignity of women and children.
A conviction at last. After five years of court hearings, twelve year old Margie and her mother finally got justice when her father was found guilty of multiple-rape. It all started when her mother had to go work in Manila. The child was threatened and abused nightly until she overcame fear and she told her mother. Her father was jailed; PREDA gave her shelter and legal help. She recovered and found the courage to testify in court and finally the verdict was handed down. Her father was found guilty and given a life sentence. PREDA is handling 35 such cases and it is an uphill struggle to get justice.
Another piece of good news is that the construction of the New PREDA home for girls is going full blast and we have completed about 1/4 of the construction. It will be home for as many as 70 children and staff and will also be a venue for training and seminars for Philippine social workers and psychologists interested in the recovery, therapy and the healing community of PREDA. Volunteers and interns from several nationalities come and participate in the work. We have several volunteers from Germany who work with our staff and are an inspiration to the children.
Happy days are here too for sixteen year-old Miko from Marawi, Mindanao (south of the Philippines); He is a long way from home but will be reunited with his mother soon. Five years ago, he hid away on a boat and traveled to Metro Manila at age 11, with the hope of finding a good paying job to support his family in Mindanao, but unfortunately, he ended up living in the streets of Metro Manila. He struggled daily to live and barely survived. He tried vending and odd jobs in the market and stole money just to feed himself. He got arrested. He was sent to the PREDA Boys Home and responded positively with his rehabilitation. He is now reformed and recently the legal case against him was dismissed. He can?t believe what he heard when the Judge said the word 'dismissed' and that he is now allowed to go home. Miko was the happiest person that day in the court room. PREDA will reunite him with his family after 5 years. Miko is now free.
PREDA has rescued many youth from the terrible conditions of police cells and jails where they endured violations of their civil and human rights and suffer from hunger and abuse. In the past 3 months alone, 37 boys have been rescued and more are awaiting court orders to be released to PREDA. There is a community of almost 50 boys who have been rescued and are being helped with their cases. They are living at the new Boys home in the countryside and it is open. There are no fences or walls and the youth are persuaded to stay in the recovery programme free choice, 90% do so. This is an exemplary project showing that kindness, respect, fairness support and encouragement works for by the transformation of wayward youth more successfully than beatings and punishment in jails and locked up behind bars.
Cases dismissed. Some of these boys, especially those who are falsely accused, had their legal cases dismissed already with the help of the PREDA Legal Action team. They are now getting ready for their return home. PREDA will continue to assist them and their families into the future to be sure they don't fall into temptation and will continue schooling or find a job. Several volunteers from Germany are helping them make a football field and teaching them how to play soccer. They are teaching the guitar and join them in other activities.
A delegation of Eight Parliamentarians from the German Parliament came to the Philippines and asked to join a jail rescue mission with PREDA Last August 29 A. They are from the important Economic Cooperation and Development committee and are very interested in the PREDA Fair Trade project. That day, they saw and joined in the release of Manuel, 15, a small skinny boy through the efforts of the PREDA social workers and Father Shay Cullen, who was there with the team that day. Manuel is starting a new life at the PREDA Boys Home and is keen on continuing his education. Fr. Shay explained to the members of the Parliament the process of releasing child prisoners to PREDA and showed photographs of activities that await these released boys at the PREDA Children?s Home. They were impressed how we work with German charitable organizations and Fair trade and use some of the earnings to help the abused girls and boys. This development Fair trade working for economic justice and human rights is of great interest to them. They invited Father Shay to make a presentation to the committee in the parliament in Berlin next year.
The happy story of Xander, 16. He is one of the boys rescued with the help of students. The PREDA team found him behind bars, got his documents, made a petition to the court and the compassionate judge ordered him to be released to the custody of the PREDA Boys home. At the jail the PREDA team presented the court order and after signing the papers, and passing through a very strict body-search procedure Xander was finally released and was escorted by the PREDA social worker to the PREDA Rescue vehicle. He was very skinny with yellowish skin. His hair had turned color, perhaps due to the lack of food. Soon after, Xander was taken to a restaurant to have a hearty meal. He was quiet for a while. Then he started opening up telling horrific stories of deprivation, hardship, ill treatment and even torture while he was detained. This, he endured for eight months. He is still recovering at the PREDA and growing stronger and healthier and happy.
LAUNCH OF FAIR TRADE FORTNIGHT. Last 16 September in Berlin on a barge on the canal beside the Parliament building Fr. Shay joined the German State minister of the ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Mr. Hans-Jurgen Beerfeltz in the launch of Fair Trade Fortnight in Germany. In his speech to the media Fr. Shay said that Fair Trade is an important way to bring young people to a higher awareness of world social situations and to inspire and encourage them to participate in solving those problems in the world. Fair trade, brings people together, he said. Mr. Alex Hermoso, the PREDA programme director was invited as a guest speaker to the world fair trade organization's meeting in Laos last September .He gave a well received input on the mission of PREDA fair trade and the development of the criteria of fair trade and the monitoring of projects.
The recent strong typhoon Pedring and Quiel that hit the Philippines in quick succession damaged the PREDA Boys? Home. Decade-old trees went down, the bridge leading to the Boys Home and organic farm was eroded, and the roof and ceiling of the Vocational Training Center was destroyed. There was no power for two weeks because 2 metal posts carrying the electricity were bent in half. The damage is estimated to cost three thousand Euros. Donations are welcome. (See preda.org for photos of these).
Fr. Shay Cullen is a founder of PREDA.org - a nonprofit located in The Philippines that is dedicated to ending the exploitation of children.