This is a time where we ought to renew our lives by looking back at the year that has passed and ask ourselves if we lived it well. Could we have done better, did we care for others, did we share with and give back to the needy from our surplus and abundance? Did we live with integrity and honesty and caring for others and if yes, then we are better people and the community is a better place because of that. We have lived out our faith and put our principles into action for good.
Many of you will have reached out and helped another person or a child in need whether it is emotional or material or you may have helped many. If you helped the children in the Preda Foundation homes for abused children, we thank you for that. They are having a happier life, free from their abusers, free from the cold steel bars of government jails that masquerade as children’s homes.
Everyday 43 girls are recovering from abuse at the Preda Home for Girls and finding peace and education and relief from the pain and sexual abuse they endured. There are 36 boys now freed from illegal detention where they suffered neglect and deprivation and abuse. They were treated as criminals for no crime at all.
The boys and girls are having a wonderful Christmas with parties and outings to the beach, the carnival and other fun houses. It is a real childhood for children experience which they never had before. They are receiving gifts and new clothes and visiting exciting places.
There are success stories also that will inspire us and give us encouragement that lives can and are being saved and children healed and empowered. You can be a better person by having the courage to report child abuse. You can text a help message to Preda helpline at +639175324453.
That is what one person did to help Jenny when they learned that human traffickers were exploiting her. Jenny, a 14 year old street child, ran away from home after being abused by the live-in partner of her mother and had nowhere to go. Tired and hungry, she was picked up by human traffickers and brought to a secured house in Metro Manila surrounded by a high wall where she was locked inside like a prisoner with other children.
They were told they had debts to pay for board and lodging and food and they had to work to pay it off. They were given drugs to make them docile for which they had to pay and had more debts. The frightened teenage children were held in “debt bondage.” Jenny and the others were forced to have sex with sex tourists. They were traumatized and distraught.
Then, a tip off to Preda through the helpline. In turn Preda contacted the government social workers at the Department of Social Welfare and Development and they informed the police. The house where Jenny was being exploited was raided and the children were rescued including Jenny. It was close to Christmas.
In the Preda Home for Girls, Jenny was welcomed and treated like a princess. She was given all her personal needs, new clothes and affirmation, encouragement and reassured that she had no fault and was not to blame for what happened to her. No victim of abuse can be blamed and no consent can be given by a child to being sexually abused. She could choose to stay or leave the Preda home. She choose to stay, she made a human decision to help herself in the Preda family. She felt at home being part of a caring family of children and trained professional staff and she felt that she belonged.
She responded in a positive way and was finding meaning and purpose to her stay at Preda. She asked to join the Emotional Expression Therapy and in the padded therapy room poured out all her anger and hurt and cried and shouted her pain and punched the cushions as she railed at her abusers and parents. In time she recovered and changed, week after week, her self-confidence grew and she developed a strong personality.
That Christmas was a happy one for Jenny and the many children she had found herself with and she was ready to face the world and with the help of Preda filed her case against her abuser and she was able to testify in court. After a year she won her case against the live-in partner who first abused her and was jailed. The traffickers were also found guilty and jailed, too. Justice was done.
Eventually Jenny was reconciled and reintegrated with her family. She was able to get to college where she is at present and Preda is giving financial assistance to continue all the way to graduation. She will surely find a happier and better life of dignity free from the traffickers and happy in her family. She and many other children at the Preda homes are having a happy Christmas this year.
I write to all our readers, our friends and supporters, defenders of children, to wish you a Christmas that is filled with meaning, purpose and spiritual blessings.
Shay Cullen is a co-founder of PREDA.org -- a nonprofit dedicated to the welfare of children.