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What We Did: The Facts

 

"Willingness to rough it" was the phrase that called out to me during the lead up to a two-day refugee simulation, experiential learning visit to Lee House organised by CAFOD. A leap into the unknown- a new adventure! Armed with sleeping equipment, lots of warm clothes (as instructed) and a bundle of mixed emotions, I arrived at Preston train station to be greeted by Sarah (CAFOD youth coordinator), Joe (Lee House Host) and a group of seven other youth ministry volunteers from all corners of the country. Lots of smiles and joyful greetings put me at ease and we began our transfer to Lee House kindly provided by Lee House volunteers. Once we arrived at Lee House, situated in a remote area of the Ribble Valley, we had a quick wander around the beautiful grounds before eating lunch together outside. After lunch the icebreakers began and we all got to know each other a whole lot better, laughing and joking as we shared experiences that brought us closer as a group. We then had a short time for reflection in the attic of the house, which used to be a hidden chapel during the time of Catholic persecution. Joe asked us to be open-minded and challenge ourselves to enter fully into the experience; this was followed by some time of silence and personal reflection. He also told us of the role we would play: an indigenous community based in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil. We left the chapel, our last place of indoor warmth for the evening and headed outside to the tepee and fire area to learn some basic skills to prepare us for the night ahead. Herbal medicine, water collection and purification, wood collection and shelter building were the skills the Lee House volunteers taught us- it was really interesting and were of great use to us throughout the evening.

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The simulation then began with a prayer to the spirits and a tribe council meeting where we thought about the different elements of nature and how humans cause harm and damage to the surroundings. We each gave voice to a certain aspect of nature imagining what it would say to mankind if it could have a voice. This ritual was interrupted by the noisy arrival of Delta Logging Company and their chainsaw. The representative informed our community that we had to leave the land (which was our home) as his company had bought it for logging. We were left in a field with some resources to build shelters. Midway through constructing our shelter for the evening the local (Brazilian) police arrived to force us into a detention centre in an attempt to identify us. This was very scary as we were pushed and pulled around as well as being separated from our fellow community members; we were shouted at in Portuguese in an attempt to get us to fill in identification forms, which were in a foreign language. After this experience we were all blindfolded and marched through the grounds into a dimly lit basement cell. Gradually all members of the community arrived in the cell and we were left for a while.
After half an hour (ish) we were released and sent to the courtroom where we were put before a judge who outlined the charges against us. Our community was deemed to be trespassing on Delta Logging Company's land as they had recently made a claim to it deeming in uninhabited. We were then sent back to our shelter building and given the rest of the evening to formulate our defence of the land in order to reappear before the court the following morning. The evening was cold so after celebrating mass with the visiting missionary priest (local parish priest) we ate a few pancakes, the ingredients provided by the priest, briefly discussed our plan for the trial the following day and tried to get some sleep. The night was windy and cold but we all stayed dry and huddled together. We rose with the sun at dawn and made some nettle tea over the fire to warm up before meeting to discuss our defence for the trial to follow. We came up with two main approaches:
1. Legal- The logging company had no right to fence and claim the land as we inhabited it. According to the law the Logging company could only claim the land if no one inhabited it.
2. Environmental- Recognising the detrimental long term effects of deforestation linking to issues such as pollution and the chain of cause and effects relating to local plant and wildlife population.
Following our discussions we spent an hour in the courtroom building upon, and fighting our case from the point of the indigenous community. One of the volunteers Chris acted as our barrister and, supported by a CAFOD representative, we won our argument by emphasising our habituation of the land in question.

This signalled the end of the refugee simulation, and, after some food we were given time to reflect on our experiences and learn more about CAFOD's campaigns surrounding climate change and sustainability. We had time to share some ideas and learn new activities to share with our youth teams before departing for our home communities.

 

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Reflection: How I felt

 

On a personal level, there was a transformative experience when we were all sat together in the cell after being forced through the detention centre. Once all the nervous laughter had settled and we became less aware of our participation in a simulation we began to recognise the difficulties that we had faced and felt able to empathise with other communities in similar situations. There were several moments of silence during this period where we reflected on our experiences and how they had made us feel. Many of us felt dehumanised, venerable and therefore incredibly challenged. Sat on the floor of the cell we spoke about these feelings and began to fell the pain and suffering of others. This gave me an alternative perception and seemed to hit a nerve deep within emphasising a need to, and a want to, change this and encourage a more sustainable, respectful lifestyle towards local communities.
Once the simulation had come to an end many of the group voiced their views on the experience, particularly highlighting the ways that it had been worthwhile and made a difference to their life. For me this time helped me to get a grip on the scale of environmental issues and the great effect that they will have on future generations. It confirmed the absurd need of humankind to attain material possessions over spiritual or community connections. An increase in individualism and capitalism has encouraged these wider issues concerned with global justice and through this experiential learning visit my eyes have been opened, in a very real and visceral way, to the dangers associated with environmental issues, particularly those concerning local communities.

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This blog is from Michael Thompson and his blog "Every Clour & Every Sound" 

If you would like to have a look at other blog posts here: http://everycoloureverysound.co.uk/

 

 

Growing up as an opinionated teenager in the 2000s, I always felt passionate about engaging with issues of social justice. Amidst the buzz of the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005 and dreaming of joining the marches in Edinburgh during the British-hosted G8 summit (only the sixth formers got away with skipping school to attend!) I knew that I wanted to do something to make a difference in a world that seemed crippled by poverty, famine and greedy corporations. I remember learning that around 20% of the world's population lives on less than $1 a day (around 65p) which shocked me so much it pushed me towards wanting to get involved in the work of development organisations like CAFOD.

 

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To add to this, in our high school geography lessons we had classes on how huge global corporations rip off farmers in the developing world, paying them a pittance for the cocoa, coffee and fruit that they may produce. I wanted to find out what organisations were doing to pay farmers a fair price for their goods and so I became obsessed with looking for the Fairtrade mark in supermarkets and ate more Fairtrade chocolate than I care to remember. That year I bought all my Christmas presents from the Traidcraft catalogue and I became actively involved in setting up a Fairtrade stall in school which sold chocolate and fruit juice to the student body every Friday break time.

And then the reality of leaving school happened and my bubble burst. I became a volunteer for a year before I headed to university and ever since then, the words "budgeting", "sale" and "Tesco Everyday Value" have rested eternally on my lips. I no longer was conscious about where my clothes were made (I boycotted Gap no longer out of anger for the sweatshops but because I didn't want to spend a fortune on a pair of jeans) and I only managed a small smile when I noticed one day that Cadbury Dairy Milk, arguably the biggest chocolate brand in the UK, had become a Fairtrade Certified product. The only economic development issue I was concerned about was the economic situation of my own wallet.

So, imagine my surprise when last week I found myself high in the mountains of the Zambales province, Philippines tagging mango trees to aid the work of the Fair Trade Project here at the PREDA Foundation.

PREDA (People's Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance) have been working in Fairtrade now for over 40 years, originally by helping older youth gain skilled training and getting them into job placements. Many of these youth had been unjustly jailed and rescued by PREDA social workers because of their inhumane living conditions on the streets and in jails. Since then, PREDA Fair Trade has fully evolved into a fully certified Fair Trade Organisation which has helped set up livelihood projects in far-flung communities giving opportunities to indigenous Filipino people by providing a fair price for their mangos and other fruits.

 

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Last week, I was lucky enough to visit one of these indigenous villages and meet the Aeta people as it coincided with a visit PREDA were making to take some solar-powered lights for their community (which would save them almost 4,000 pesos a year – around £55; a huge saving!). The houses, which weren't so big, were made exclusively of bamboo and had pointed thatched roofs. Plants adorned the areas surrounding the homes and there was a real warm feeling to the community which had houses dotted, almost randomly, around the area. And unlike the slum areas in Manila, there was a lot of space for the kids (and chickens) to run around. In what seemed to be the centre of the village, a large mango tree rose from the ground: a landmark and a perfect sanctuary out of the sun to discuss just how much the support of PREDA is helping in their lives.

They told us that the commercial buyers would charge as low as 5 pesos (around 7 pence) per kilogram of Pico mango, whereas PREDA pays between 10-12 pesos (15-18 pence) per kilogram of Pico and around 17 pesos (25 pence) per kilogram of Carabao mangos. Unlike the commercial buyers who would select the best looking fruit and reject half the crop, PREDA Fair Trade buy all the mangos produced (provided they aren't unusable or damaged), giving love to all the weird shapes and sizes that might fall from the trees each harvesting season. Even the skins and stones have a useful purpose: the skin is eaten by the animals and the stones are replanted. Everything is used, and nothing is lost!

The foundation also pay all of the money immediately upon delivery of the mangos and a bonus or profit-share is given back to the farmers for every kilogram of mangos sold. All of these fair, ethical business practices completely help to empower the farmers, providing employment and the vital funds to help send their children to school and buy food; things which I know I sometimes take for granted.

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Following the visit to the community, I went with the Fair Trade team to tag some trees which is a requirement to receive 'organic status'. This had me up in the mountains, jumping and diving over wild crops to get to the trees in order to put a small number plate on each one. There are 8,000 trees to be tagged, so every volunteer who comes through the doors of PREDA is recommended to spend some time getting involved! It was a highly enjoyable day of beautiful scenery and seeing the actual trees which bear the fruit that will be eventually exported to Europe and beyond was something I never thought I'd see. I couldn't believe that I was right at the beginning of the chain and it made me see Fairtrade in a new and updated light.

Seeing how Fairtrade can affect people so directly has helped me to appreciate just how important it is. It is so easy to forget about the producers and farmers when purchasing goods at home; an invisible workforce who won't know that the coffee I'm drinking wasn't fairly paid for. Meeting real people who harvest real trees makes Fairtrade real. It's real because I have seen it; it makes a difference because the farmers themselves told me it makes a difference, not because The Fairtrade Foundation or Cadbury tells me it makes a difference. It is completely, utterly and without a doubt restoring the dignity of these human beings, like you or I, who have been struggling for decades against companies ripping them off. It is empowering them and it is helping them live their lives to the full.

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From an overzealous teenager, to a penny-pinching student, I am happy to have had the flame lit once more inside of me. I am thankful to PREDA for letting me experience the wonderful work they are doing, and I can only hope that I can return home with a renewed consciousness of Fairtrade and slowly begin to phase out purchasing from the less-than-savoury companies seeking to make a quick buck from their "desperate" producers.

This next two weeks is known as Fairtrade Fortnight which is an annual, international campaign aiming to raise awareness of Fairtrade and encourage people to buy their goods. Perhaps over the coming days, look out for PREDA products (branded as Forest Feast) in stores. I am told they are stocked in Sainsbury's, Waitrose and in other shops nationwide. If you decide to purchase them, or indeed any Fair Trade product, simply take a moment to think about the man, woman or child living in a remote village thousands of miles away who would thank you over and over again for helping them to proudly support themselves in dignity and for making that one, simple but life-changing choice.

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1.BACKGROUND: this is my 4th visit to Don Bosco, Moshi my first being in June to September 2012. On that occasion I was asked to fundraise for them so that the secondary school could have two Science Laboratories. To date we have raised over £10,000 for this account but we still have a long way to go. Over the visits I have contributed in a variety of ways to the life of the school including teaching Mathematics, Bible Knowledge and English. Other activities have included drama productions, sports competitions, sports days and draughts competitions.


During this time there have been two Rectors, three Administrators and two Headteachers but throughout there prevails a deep love for Don Bosco and the mission to the young. I feel very comfortable here and very much "at home" as a Salesian Cooperator who feels called and privileged to work in a missionary way.


2.THE COLLEGE: there are 54 Salesian Brothers studying here for their Degree in Philosophy which is part of their preparation for Salesian Priesthood.(25% increase on last year). Three or four of the brothers are not clerics and they will work as Brothers in the rich field of youth ministry. There are 22 in year 1, 16 in year 2 and 16 in year 3. They come from eleven different countries as follows: Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Republic of Sudan, South Sudan, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Japan. After their studies here they will go back to their own Salesian Province for 2 or 3 years before returning to Nairobi to start their 4 year course of Theology prior to ordination to the priesthood.


3. THE SCHOOL: it caters for disadvantage children mainly, many of whom are supported financially. However several of the families who can pay have not done so for the last academic year let alone this year which started on 13th January. The fees are equivalent to £360 a year. At the moment only about 50% of the children have returned to school as they are not being allowed in until fees are paid. The school is currently carrying a deficit of over 20 million TZS (Tanzanian Shillings) which is roughly equivalent to £7000.


The nominal roll of 250 students follow a 4 year secondary course with ages ranging from 12 to 22. Even in the same class there can be a wide age range as many cannot continue from Primary school until they have enough money. Thornleigh Salesian College in Bolton is currently sponsoring two young people aged 22 and 20 who both have two more years to go. One wants to be a Doctor and one a Banker. They have been performing well and in their Form 2 National Exam they have achieved A Grade with Distinction.


The school day starts with Assembly at 7.55 and finishes at 4.00pm. Given the hours of daylight, many leave home in the morning to walk to school in the dark and return home in the dark later. Given that, it is amazing how clean their clothes are and the first thing they do on arrival is clean their shoes under the water tap prior to assembly.


4.GIFTS TO THE SCHOOL: in the past I have brought stationery items and a set of draughts boards with milk bottle tops for counters. This time after consulting with the Headteacher, Fr. Delphinus, I offered to bring some art equipment as there is no art on the curriculum. The response from my parish of Our Lady of the Portal and St. Piran in Truro, Cornwall,Truro High School for Girls and Truro Arts Centre was overwhelming. Apart from items eg. Paints, brushes, art books etc. Over £800 was donated. This was fortunate because I had to send in advance by DHL two boxes which have yet to arrive! I was allowed 2 x 20kgm cases with Turkish Airways-1.5 contained art materials. I have checked where the boxes are-one is still in the UK and one is in Dar as Salaam requiring custom payment of about £60. Fortunately enough money was donated to pay for these extras but lessons have been learned through this experience.


In addition to the art materials I bought 48 bicycle repair kits from Poundland- a real bargain. We plan to start a cycling club with self help maintenance.
I also purchased from CTS 300 glossy mass leaflets in English which will be a great help at the weekly school mass on Fridays and on Sunday mornings when several people attend the College Mass.


5. CONTRIBUTING TO COLLEGE AND SCHOOL LIFE: for the first time I am having a formal input to the College. As one teacher told me I am now a "Professor" and it comes with a room which is en suite, with a study, hot water and the internet! I teach English to the First Years which is proving challenging but great fun. Four of them I knew as aspirants or pre pre Novices when I first came here in 2012 when they were in Moshi for one month before going to Nairobi for 12 months pre Novitiate training.
At the moment I have been going up to the school each morning for the assembly but have not had any input yet. I have discussed ideas with Fr. Delphinus and hopefully will report on activities later.


6. CHRISTMAS: the decorations have only just been taken down but they were lovely. They had flashing lights everywhere and a very basic crib based on a bed of soil.


7.PROVINCIAL VISITATION: I caught the tail end of the provincial Visitation by Fr Gianni Rolandi, an Italian. In his final report about the community he acknowleged the 12,000 euros that have come in from the UK by way of fundraising for the School Science Laboratories. The entire Community have expressed appreciaition and gratitude for the support to date.They keep us in their prayers.


8. CONCLUSION: I will finish now otherwise you may be wondering did I actually arrive! Please keep me in your prayers as I will you. I do think of you all and thank you for your support so that I am able to do something I really enjoy but also helps other less fortunate than us. God bless and take care

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DON BOSCO TODAY

Spring 2017

Don Bosco Today Spring 17 Page 01

 

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