Monday, June 21, 2010

Those ‘crabs’ in the village

This is the bus stop at the end of PMV No. 16 route at ATS Oro Settlement, 7-Mile, on the other side of the Jackson Airport, where some idle village mothers play card the whole day. The bus stop is just opposite The Center’s premises on the other side of the road.

The mothers in this idle bunch are spreading nasty rumors against The Center which, ironically, is paying for their own kids’ fees in elementary schools in Port Moresby.

These three hungry kids are among street children which the bus stop mother-idlers have prevented from coming to The Center– by telling their guardians not to let them come to the daycare-orphanage facility. Last Saturday, they again waited on the other side of the road for a volunteer of The Center to come and ask them to come for food.

Finally, they took off from their perch after TCC volunteer came up to them to let them know they can come over for lunch with the Tembari kids.

The Tembari Children Care (TCC) center across the road where thevillage bus stop is located. So everyday, the bus stop mother-idlers are constantly watching the goings-on at The Center for bits of news they could gossip about around the village, including foodstuff like rice, fresh milk and tinned fish from generous donors and sponsors. – All pictures by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

A Friend of Tembari Children

DESPITE the modest but visible progress The Center has achieved in just over six months in terms of services it provides to less-fortunate children and in generous assistance from various sectors of the Papua New Guinean society, the “crabs” at the settlementwhere we operate are hard at work to malign and bring us down.

These “crabs” are no one but good-for-nothing mothers and fathers whose only business in life is to play cards the whole day at a bus stop just opposite the Tembari Children Care center at Oro ATS Settlement at 7-Mile, outside of Port Moresby.

I likened them to proverbial crabs in a basket because they try to pull down the one that succeeds in getting to the top to reach the brim and thus, escape captivity.

There are many orphans, neglected, abandoned and abused children around the settlement and they are the very same children that The Center would like to help.

Already, we are looking after 83 of these children whom we feed every day and provide pre-school education five days a week to half of them, while looking after the school fees of the rest who attend classes at various elementary schools in the city.

The Center wants them to escape their poverty by providing them food, education, parental care and other extras that would boost their well-being.

But these mothers and village gossips want them to remain as they are just like them – being mired in hopelessness of their own making.

These card-playing street mothers and fathers are themselves inflicting similar abuse to their own children by failing to look after their basic needs.

For how can they look after their own if they are at the bus stop playing cards and gossiping the whole day?

Worse, they have prevented a number of unfortunate kids in the settlement from receiving The Center’s daycare services by telling – and threatening them -- not to come to us.

A number of children who earlier came to The Center for the daily feeding program and for the pre-school classes have not returned up to these days because of these bus stop idlers.

They have been telling guardians of these orphans, neglected, abandoned, vulnerable and abused children that the brains behind the facility – couple Hayward Sagembo (Co-Founder and Director) and wife Penny Sagembo (Co-Founder and Co-President) – are just using the kids for their own financial gains.

In plain simple words, Hayward and Penny are pocketing whatever funds that come to the bank account of Tembari Children Care (TCC) from generous donors such as the Malaysian Association of PNG (MAPNG).

This is a blatant lie and I can personally attest to that.

Believing such a lie, some guardians have actually pulled their kids out from The Center, although they (children) wanted to come for the daily feeding program.

This is no surprise. They were hungry as they had always been as there was no food at home for most of the time and that they are missing their pre-school classes The Center provides from Monday to Friday, with help from three volunteer teachers.

The fact is that these gossiping parents who are also guardians of orphaned children have kids of their own benefiting from The Center’s education program.

The facility had paid for the school fees of their children so they would be admitted into elementary schools around Port Moresby. And yet, they have the temerity to spread lies about The Center around the settlement.

Last Saturday, 80 kids came for the special Saturday lunch out of the registered 83. We were told that the guardians of the missing three children went somewhere in the city, tagging them alone.

But still, we served lunch to 83 children because there were three non-member street children who came later. Although food was running low when they arrived, we still served them lunch and asked them to come everyday for food. They will be profiled soon afterwards for our records.

The truth is that these three kids long wanted to join The Center, themselves being orphans and are therefore qualified to receive benefits, but they were told by the card-playing mothers to stay away from The Center for the same reason they have been spreading around the village – that they are being used by the Sagembos to make money.

What these useless parents are doing is a clear act of abuse against the unfortunate, orphans, abused, neglected and abandoned children.

This is abuse because they are depriving these children the rights to decide for themselves to go to where they would find some help, like the daycare services The Center offers to children like them.

Under the Lukautim Pikinini Act (LPA), these mothers are liable because what they are doing is a violation of this act which protects said children from such kind of abuse.

Community and Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu said that under this act, the rights of every child are protected.

Dame Carol said the LPA specifies the nine underlying rights of a child, which are: guiding principles, best interest of a child, parental responsibility, harmful customary practices, harmful employment and child with disabilities.

Hayward knows too well why these mothers are working against The Center despite the many benefits it provides to the 83 children now under its ward.

“They are just plain jealous … their children used to go to another daycare facility at ATS Oro Settlement but the said facility could not provide anything to their kids like daily food and education because it appeared spurious to funding assistance institutions.

“That’s why they are hitting us back …” says Hayward.

On the other hand, the assistance The Center gets keeps on coming, especially food, which is the very basic item a feeding facility needs to accomplish its mission.

“Before, we could only feed the children four times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday … and that was only with kaukau, sliced bread, food garden veggies and cordial.

“Because of the assistance The Center is getting now like rice, tinned fish and fresh milk, we are now able to feed our 83 children rice and protein every day, from Monday to Saturday.

“Similar fly-by-night facilities at the settlement have failed to do this as donors stayed away from them simply because they are not credible enough to get such funding assistance and have nothing to show,” Hayward said.

He said they allegedly tried to “pirate” the children from The Center so that their list of orphans and unfortunate children could grow long, which they would show to funding institutions for assistance.

But so far they have been unsuccessful, says Hayward, “that’s why they are trying to destroy us by using these mothers whose business is to play cards at the bus stop every day and spread gossip about us”.

But on a happy note, many guardians of these unfortunate children continue to look up to The Center.

Run by trustworthy couple like Hayward and Penny, the guardians knew that the facility is not fly-by-night operations just like those trying to operate now at the settlement.

With dignitaries like the Malaysian High Commissioner to PNG, the representatives from the British High Commissioner and VIPS from the business community visiting The Center to bring funding assistance along with food supplies and other stuff, and with the RH Foundation providing what it badly needs like water system and many others, it is clear enough the facility is one place to be trusted and deserving of all support it requires to accomplish a noble mission of helping the unfortunate children live a normal life.

Very clearly, the future of the 83 Tembari children is in good hands.

As they say, nothing can ever destroy a good intention. And The Center’s only intention for its being is to look after children that needed its help. Nothing more.

By the way, their number is growing everyday.

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