By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
A Friend of Tembari Children
SADLY, the WeCaRe! foundation has become less-friendly to the 98 Tembari Children.
Retired priest Fr John Glynn, founder and patron of WeCaRe!, has cut off the K400 monthly grant that supports their daily feeding activities.
This money is being used for ingredients and materials needed for the daily, twice-a-day feeding of the Tembari children.
The Center could not just feed the kids with rice alone for dinner. Rice has to go with something else like tinned fish and veggies, cooking oil, onion, salt and others. And The Center is feeding 98 mouths everyday!
When our volunteer mothers bake bread for the children’s noon snacks, they need cooking oil, yeast sugar, baking powder, salt and others and all these need money.
The K400 monthly grant from WeCaRe! goes into this. Take this away and you can just imagine how the Tembari Children’s daily meals would look like.
Therefore, cutting the monthly support off would create a big hole in the monthly operating budget of The Center and will definitely upset its otherwise smooth day-to-day operations.
And the direct casualty of this unfortunate and misguided WeCaRe! decision, courtesy of its board that has been hostile to, and jealous of, Tembari Children Care (TCC), are the Tembari Children.
Fr John Glynn’s decision is hostile to our 98 beneficiary children.
In a recent letter, Fr John formally informed Penny Sagembo, co-founder of the Tembari Children Care (TCC) Inc, that the so-called interim board of WeCaRe! “has decided that the Tembari Group does not really need the small food subsidy of K400 a month that the Group has been receiving through you”.
But while the subsidy will continue for the months of November and December, it “will be discontinued in the New Year … all financial support from WeCaRe! will therefore cease as from January 1, 2010”.
Fr John reasoned out that with the support that The Center receives from various groups and individuals, the K400 monthly subsidy is a very small amount to miss, but a lot of money for some of the groups that WeCaRe! supports.
“In the case of Tembari, the board is impressed with the degree of support your Group receives from several sources,” Fr John told Penny.
On the other hand, he noted that the other groups “struggle to find resources they need to provide care for the children and other young women registered with them.
“They have no other sources of support other than WeCaRe! and the Community …”
The retired priest said that with the progress the Tembari Center has achieved, “you are to be congratulated on all you have achieved …”
If that is the case why then penalize/punish the Tembari Children by cutting off their monthly food assistance?
Is it The Center’s fault that the rest of the feeding programs don’t have the same support that we are getting?
Instead, the Center has to be rewarded for being able to improve over the past ten months the lot, particularly the diet, of these children whose number has grown from 78 (as of December 2009) to the present 98.
Because that is what a feeding program is all about – improving the day to day lives of the beneficiary children by boosting their diet.
From a hand-to-mouth affair of four feeding days a week with just kaukau, sliced bread and cordial drinks using WeCaRe! monthly grant of K400, The Center has now been able to feed the Tembari children twice a day, six days a week.
Penny began the Tembari feeding program in 2003, using her own money and that of his husband Hayward, now the TCC president.
For seven struggling years until last year when Digicel Foundation took notice of Tembari’s feeding program and recommended to WeCaRe! a monthly feeding grant, the Tembari children had not received any assistance – whether from the community or otherwise.
Suffering financially, Penny still pursued with the task of taking care of the unfortunate children in her community at ATS Oro Settlement. From 35 children, the number grew to 78 last December when I discovered them.
Now our kids number 98.
We have progressed this far because we tried working harder for the children. Using some imagination, the internet and my personal contacts, I tried my best to network with people and groups to find from among them a potential supporter or donor.
I never stopped marketing the future of the Tembari children to potential benefactors; I believed they would one day join the pool of Papua New Guinea’s source of future leaders.
Anybody who disputes this is crazy, much less heartless.
Many individuals and entities have found merit in what we do for the Tembari children that they have decided to support us to further the children’s welfare.
When WeCaRe! offered the K400 monthly subsidy early last year when there were only 78 beneficiary children, Fr John did not realize that such an amount could only feed the Tembari children four times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – and could only buy kaukau, sliced bread and a 500ml bottle of cordial drink.
With 16 feeding days a month, each feeding session was actually supported only with K25-funding.
Spread this out to 78 children (those days) and each child would only benefit at the rate of 32 toea per feeding day. And what can you buy with K25 to feed 78 kids? What food can you have with just 30 toea?
Now we have 98 mouths to feed.
That’s why when I meet the Tembari children at a Christmas picnic party bank-rolled by Digicel Foundation and found out later the kind of food they were eating, I promised them I would try to find help – in terms of food, money and materials.
And so, from last January, assistance from individuals and entities began flowing into The Center.
Except for a handful of assistance, however, the rest that came to the Tembari children those days and even up to the present have remained unsustainable – just one-off donations.
But they helped a lot in alleviating the plight of the children.
This is one reason why I never stop talking to people for their possible support – financially and otherwise – because we have 98 kids to feed every day.
But thanks to our generous benefactors, the Tembari children have done well since January in terms of stable food supply and some generous funding assistance.
And for all this, Fr John Glynn has decided to penalize the children, by cutting off their food subsidy.
It is quite obvious that the good retired priest wants the Tembari Children Care (TCC) center to drop all its benefactors, supporters and donors so it could continue receiving the K400 feeding subsidy.
I suspect that he wants our benefactors, donors and supporters to instead channel their donations – money and foodstuff -- to his WeCaRe! and make the Tembari children come to him once a month for food assistance.
Make him the middleman, in short, for these funds.
In his letter, Fr John said the K400 could be used by the rest of the 16 other groups – these are feeding programs operating in rural areas – settlement and villages – outside of Port Moresby.
My question is: Would the K400 removed from the Tembari Children be flowed into the other groups?
I doubt it.
There are 16 feeding programs all over the national capital district – most of them in villages and settlements.
Of these, 11 are operated by mothers, including The Center. The other five are operated by foreigners, who actually go straight to Digicel Foundation for funding assistance as they do not want Fr John Glynn to meddle with their operations.
On the other hand, the mother-operated soup kitchens are solely dependent on WeCaRe! for their respective feeding money. In short they are beholden to the priest.
But the 10 soup kitchens have been complaining – just like what Penny Sagembo has been into – about how unrealistic the K400 monthly grant has become against the soaring prices of foodstuff in the city.
However, Fr John has insisted that is the only money for them: whether they have five kids in their group, or 100, the K400 monthly grant will never increase. So they have to live with it.
So, where would the K400 taken away from Tembari children go?
And he also has found some pleasure (and may be power) in consistently dangling the K400 feeding assistance to these mothers – if they won’t come to the monthly meeting to explain how they were doing with the money, they won’t receive the next one.
Penny had been subjected to this kind of treatment. When she failed to attend one meeting last month, Fr John cut the K400 off for this particular month.
Learning about this, I immediately howled my protest to Marina Van der Vlies, CEO of Digicel Foundation.
I explained to her that the Tembari children had become a victim of politics being played within the WeCaRe! board comprising church members from Anglican, United, Catholic and so on.
And the Anglican church, for that matter, has an axe to grind against the Tembari children center because it claimed it was duplicating its feeding program (Tembari belongs to Anglican church) at ATS Oro Settlement and did not want it to succeed.
However, the Anglican church’s feeding program failed to take off when it attempted to operate one at ATS Oro settlement due to inside fighting among its officers over money.
In short, it has become fly-by-night ops to the chagrin of the community that wanted this services from their church badly.
A day after my protest, the K400 for that particular month was immediately restored.
The Digicel Foundation is the source of WeCaRe! money, and for this year, it received a grant of close to K300,000 to help educate the many underprivileged around Port Moresby.
Fr John said he was paying for the school fees of hundreds of school children, thus the huge grant from Digicel Foundation.
Thanks to Digicel Foundation, 42 Tembari school children benefited from this. By next year, their number would grow to about 50.
However, with this spat between The Center and WeCaRe! over the feeding grant, it is no surprise if Fr John Glynn rejects the Tembari children’s school fee assistance request for next year.
Marina should watch this out closely, because it would be a clear negation of Digicel Foundation’s self-mandated task to help provide education to the underprivileged in the country.
In his earlier email to me, Fr John Glynn said that feeding programs should not take children more than they can feed and that each should live with the K400 it receives every month.
The retired priest believed that the rest of the unfortunate children who would not be accommodated by these feeding groups are responsibilities of the community where they live.
The truth is, the members of the community itself are financially hard-up to be able to look after these kids, much less feed their own.
That’s why there are more street children nowadays roaming around ATS Oro Settlement.
In closing his letter, Fr John Glynn said in his patronizing air: We would like very much to discuss how we can continue to support the work you are doing …”
To Fr John Glynn, I say: Please restore that grant … that’s the least you can do to help enhance the Tembari children’s feeding program, which you said has become successful.
To carry out that board decision will simply show the hypocrisy worn by each of your board members.
Tembari boys browse their picture books while waiting for lunch to be served on Saturday.
Children sipping their soup prior to being serve their special lunch of spiced minced beef on Saturday.
A preschooler playing alone inside her classroom.
Tembari preschoolers inside their classroom while waiting for lunch to be served.
Cups of beef bone soup waiting to be served to the children.
Two kids sip their piping hot soup.
Preschoolers having lunch inside their classroom.
Kids having lunch of rice, spiced mince beef and cordial drink.
Melanie, 8, chats with her buddy while waiting for lunch to be served on Saturday.
Volunteer mothers tending to pots soup and spiced minced beef. Rice has been just cooked and is set aside.
Spicy minced beef dish cooking – the main dish of the week, which has been sponsored by two individuals who chipped in K200 each to cover ingredients and others items. Lunch was served to 97 children on Saturday, as one kid was unable to come for feeding.
Thirsty kids crowd over a water cooler. Safe drinking water has become a rare commodity at the settlement that many, including Tembari children, have rarely drunk water after meals. Water was donated by Aqua Five and The Water Company.
A boy tries to operate the tap of the water cooler and serve ice water to his colleagues.
Boys chat to one another to kill time while waiting for lunch to be served.
The hollow block dirty stove after cooking for the day is done. (All pictures by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ)
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