July 23, 2016
On 8 November 2013 the Philippines was struck by super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda and life changed for all, especially in Tacloban city both by the typhoon, and the tsunami-like surge of the giant 5.2 metre wave of water which followed. This natural disaster claimed thousands of lives, left 1.9 million people homeless and more than 6,000,000 people displaced.
Prior to the super typhoon the Sisters of Mercy were carrying out their ministries in education, health care , social work and parish involvement, energised by the vision of Catherine McAuley. Among the sisters, concern about human trafficking and the need to take action and raise awareness, was a live issue. Plans were afoot to develop modules on raising awareness of human trafficking as part of the school curriculum.
While the impact of the typhoon disaster put projects on hold, human trafficking and child abduction has become a major concern and there is a much greater risk of violence and exploitation facing displaced women and children. This is due to the separation of children and youth from their parents and families and the disruption of education, including the loss of a protective environment during the day. The Sisters in Tacloban put their focus on restoring their faclities and their education and health programmes as soon as possible. They are still concerned about human trafficking issue which is big and complex and takes all interested groups working together to bring about some change. Pictures of the devastation caused by the typhoons calls for great courage to bring a positive change to the situation in Tacloban and elsewhere.
The Sisters have been encouraged by the work of Fr. Shay Cullen of Preda Foundation which has a long history of protecting the dignity and human rights of the Filipino people, especially of women and children, and has a particular focus on sexually exploited and abused children.
M Carmela Cabactulan rsm, then Superior of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of the Philippines had made contact with Fr Shay Cullen and Prada Foundation’s work to protect suspected victims of human trafficking. This contact has given the Sisters encouragement to do what they can. The Church and its Bishops are becoming more aware of the danger and complexity of human trafficking issues and the growing prevalence of the trafficking of children.
In June 2014 M. Carmela wrote:
Sister Marian Ladrera, the present Superior brings us up-to-date. After typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda many people were displaced as they lost their homes, family and all. Due to displacement, many became prey to human trafficking. Fr. Shay Cullen, and PRADA Foundation Staff came to Tacloban City to find out what happened to typhoon victims particularly those in danger of human trafficking. He came to the Mercy school, the Holy Infant College, to conduct an awareness and information drive about the dangers and what PRADA Foundation can offer. From then on, the school holds regular sessions on the Dangers of Human Trafficking, a real threat to Human Dignity.
As time progressed the sisters identified the need for a program to Care for Street Children below adolescent age, especially those who have lost their homes and families. This program has the following objectives: 1) to provide a sense of security and dignity as children of God, 2) to instill love for education as a means of liberating them from poverty and oppression, 3) to hone their talents and abilities through skills training for their future livelihood and development of sports and arts interests.
The program is still in at an early stage. It is the hope of the sisters that it will soon become instrumental in empowering and encouraging these street children to become productive members of society, having grown in confidence in themselves and more aware of the negative dimensions of their street life and eventually committing to staying out of the streets and improving their general quality of life.
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2016
In the TIP Report, the Department of State places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in Section 108 of the TVPA.