Category Archives: Action

Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis

Trees Redwood trees in Guerneville, California. Photograph: Gabrielle Lurie/The Guardian

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

Crowther emphasised that it remains vital to reverse the current trends of rising greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and forest destruction, and bring them down to zero. He said this is needed to stop the climate crisis becoming even worse and because the forest restoration envisaged would take 50-100 years to have its full effect of removing 200bn tonnes of carbon.

But tree planting is “a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”, Crowther said. “It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.” Individuals could make a tangible impact by growing trees themselves, donating to forest restoration organisations and avoiding irresponsible companies, he added.

Other scientists agree that carbon will need to be removed from the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic climate impacts and have warned that technological solutions will not work on the vast scale needed.

Jean-François Bastin, also at ETH Zürich, said action was urgently required: “Governments must now factor [tree restoration] into their national strategies.”

Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief and founder of the Global Optimism group, said: “Finally we have an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas. This is hugely important blueprint for governments and private sector.”

René Castro, assistant-director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, said: “We now have definitive evidence of the potential land area for re-growing forests, where they could exist and how much carbon they could store.”

The study, published in the journal Science, determines the potential for tree planting but does not address how a global tree planting programme would be paid for and delivered.

Crowther said: “The most effective projects are doing restoration for 30 US cents a tree. That means we could restore the 1tn trees for $300bn [£240bn], though obviously that means immense efficiency and effectiveness. But it is by far the cheapest solution that has ever been proposed.” He said financial incentives to land owners for tree planting are the only way he sees it happening, but he thinks $300bn would be within reach of a coalition of billionaire philanthropists and the public.

The research is based on the measurement of the tree cover by hundreds of people in 80,000 high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth. Artificial intelligence computing then combined this data with 10 key soil, topography and climate factors to create a global map of where trees could grow.

This showed that about two-thirds of all land – 8.7bn ha – could support forest, and that 5.5bn ha already has trees. Of the 3.2bn ha of treeless land, 1.5bn ha is used for growing food, leaving 1.7bn of potential forest land in areas that were previously degraded or sparsely vegetated.

“This research is excellent,” said Joseph Poore, an environmental researcher at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford. “It presents an ambitious but essential vision for climate and biodiversity.” But he said many of the reforestation areas identified are currently grazed by livestock including, for example, large parts of Ireland.

“Without freeing up the billions of hectares we use to produce meat and milk, this ambition is not realisable,” he said. Crowther said his work predicted just two to three trees per field for most pasture: “Restoring trees at [low] density is not mutually exclusive with grazing. In fact many studies suggest sheep and cattle do better if there are a few trees in the field.”

Crowther also said the potential to grow trees alongside crops such as coffee, cocoa and berries – called agro-forestry – had not been included in the calculation of tree restoration potential, and neither had hedgerows: “Our estimate of 0.9bn hectares [of canopy cover] is reasonably conservative.”

However, some scientists said the estimated amount of carbon that mass tree planting could suck from the air was too high. Prof Simon Lewis, at University College London, said the carbon already in the land before tree planting was not accounted for and that it takes hundreds of years to achieve maximum storage. He pointed to a scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5C report of 57bn tonnes of carbon sequestered by new forests this century.

Other scientists said avoiding monoculture plantation forests and respecting local and indigenous people were crucial to ensuring reforestation succeeds in cutting carbon and boosting wildlife.

Earlier research by Crowther’s team calculated that there are currently about 3tn trees in the world, which is about half the number that existed before the rise of human civilisation. “We still have a net loss of about 10bn trees a year,” Crowther said.

Visit the Crowther Lab website for a tool that enables users to look at particular places and identify the areas for restoration and which tree species are native there.

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions

 

Richmond diocese to stop naming buildings after bishops

BishopOpening Mass for the synod of bishops on the family Oct. 8, 2015. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

– In the wake of recent sexual abuse scandals throughout the U.S., the Diocese of Richmond has announced that it will no longer name buildings and institutions after clergymen and religious founders.

The new policy went into effect on Thursday, as six names were added to the diocese’s list of clergy with credible sexual abuse accusations against them. The diocese said the additional names reflect new information recently brought forward.

“Overcoming the tragedy of abuse is not just about holding accountable those who have committed abuses, it is also about seriously examining the role and complex legacies of individuals who should have done more to address the crisis in real time,” said Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond.

“The continued honorific recognition of those individuals provides a barrier to healing for our survivors, and we want survivors to know that we welcome and support them in our diocese,” he said in a June 27 statement form the Diocese of Richmond.

Schools, institutions, and parish buildings will from now on only be named after saints, titles of Jesus and Mary, mysteries of the faith, and the locations where the ministries were founded.

Buildings and institutions may no longer be named after bishops, pastors, or the founders of organizations. Rooms and parts of buildings that are already named are exempt from the policy. The archdiocese clarified that the new rules do not prohibit the placement of plaques which recognize historical figures or donors.

The only building that will require a name changes is Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach, which will return to its former name: Catholic High School.

“While the name of the school is changing, our mission remains the same, based firmly on Catholic teaching,” said Kelly Lazarra, superintendent of the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. “Catholic High School is dedicated to nurturing intellect, shaping character and forming Christian values.”

This move follows a nearly 10-year campaign by resident Thomas Lee, who says he was abused by a priest in the diocese and that Bishop Walter Sullivan covered up the abuse and allowed the priest to continue in ministry.

“This will go a long way in the healing process,” said Lee, according to WTKR.

Bishop Knestout issued a renewed apology to all those affected by clerical sexual abuse.

“It is my hope and prayer that the policy change is another way to continue to assist survivors of abuse in their healing, especially those who have, in any way, experienced the failure of Church leadership to adequately address their needs and concerns,” he said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/richmond-diocese-to-stop-naming-buildings-after-bishops-10055

Give children ‘less sugar and more veg in baby food’

BabyGetty Images

The amount of sugar in baby food should be restricted and parents should give their young children more vegetables to stop them developing a sweet tooth, a report from child health experts says.

It warns that even baby food marked “no added sugar” often contains sugars from honey or fruit juice.

Parents should offer bitter flavours too, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommends.

This will guard against tooth decay, poor diet and obesity.

The recommendation is one of many included in a report on how to improve the health of children in the UK.

Reducing child obesity is a key priority in all parts of the UK, with England and Scotland committing to halving rates by 2030.

Targeting food high in sugar and fat is an important part of that aim, following the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks in England in 2018.

The report says the government should introduce mandatory limits on the amount of free sugar in baby foods.

Many can contain high levels of sugar added by the manufacturer or present in syrups and fruit juices, it says, despite labels suggesting otherwise.

The report says infants should not be given sugary drinks. Instead, they should have sugar in a natural form, such as whole fresh fruit, milk or unsweetened dairy products.

Prof Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said products for weaning babies often contained a high proportion of fruit or sweet-tasting vegetables.

“Pureed or liquid baby foods packaged in pouches also often have a high energy density and a high proportion of sugar,” she said.

“If sucked from the pouch, the baby also misses out on the opportunity to learn about eating from a spoon or feeding himself.

“Baby foods can be labelled ‘no added sugar’ if the sugar comes from fruit – but all sugars have the same effects on the teeth and on metabolism.”

‘Broccoli and spinach’

She said babies had a preference for sweet tastes but parents should not reinforce that.

“Babies are very willing to try different flavours, if they’re given the chance,” Prof Fewtrell said, “and it’s important that they’re introduced to a variety of flavours, including more bitter tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach, from a young age.”

Prof Fewtrell also said parents should be educated on the impact of sugar.

“Excess sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay, which is the most common oral disease in children, affecting nearly a quarter (23%) of five-year-olds.”

She added that sugar intake also contributed to children becoming overweight and obese.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends sugar provides no more than 5% of daily total energy intake for those aged two and over, and even less for children under two.

But results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggest the average daily intake for the children between one-and-a-half and three years is 11.3% – more than double the recommended amount.

A review of food and drinks aimed at young children, by Public Health England, found that processed dried fruit products contained the highest amount of sugar – but were often marketed as healthy snacks.

The products, which contain fruit juices, purees and concentrates, making them high in free sugars, should not be sold as suitable snacks for children, PHE said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-48773636

‘We all need to be a little more like Kendrick’: Friends and family remember STEM hero

HeroKendrick Castillo and his father, John Castillo. Courtesy: Knights of
Columbus #4844 via Facebook

– A funny, selfless, and kind kid who loved tinkering with his car, goofing around with his friends, and above all, serving others, whether at Knights of Columbus pancake breakfasts or in robotics class – this was the Kendrick Castillo that friends and family gathered to remember at a celebration of his life on May 15 at Cherry Hills Community Church.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit,” Fr. Javier Nieva, pastor of St. Mary’s in Littleton, Colo., said at the ecumenical celebration. The quote, from Jesus, is in the Gospel of John.

“We celebrate fruits today,” Nieva said. “Not death (but the) fruits of his life.”

Kendrick laid down his life for others not only “in the moment of dying, but in his love for his family, his passion for service, his love for the truth” and helping others, Nieva said.

Kendrick Castillo, 18, gave his life to protect his friends when he jumped into the line of fire to stop a school shooter on May 7, according to witnesses. Castillo was the only casualty in the shooting at STEM high school in Highlands Ranch, Colo.; eight other students were injured in the incident.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in May, friends and family packed Cherry Hills Community Church to remember a funny and kind friend, parishioner and son who was always smiling and helping others. On display at the church were some things representative of Kendrick’s hobbies and passions: a kayak, a red blazer he wore while ushering at Notre Dame parish, robotics and engineering paraphernalia.

Former teachers and friends from school took to the stage one by one to share a favorite memory of Kendrick, to extol his virtues and thank his parents.

Joseph Nguyen, a family friend of the Castillos and a member of the Catholic charitable group the Knights of Columbus, presented Kendrick’s parents, John and Maria Castillo, with a plaque that honored Kendrick as a full member of the Knights.

“Kendrick is forever a brother within the Knights of Columbus,” Nguyen said, presenting a plaque that came from members throughout the country and the world.

“His service with the Knights, in everything he did, there was a smile on his face,” Nguyen said, noting that Kendrick and his father John had logged  a combined 2,600 hours of community service with the Knights.

“I remember Kendrick for the just young man he was, the one who imitated Christ’s self-sacrificing love so that others might live and be safe,” he said. “Kendrick loved people, he loved his Church, and he loved his God.”

Charlene Molis, the principal of Notre Dame Catholic School, which Kendrick attended from pre-K to 8th grade, remembered a loving child who “is certainly proof that one person can make a difference.”

Molis said she saw Kendrick’s caring nature on the very first day of preschool, when he noticed a little boy crying across the room.

“The little boy was missing his mom,” Molis said. “Kendrick walked over, put his arm around him and told him it was going to be ok.”

She remembered a student who “respected everyone and always did his best.” She remembered that he liked to get dressed up for school plays as a cowboy or a pilgrim, but when it came to all-school Masses, he donned a three-piece suit.

She remembered his ability to figure out “anything technology related,” and how by the time he was a 6th grader, he became a sort of pseudo IT technician for his teachers, helping them with computer issues. She remembered his bright smile, quick wit, and willingness to collaborate with his teachers in playing jokes on his fellow classmates.

Most of all, she remembered how he served others.

“He seemed to be happiest serving others, and he did this humbly,” she said, whether it was working in the background to put on the school talent show, making and serving pancakes for the Knights of Columbus, DJing school dances, leading the computer club, or serving on the student council.

“He was the first to arrive and last to leave at school and church functions,” she said.

“He was the epitome of a young Christian man, and an inspiration to everyone who was lucky enough to know him,” Molis said. “We love you, Kendrick. We are all better people for having known him.”

Jordan Monk, Kendrick’s best friend, said they first met as freshmen in an engines class in high school. When it became clear that Kendrick knew the most about engines in the class, Monk jumped at the chance to become his lab partner.

“Our friendship started purely out of survival instincts,” Monk said. “I wanted an A in that class, and found the best way to do so.”

But after just one class period, “I like many others knew there was something special about Kendrick. I’d figured we’d get along just fine as lab partners, but I had no idea he’d have such a profound impact on my life.”

The two bonded over lab projects and mishaps, and soon became best friends.

“Teachers had a love-hate relationship with us,” Monk said. “They loved us because of the joy and laughter that we brought to class, but that joy and laughter was apparently distracting for some students.”

When they weren’t in school, Monk spent hours with Kendrick in his backyard, where they would tinker on mini-bikes or golf carts, and on their cars once they got their licenses.

“We changed brakes and oil…and detailed our cars almost religiously,” Monk said. “Whenever I was able to drag (Kendrick) to our school dances, we always had the two cleanest rides.”

Monk recalled a favorite memory with Kendrick, when they dressed up as the main characters from the movie Wayne’s World, and drove around with their car tops down, fake mullets flowing in the wind, and Queen blasting on the radio.

“The only sound you could hear over Bohemian Rhapsody was our laughter,” Monk recalled. He said he and Kendrick often were up to things that could be considered weird, but they didn’t care, “because we had the time of our lives doing it.”

At the end of the celebration, Kendrick’s father, John, addressed the crowd. He thanked the school and church communities and first responders for their care and support, and said he has “felt the love of thousands” in the days since his son’s death.

“If we had to describe him a certain way, first it would be love, the love for anybody he met,” John said. “I mean anybody. He was compassionate. If you were walking down the street and fell, he’d walk over to make sure you’re ok.”

“There’s risk in love,” he added. “There’s risk in being hurt, in rejection. Kendrick knew all of these things and he never wavered. He knew right from wrong, and we all do.”

John remembered Kendrick as a son who valued relationships over physical things, who cherished hunting trips with his dad and grandpa and loved going to animated movies with his mom.

“We all really really love Kendrick, and to carry on his life’s message, we need to be more like him,” John said, whether that’s helping someone who is struggling or including someone who is lonely.

“I always knew he was a gift and a hero, he was filled up with the good stuff” of life, he noted, like faith and love.

He encouraged those present to “walk your faith like Kendrick did,” recalling how his son would take off his hat and bless his food before eating at Taco Bell without caring what people might think.

“It’s not difficult,” he said. “We just have to love.”

Kendrick’s funeral and burial will be at the end of this week. The details are kept private at the request of the family.

Arizona home helps women rebuild lives after prison

Arizona photo
Credit: Ekkasit Rakrotchit/Shutterstock.

. Women leaving prison can face numerous challenges – from finding housing and employment despite a criminal record to repairing relationships with family members and friends.

At one women’s home in Flagstaff, Arizona, former inmates receive help getting back on their feet. The home, run by Catholic Charities, has seen so much success in its first few years that it is now planning to expand.

Since it opened in 2016, the Juniper House has helped 55 women re-enter society after leaving jail – with a sober environment, manageable rent, and the resources to get their lives on track.

The Juniper House began through a partnership developed between Catholic Charities and the local authorities.

Sandi Flores, Catholic Charities Community Services’ senior programs director for the northern offices, said the project works with the woman who have gone through Exodus, a sobriety program completed during incarceration.

“[It began with] some interest from the local sheriff department and jail folk, who were looking for an alternative for women who were exiting the substance abuse program that was offered at the jail. So we collaborated with them.”

Since women will exit the Exodus program at different times, the Juniper House staff consistently conducts interviews at the jail once a month. The house only holds eight women at a time, so there is growing wait list.

Women who going through the program will set goals, like focusing on jobs, completing their education, or reuniting with family members.

Flores said many of these women will face challenges that hinder these goals and their recovery. A criminal record may make it hard for the individuals to find work, and past friendships may push the women back into substance abuse.

The goal of the Juniper House, she said, is to minimize the stresses these women face as they exit incarceration, giving them the best possible shot at remaining substance free, finding work, and moving forward with their lives.

Residents receive free rent for the first month, followed by discounted rent. This allows them to focus on sobriety and accessing resources, like school or searching for employment.

“It gives them a chance, when they first get out, to be in a sober living environment, focus on recovery, to work at getting a job, learning to budget their funds, build some social support and social connections that don’t involve alcohol or drugs,” said Flores.

Unlike many other halfway homes, Flores said, the Juniper House allows residents a significant amount of freedom. Women who live at the house can take behavioral medication and work late if necessary. They are not removed from the program if they relapse, but instead will be coached alongside a case manager to develop a recover plan. And they are able to move at their own pace, with some staying a house for a few months, and others for up to a year.

Flores said the one of the house’s most beautiful qualities is the accountability that develops among the women. While it can be difficult for people in general to give or receive feedback, she said, the women routinely warn each other about dangerous behavior or motivate each other to find better solutions.

“They empower each other, and they support each other, and they are quick to point out when they are seeing something that is starting to go wrong.”

“We don’t want them to feel accountable to us. That’s not our role. Our role is to provide an opportunity for them and the support and resources to help themselves to permanent stability. Holding them accountable to us is not the message, is not the mission. Letting them be accountable to each other is very strong and powerful.”

According to the Catholic Sun, 50 percent of the residents are expected to gain income within 30 days and 80 percent to gain income within 60 days. Four in ten are working to reunite with their children. Last year alone, the house served 25 women.

The Diocese of Phoenix now wants to use the Juniper House as a model for similar homes across the state of Arizona. A diocesan campaign that began two years ago has raised the funds to help the project expand to Maricopa County and Yavapai County, with $1 million going toward the expansion.

Flores expressed hope that the project will continue to grow, providing more women with the opportunity for rehabilitation.

At Catholic Charities, she said, “it is always our mission to serve our community’s most vulnerable. So we are always looking to see what is that vulnerable population that is not being served.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/arizona-home-helps-women-rebuild-lives-after-prison-43714

Canadian police find kidnapped Chinese student Wanzhen Lu after three-day search

China photo Chinese student Wanzhen Lu, 22, has been found by police after being kidnapped in Canada. Photograph: York Regional Police Handout/EPA

Canadian police have safely located a missing Chinese student, three days after he became the victim of a brazen stun-gun kidnapping at the hands of a violent gang.

Wanzhen Lu, 22, was found with minor injuries by police in Gravenhurst, Ontario, a city 180km (110 miles) north of Toronto on Tuesday evening.

A homeowner had called police after a young man matching Lu’s description approached him and asked for help. Lu was taken to a nearby hospital, said York regional police spokesman Andy Pattenden.

Lu was the victim of a violent abduction on Saturday evening. As he and a female friend walked through the underground parking lot of his condominium, three men attacked him, with one of them using a stun gun. Police initially described the attack –which was caught on security cameras – as violent.

Lu was dragged into a waiting black Dodge Caravan by the three men. A fourth suspect was seen waiting in the vehicle. Lu’s friend was left unharmed, but police say she was traumatised by the encounter.

Pattenden did not provide any explanation on how Lu ended up more than an hour and a half north of Markham, Ontario, where he was abducted.

Lu studies business administration at Yorkville University, reported the CBC. Lu is also known for his collection of expensive cars, which include a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Range Rover.

The brazen and seemingly unprovoked attack prompted an intense search, with police deploying aircraft as they tried to locate the missing student. Police also asked the public for possible information that might help locate Lu. A number of tips led police to the black van on Monday.

Pattenden said Lu’s parents, who travelled to Toronto after receiving news of their son’s abduction, were relived by the news of his safety. “Our investigators have been able to provide this great news to the family,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, police announced the arrest of a 35-year-old Toronto man in connection with the kidnapping. He has since been released and no charges have been laid. Police declined to comment further on what prompted the arrest.

Pattenden cautioned the investigation – which has drawn upon organised crime and intelligence units – remained ongoing, with the four suspects still at large. “We’re very concerned that they’re still out there,” said Pattenden.

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/27/canadian-police-find-kidnapped-chinese-student-wanzhen-lu-after-three-day-search

Child workers in Vietnam stay safer knowing labor rights, self-defense tactics

Vietnam photoNguyen Thi Tien, 15, left, sells fruit on a road near An Lo market in Thua Thien Hue Province. At a recent workshop run by the Filles de Marie Immaculée sisters in Hue City, Vietnam, Tien was trained in how to deal with abusive adult customers. (Joachim Pham)

by Joachim Pham

On a cool evening in early February, Ho Thi Mai Lan smilingly invited three beer drinkers to buy salted peanuts and baked rice paper at an open-air bar along An Cuu River in Hue City.

One of the men pretended to show interest in the 14-year-old girl’s wares, asking the price while he was fixing her with an unblinking gaze and touching her hand.

Lan, a food street vendor who makes 50,000 dong ($2.15) per day, signaled to her friends, who were also selling food nearby. They rushed to surround the men, drawing attention by loudly exhorting them to buy food.

Flustered, one of the men immediately bought a packet of salted peanuts for 65 cents and chased the kids off.

Lan said that in the past, not knowing how to avoid such incidents, she had to suffer maltreatment and abuse from those who bought her food.

But, after help from the Filles de Marie Immaculée (Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception), she is better equipped to handle risky situations.

The sisters organized a special workshop in January in Hue City to arm child workers, orphans and other children at risk to fend off harm and understand their rights.

Nguyen Thi Tien, 15, confidently sells fruit by herself on the street to make more income after she finishes her work at a produce shop at An Lo Market in Phong Dien district of Thua Thien Hue Province.

Tien, an orphan, earns 1.1 million dong ($47) per month to support her ailing grandmother, who is 81. Tien says she once was physically attacked by a drunken man and, after that, did not dare to travel alone.

“I have phone numbers of some Catholic volunteers, social workers and fellows to call them in case I am bullied, abused or unfairly treated, so I no longer fear strangers,” says Tien.

The young woman, whose parents died with HIV/AIDS, dropped out of school when she was in second grade. Every day she pedals five kilometers from her home to the market and passes through a cemetery, putting her at risk of physical attacks.

Lan and Tien joined 50 others like them for help from the Filles de Marie sisters at the training session in Hue.

Sr. Maria Nguyen Thi Phu, an organizer, says the workshop teaches skills and practical knowledge about children’s rights to child laborers and orphans vulnerable to physical and sexual attacks.

Phu says, through pictures, video clips and group discussion, the children learn their rights to protection from discrimination, abuse, exploitation and abandonment. They learn about their rights to express their thoughts about youth issues, enjoy basic living standards and receive health care.

The nun says the workshop offers participants training on how to work in groups, listen to other people, observe situations and present their views. Then they turn to roleplaying exercises to practice what they have learned.

Participants played a game called “fish catcher.” A boy was blindfolded and directed by some girls to collect “fish,” represented by pieces of paper strewn on the ground, while other players shouted loudly. The boy, who was pretending to be an attacker, was confused by too much information and noise. The game taught the children how to fluster a potential predator.

Phu says children are also taught how to deal with potentially violent incidents and being exploited in the workplace. Many children do heavy work at construction sites, harvest rice, look after animals or wash dishes at restaurants but are paid half or two-thirds of what adults make for doing the same work, she says.

According to Thua Thien Hue Province data, 4,600 children have to work to support their families, live in slums or are affected by HIV/AIDS. An average of 33 cases of child abuse are reported every year in the province, higher than in much larger provinces, 2017 records show.

In 2018, the Ministry of Public Security estimates that 1,579 children in Vietnam were victims of sexual abuse, rape, murder, violence or trafficking. Many cases went unreported because they happened in remote areas or were hidden, experts say. In 2017, Vietnam had 23.9 million children under 15.

Nguyen Tan Tai, 17, a workshop participant, said the session taught him his rights and offered useful tips that had been completely unfamiliar to him.

Tai shared his family stories with others at the workshop. He says he saw his stepfather, who was addicted to alcohol and drugs, regularly beat his mother and abused his younger sister while shouting at him. The stepfather died of AIDS in 2017.

Tai also said in 2015 he worked four months at a construction site in Da Nang City, and a builder denied him his wages. “But I did not know how to make him pay me,” he said.

The youth, who now works for a computer shop, said that last year his younger sister and he joined a church-run club for at-risk children. They were taught vocational skills, and their mother was given seed money to buy clothes to sell at the market for a living.

Phu, who is in charge of underprivileged children in Hue, said 30 members from the club established in 2017 gather to play games, draw pictures, share problem-solving skills, and go camping. All these activities aim to unite the young members so they can help each other to overcome challenges and protect themselves from abuses.

The nun said it is difficult to approach children who are from various locales and work at places far from their homes. Many refuse to reveal their backgrounds for fear of discrimination, ill treatment or bullying by others.

“We must be patient and need more time to work with those marginalized children and offer them chances to live a life of dignity,” Phu says.

She says nuns also provide basic education and vocational skills at eight parishes to some 100 children who left school early. They are sent to work in safer places or with employers that have ties to the sisters.

Phu says the nuns plan to hold more workshops and educate local communities about children’s rights in the future so as to prevent cases of child abuse.

 

 

 
https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry-equality/child-workers-vietnam-stay-safer-knowing-labor-rights-self-defense-tactics?utm_source=MARCH_21_GSR+DIGEST&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email