The Easter Garden at Casa Walsingham
Colombia with Simon Reeve
Some of you may have seen BBC Two’s programme on Colombia which was shown on Easter Sunday. In it Simon Reeve visited the country to try and assess what the chances were for peace now, and one of the places he visited was Medellín, where our work is based. As the programme showed, a lot of good things have been happening in the city and for many people life has improved significantly. It was good to see a more positive view of Colombia. However, our children in Medellín continue to experience a rather different reality, which unfortunately wasn’t touched on in the programme. They come from the many shanty-towns that cover the mountain sides around the city centre and for them life is still violent and often dangerous. A high proportion of the shanty-towns are controlled by a banda (a powerful gang) and it is all too easy to fall foul of the banda and find oneself in immense trouble and danger. The children with whom we work are very vulnerable and disadvantaged and whilst we hope that one day they will enjoy the benefits of the city’s progress shown in the programme, at the moment they need our help if they are to stay alive and have the chance of life, life in all it’s fulness.
Landslide in Mocoa
The landslide that claimed the lives of hundreds of people, many of them children, in Mocoa, which lies a good way south of Medellín, also left people homeless and some children without parents. The Archbishop of Medellín has sent round an emergency letter asking all churches and organisations within the Archdiocese to send what they could afford to a special Account set up by Caritas and Fr Peter authorised the sending of 3,500,000 pesos, the equivalent of £1,000, from the charity.
Fifteen year old Breiner was a former altar-boy, and his friends among the staff and children at Casa Walsingham were greatly shocked and saddened when they heard, last week, that he had been murdered. Fr Peter received donations last weekend to pay for his funeral expenses, and a Requiem for Brainer was celebrated yesterday (Thursday 9th) at Casa Walsingham. Although it is true that there has been a reduction in murders in recent years, such killings still occur and they show the risk to which Funvini’s youngsters continue to be exposed. Just in the last week, Fr Peter and his team have dealt with two cases in which Funvini has had to persuade the authorities to take emergency measures to take teenage boys into care to protect them from the the gangs; and in one of these cases the whole family of the boy concerned has had to flee, and Funvini is currently providing temporary accommodation for his 10-year-old brother.
Have you changed over yet?
For some time now we have been advising our supporters who give by Standing Order or Direct Debit that as from January 2017 the charity’s Bank Account details would be changing and that they would therefore need to give our new details to their banks. Whilst most supporters have done this, there are still approx. 72 who have not and for some of these supporters we have no contact details as they set up their Standing Orders and Direct Debits themselves. So, this is the only way we have of trying to reach them. If you still have payments going into our old account please contact your bank and give them our new account details as soon as possible.
New Account Details
Barclays Bank-Worcester Branch
Account name: Let The Children Live!
Account No: 13514919
Sort Code: 209861
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Tell others about our work
Invitations from parishes and schools to talk about our work and make Appeals during 2018. Can you help us? Will you talk to your Parish Priest and/or your RE Teacher at school? Ring 01302 858369 if you can help. You will be playing an important part in our work if you can help us like this.
NB. All weekends for 2017 are now full, but we are taking bookings for 2018.
NB. Fr Peter will have copies of our choir’s new CD, Pasabocas, with him when he visits parishes and schools, or you can buy one by ringing us on 01302 858369. They cost £7.50 each, or £7.50 plus P&P £1.50, by mail order within the UK.
Site updated 17th April, 2017
The Forty Hours Devotion
27th August, 2016
Between Friday August 26th and Sunday 28th the children and staff of Funvini are celebrating the Forty Hours Devotion in the chapel at Casa Walsingham. The Intention is to ask for God’s blessing on our School Project and all our children will have the opportunity to spend some time in the chapel. A group of 50 girls are having a ‘sleepover’ at Casa Walsingham on the Friday night—-a great favourite with them! In small groups they will spend two 15 minute periods keeping watch before the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by one of our staff. On Saturday night, 50 boys will be doing the same thing. Throughout Saturday children will come to Casa Walsingham to take part in the devotion and to enjoy the activities that will be provided for them.The devotion will end with Mass at 8am on Sunday morning followed by a Procession through the streets, during which the canopy over the Blessed Sacrament will be carried by four of our boys from the street.
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RC Parishes where Fr Peter can make Appeals
Parishes and schools where he can make Presentations during the week.
Ring 01302 858369 if you can help.
Site updated 17th April, 2017
15th February 2016
Having heard all about the British custom of holding pancake races on Shrove Tuesday (the day before the start of Lent) from Fr Peter, our staff at Casa Bannatyne decided to hold their own races and what fun they had! Together with some of our children, they ran and tossed their pancakes with great hilarity, as witnessed by the photos below. Talk about wishing you were there! And the pancakes didn’t go to waste because afterwards, our children ate them as a pre-Lenten treat! Now I really do wish I was there!
A New CD, Pasabocas, is now available at £8.00, plus P&P £2.00 in UK. Ring 01302 858369 to order a copy or to get information about other postage prices. Click on the link below to listen to an extract.
The Musical Extravaganza on May 14th was splendid and raised £1,580!
Funvini ( the charity’s name in Colombia ) is currently helping about 530 children through its various programmes. This population includes children who live in the street; children who do various kinds of work – begging, selling sweets, cleaning car windscreens, juggling, prostitution, etc. – in the street; children who are at social risk of abuse or of becoming street-children; children with learning and/or behaviour problems; adolescent mothers and their babies; and the children of Cor Videns, Funvini’s choir.
However, the situation in Medellín is changing, and Funvini must adapt to meet the changing needs of its children. Although the murder rate in the city has dropped dramatically, the crime rate has not: it is simply that the main gangs have established an uneasy truce, and instead of causing mayhem with their fights for territory, they are now devoting their energies to more lucrative activities, such as extortion, prostitution and drugs. Many fewer children are now too be found sleeping on the pavement in the city-centre, because those whom the authorities find there are whisked away to a protective custody in special secure unit in the city’s mental hospital. But the social pressures of poverty and family violence which have, in the past, forced children onto the streets, remain unrelieved. But now, instead of taking to the streets in the city centre, the children who are subjected to these pressures are more likely to turn to the gangs as a substitute family. Other girls and boys resort to prostitution. A Channel Four News report on Medellín in 2014 called the city “the world’s biggest brothel”; and the increase in tourism has been accompanied by an increase in sex-tourism and child-prostitution. To combat this, Funvini’s financial and social-work support for its children’s families make it possible for most of them to stay at home; and its psychological and educational support helps to keep them in school. The charity is therefore playing a vital role in keeping these children safe and happy, and in helping them to build a decent future for themselves.
Funvini’s work is highly regarded by other organisations in Medellín, and the city’s educational authorities are putting great pressure on us to open our own school. They know that we consider Funvini to be an organisation of last resort, and that we will work with youngsters with whom the ordinary schools cannot cope, or who would not be able to cope with the ordinary schools without the extra support they receive from Funvini. For example, when the Head Teacher of one local school visited us last month she was surprised – and grateful – to find no fewer than 11 of her most difficult pupils busy doing their homework at Casa Walsingham with the help of our teachers and the benefit of our computers. The authorities therefore want Funvini to use all the experience it has gained over the last 21 years of caring for such children to open a small school for them at Casa Walsingham, with specialist teachers, very small classes, flexible hours, and innovative and highly-personalised teaching methods. The idea would be to build on what Funvini is already doing, and to use its existing staff, but to keep the children at Casa Walsingham for most of the day instead of sending them off to separate schools in other parts of the city. Funvini would use all of its other cultural and recreational activities, and its social-work, psychological, catechetical, health and nutritional support to encourage the children to keep attending the school. And at the end of the year, it would be able to award them with grade certificates in its own name.
The classes would be provided for a total of up to 50 children in the course of the day in a couple of the class-rooms at Casa Walsingham; and in the meanwhile all of Funvini’s other activities with street-children, working children and adolescent mothers would carry on around them. So the school would only be an extension, intensification and formalisation of the charity’s existing educational work, but not a replacement for its other activities. Inevitably, the project will require some additional staff, and generate some extra costs. Unfortunately, the city authorities are not offering Funvini any help with these, so the extra burden will fall on Let The Children Live!, provided that its supporters in Britain are able and willing to meet this challenge.
As has already been mentioned, the resources of Let The Children Live! are already over-stretched, so additional funds will have to be raised by means of a special appeal in the charity’s newsletter, Vivant! Very few of the charity’s supporters have given it their e-mail addresses, so the only way to communicate with most of them is by sending them a printed copy of Vivant through the post. The cost of postage has increased so much that the charity can only make such an investment periodically. The last one was published in 2012, and whereas some charities have been criticised for constantly badgering their donors for more money, the supporters of Let The Children Live! are more likely to complain that they don’t hear from the charity often enough. All being well, a new issue will be sent out early in 2016. This will be used as the vehicle for the special appeal, and it will also serve as means of seeking sponsorship for the projected concert-tour by Cor Videns, Funvini’s choir, and to publicise their new CD. Most of the songs for this have now been recorded, and it is hoped that the CD will be on sale in the New Year.
Because Cor Videns is a children’s choir, its membership is constantly changing as the choristers grow up. This means that new recruits have to start their training every year, and in order for the choir as a whole to continue to develop and attain higher standards, more time for more training will be required. In order to gain more experience – and to earn more funds for Funvini – the choir also needs extra time to put on more concerts. By the time the children come to sing at Casa Bannatyne on week days, they are already fairly tired after spending the first part of the day at school, and they still have homework to do. Without the risk of overloading them, there is therefore no extra time for them to have extra musical classes on these days. On Saturday morning Funvini provides football classes for the choristers who want them, and other recreational activities for the rest. And Saturday afternoons are already taken up with choir practice. The children – and their voices and teachers – need a break on one day a week, so the choir has Sunday off. So where is the time for the extra classes to come from?
The answer would be to include the choir as a separate section within Funvini’s new school project. Despite their higher academic and musical ability, many of the children in the choir present the same behavioural problems, and suffer from the same situations of family break-down, and face the same social dangers, as the children at Casa Walsingham. They also would benefit from being able to attend a school of their own, with flexible hours, small classes, specialist teachers, and tailor-made curriculum, in which their musical training would count towards their progression through Colombia’s grade system. If the necessary permits can be obtained, Funvini therefore plans to convert part of Casa Bannatyne into a school, and to use the investment in time and effort in setting up the charity’s school to benefit the children at both of its locations.
However, space at Casa Bannatyne is already very limited, and there is not enough of it to allow it to become a school as it stands. Most of the surrounding properties have already been replaced by blocks of flats, and the one hope of obtaining the much-needed extra space would be for Funvini to be able to buy the other third of the block in which it is located. This is currently for sale, but if Funvini is not able to purchase it now, the owner intends to convert it into six flats, and the opportunity will have gone for ever. The owner has been asking £220,000 for it but Funvini’s lawyer thinks that £150,000 would be nearer the market value. It would have to be adapted, so more money would be needed for this: so somewhere between £200,000 and £250,000 would probably be a realistic figure for the whole project. AND, even if Funvini did have the necessary money, it is highly unlikely that we would be able to obtain planning permission to change the use of the property from residential to a school. So, it is almost certain that we will need to look elsewhere for our school and in the meantime use the limited space that Casa Walsingham can offer us. So, we have little money and little space, but we believe the work to be so important that we are going ahead with its planning, and putting our faith in Divine Providence.
See also the article “A Thousand Thanks” in “Latest News”