EL PASO, Texas -- An unusual child advocate organization is helping abused children in a way that might surprise you.
They may not look like your typical child advocates, but just try telling them that.
"I got my long hair, I don't shave, I don't bathe every now and then. We don't make excuses for it, but we are serious about the children," said one biker who asked to be called "Kong."
Kong and another biker called "Hooch" are members of the national non-profit organization, Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA.
Their mission statement says that they exist as a body of bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world they live in after dealing with the trauma of abuse.
It's something Kong and Hooch say they know something about.
"Being a victim myself, it made me feel I had no one to turn to," said Hooch.
"I remember the days I felt the coat hanger across my back. We want to be able to promote the fact that you don't have to be quiet as a child," said Kong.
And that's where BACA comes in. The organization works in conjunction with local and state officials already in place to protect children.
When one of those agencies determines an abused child is still frightened by his or her environment, BACA is contacted and an initial ride is organized to meet the child.
The entire BACA chapter rides to meet the child to welcome him or her to the BACA family and to offer support, protection and love.
They say they stand ready to represent, be it by attending often painful court appearances or helping with the recovery process.
But while they look like tough guys, BACA draws the line at physical violence.
"We're not vigilantes. We're not out to hunt down the bad people and beat 'em up and bring 'em to justice," said Hooch.
Unfortunately, Kong and Hooch aren't representing any children here in El Paso right now. They need five members to start a BACA chapter, and so far, they only have each other.
"You got a bike, you're over 18, then come on! If you're heart's big enough," said Kong.
A big heart does seem to be a requirement. "It would be great if there was no such thing as abused children," said Hooch. But until that becomes a reality, he says, "we'll go all over. We'll go wherever we're needed.
And to those who continue to harm the innocent, Kong and Hooch say, beware.
"Be afraid of it if you're a perpetrator, and if they don't see us, they'll hear our bikes. They will hear our roar," Kong said.
And both Kong and Hooch hope it will be the roar of many.
If you are interested in forming a BACA chapter, call Kong at (915) 356-6394 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Neglected and abused children in California now have the right to take part in court hearings that will determine their future. That's the effect of a new law signed yesterday by Governor Schwarzenegger, in response to concerns about judges making life-changing decisions for kids they haven't even met.
Children involved in such cases will now be able to attend court hearings, and even address the judge if they want.
CANTERBURY (Reuters) - Sudan's Anglican church leader called for the resignation of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson on Tuesday to save Anglicanism from schism.
"He should resign for the sake of the church," Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul told reporters at a once-in-a-decade summit of Anglican leaders.
"God is not making a mistake creating Adam and Eve. He would have created two Adams if he wanted," he said.
A quarter of the world's Anglican bishops have boycotted the Lambeth Conference in an angry war of words between conservatives and liberals over the ordination of Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the 450-year-old church's history.
"We are for the Anglican world and we want the Anglican world to remain united," the Sudanese archbishop said.
"Over 300 bishops have stayed away from this conference because of Gene Robinson," he added. "The norms of the Anglican communion have been violated."
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, decided not to invite Robinson to the Lmabeth Conference -- but he still came to the cathedral city on Monday to meet supporters on the fringes of the summit.
In a joint statement, Sudanese bishops accused North American church leaders of ridiculing Anglicanism and destroying its credibility by ordaining gay American clergy and blessing same-sex unions in Canada.
"We appeal to this Lambeth Conference to rescue the Anglican Communion from being divided," they said.
Williams launched the conference on Monday by dismissing talk of schism and urging dissident conservatives to remain within the fold.
"We are sorry you are not here," he said of the conservatives who staged their own conference last month and decided to set up their own council of bishops to provide an alternative to churches preaching what they called a "false gospel" of sexual immorality.
But Williams did not see the end in sight for the 450-year-old church that boasts almost 80 million followers.
"Are we heading for schism? Well let's see. If this is the end of the Anglican Communion, I don't think anyone has told most of the people here," he said.
But there are clearly huge obstacles to be overcome.
A group of bishops appointed by Williams to try and find a solution to the crisis concluded in a presentation to the conference "We are at an impasse."
"There has been active fear-mongering, deliberate distortion and demonizing. Politicization has overtaken Christian discernment."
ELDORADO, Texas - Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, already convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice and awaiting trial in Arizona on other charges related to underage marriages, is now accused of assaulting a girl in Texas in January 2005.
A grand jury in this tiny western Texas ranching community indicted Jeffs and four of his followers Tuesday on charges of felony sexual assault of a child. Another was indicted for failing to report child abuse.
The charges came nearly two months after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that child welfare officials overstepped when they took all the children from the polygamist sect's ranch in a separate child custody case. The state had accused the sect of forcing underage girls into marriage and motherhood.
While authorities sorted out the custody dispute in civil court, law enforcement continued a criminal investigation by sifting through hundreds of boxes of documents, photos and family Bibles seized from the Yearning For Zion Ranch during an April raid.
State Attorney General Greg Abbott said five members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are charged with one count of sexually assaulting girls under age 17, a felony. One of them, not the 52-year-old Jeffs, faces an additional charge of bigamy.
Abbott said a sixth member of the FLDS is charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse.
"Our investigation in this matter is not concluded," said the attorney general, whose office is acting as the special prosecutor in the case.
The grand jury will continue consideration of other possible criminal charges on Aug. 21, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because proceedings of the panel are secret by law.
The identities of the Jeffs' followers who were indicted were not released Tuesday because the indictments remain sealed until authorities can arrest the men. Jeffs is in custody in Arizona.
"There will be an aggressive effort to apprehend them," Abbott said when asked whether he was concerned the men might have fled Texas.
FLDS members have historically lived around the Arizona-Utah line and bought the YFZ ranch in Eldorado about five years ago.
"We're actually quite shocked. As soon as we know who they're looking for, we'll try to face it," Willie Jessop, a church member and spokesman, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. "We believe in our innocence."
He said he didn't know who was indicted and that no one from law enforcement had tried to enter the ranch Tuesday evening.
More than 400 children from the ranch had been placed in foster care in April. The Texas Supreme Court said officials had evidence that only a few teenage girls were abused or at risk, and many of the children taken from their parents were infants and toddlers.
The criminal charges came during the grand jury's second meeting on the case; it met in June without taking any action.
Abbott spent Tuesday in the small community building where the panel was meeting near the courthouse. Women and girls in prairie dresses, including a 16-year-old daughter of Jeffs, were escorted in and out, while lawyers and FLDS members crowded a bench in front of the courthouse.
Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret, but documents released as part of the child custody case have revealed some of the evidence collected by law enforcement during the weeklong raid that began April 3.
Investigators said they found photos of Jeffs in intimate embraces and kissing several apparently underage girls.
A journal entry purportedly from Jeffs attached to a report by a child advocate indicates he married his daughter to a 34-year-old man the day after she turned 15. The girl turns 17 on Saturday and has denied being married, though the child advocate report indicates intimate notes between the girl and man also were found in the raid.
Besides discussions of the girl's marriage, the journal entry also indicates Jeffs blessed marriages of two other underage sect members to himself and another member.
FLDS leaders have consistently denied there was any abuse at the ranch and vowed not to sanction underage marriages.
Under Texas law, a girl younger than 17 cannot generally consent to sex with an adult. Bigamy is also illegal in Texas, and although FLDS plural marriages were not licensed by the state, the law contains a provision outlawing the act of "purporting to marry" more than one person.
The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glory in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
PITTSBURGH - A woman accused of slicing open a pregnant woman's belly and taking her baby was obsessed with getting an infant and even had hallucinations of hearing babies cry after a February 1990 miscarriage, according to court records.
A few months later, Andrea Curry-Demus allegedly stabbed one woman in an apparent plot to steal her newborn; the next day, she allegedly kidnapped another baby from a hospital.
Curry-Demus, 38, of Wilkinsburg, was charged Sunday with homicide, kidnapping and related offenses in the death of Kia Johnson, 18.
Johnson's decomposing body, with her wrists and ankles bound by duct tape and layers of tape and plastic covering much of her head, was found Friday in Curry-Demus' apartment. A day earlier Curry-Demus had taken the baby to a hospital, claiming first that she was the mother and later that she paid for the child.
Court records show a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Friday. Curry-Demus' attorney, Angela Carsia, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that her client plans to plead not guilty.
Authorities say the two women met at the Allegheny County jail on July 15 while visiting different inmates.
Court records for Curry-Demus' 1990 criminal cases paint a picture of a woman apparently unable to deal with the loss of her own child in her seventh month of pregnancy. She was 21 at the time, and told authorities she also had miscarried at age 12.
"While she admitted committing the offenses, she had great difficulty in verbalizing her feelings or motivations other than to mention the loss of her own child due to a miscarriage several months prior to the present offenses," according to a presentence report prepared for the two criminal cases.
According to court records, Curry-Demus visited Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh in the spring of 1990 and she befriended a woman who had recently given birth there.
They exchanged numbers and Curry-Demus called the woman a few days later, telling her she wanted to visit the baby and bring some clothes. She spent the day with the woman, her husband and the new baby and even asked to stay overnight.
The woman wasn't comfortable with that and a jitney was called for Curry-Demus in the early morning of May 5. While the woman was looking out the window for the jitney, Curry-Demus grabbed her from behind and stabbed her in the back. Curry-Demus fled when the woman called for her husband.
Hours later, Curry-Demus visited another hospital and met a young mother whose 3-week-old baby was being treated for meningitis. The next day — May 6 — several nurses saw Curry-Demus at the hospital and later noticed the baby was missing.
Police located Curry-Demus by tracing calls made from the hospital to Curry-Demus' mother. The baby was recovered unharmed.
Curry-Demus pleaded guilty in January 1991 to kidnapping, concealment of the whereabouts of child and related offenses and was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in state prison for taking the baby from the hospital. She also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the stabbing case and received 10 years' probation. She was released in 1998.
While awaiting resolution of the 1990 cases, Curry-Demus was twice briefly committed to a state mental hospital. An examination found her to be "in the midst of a major depressive episode." She also reported auditory hallucinations — that she kept "hearing babies cry."
She was found competent to stand trial, but also diagnosed with major depression and a mixed personality disorder. She graduated high school, but tests showed she had a "borderline intelligence level."
Johnson's funeral will be Friday in McKeesport, her family announced. In obituary information provided by a funeral home, the family said Johnson volunteered with the Salvation Army, helping with the homeless and day care.
The family has named her son after her: Terrell Kian Johnson.
ORLANDO, Fla. - The mother of a missing 2-year-old is a person of interest in a case that is beginning to look like a homicide, prosecutors said Tuesday. Sheriff's deputies said they still hope to find the girl alive.
Casey Anthony, 22, is charged only with child neglect and lying to investigators. Circuit Court Judge Stan Strickland set her bond at $500,000 Tuesday, saying the law did not allow him to hold her without bail.
He set the unusually high amount after hearing about evidence of human decomposition allegedly found in Anthony's yard and car. Her daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony, has been missing since mid-June.
"Not a bit of useful information has been provided by Ms. Anthony as to the whereabouts of her daughter," Strickland said. "And I would add that the truth and Ms. Anthony are strangers."
Anthony is charged with child neglect, making false official statements and obstructing a criminal investigation. Authorities say she did not report the girl missing until last week, and only then at her own mother's insistence.
Sheriff's deputies said Anthony's car smelled of decomposition, and a cadaver-trained German shepherd noted a smell of human remains in the car and her yard. They said they found a stain, dirt and what seemed to be Caylee's hair in Anthony's trunk. A search of the yard turned up no body.
"The risk of her flight if she is released on some low bond increases exponentially, especially now that she's heard this additional evidence and that she is their person of interest," said assistant state attorney Linda Drane-Burdick.
Deputies emphasized they were still looking for the girl — alive — and urged anyone with information to step forward.
Defense attorney Jose Baez requested bond around $10,000. He said Anthony's family can't pay a high bond and she has the right to freedom while facing lesser charges.
"This is not a capital case, and if it were they certainly would file it, if they had evidence to," Baez said. "There is circumstantial evidence of a possible homicide, I will give them that. But circumstantial evidence has not made them confident enough to charge her with any specific homicide or kidnapping, or any capital offense."
Anthony's parents became concerned after her car was towed from a check-cashing business where it had been parked for days. She and the child lived with her parents, and she told them she worked as an event planner at an area theme park.
Investigators say Anthony was unemployed, and a purported babysitter seems to never have existed. The mother and child hadn't been home in the month before investigators were notified that Caylee was missing. Investigators believe the girl's father is dead.
Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, acknowledged in court that her daughter had lied before, but said she was a caring mom. The registered nurse believes the girl is alive, and Casey Anthony lied to police because she was somehow threatened. Cindy Anthony said she would even sell her house to free her daughter.
"I know Casey as a person," she said. "I know what she is for a mother and I know there's only one or two reasons why Casey would be withholding something about Caylee. I believe that it's something that someone is holding over her and threatening her in some way."
Casey Anthony's face filled with tears at the hearing, watching her parents at the witness stand and again after Strickland set bail.
"Casey, we love you!" yelled Cindy Anthony as the courtroom cleared.
Her daughter nodded and sobbed before being led away in chains.
KENNEWICK, Wash. - A woman pleaded innocent Thursday to stabbing a pregnant woman to death and cutting the baby out of her womb.
The charge of aggravated first-degree murder against Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong, 23, carries either the death penalty or life in prison without parole, if she is convicted. Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty. Araceli Camacho Gomez, 27, was found dead in a city park on June 27, stabbed multiple times. Her baby had been cut from her body. Police have said Sisouvanh Synhavong tried to pass off the baby as her own in calls to emergency dispatchers. Authorities have said there was no evidence the women knew each other. The baby boy is in serious condition at a hospital in Spokane. Camacho Gomez's husband, Juan Campos-Gomez, who was in court Thursday, said he plans to take his wife's body back to Mexico to be buried when it is released. Sisouvanh Synhavong was granted credentials as a nursing assistant by the state Department of Health in 2005. She applied for renewal of her credentials in March. The next hearing in the case is set for Aug. 6.
What a difference a couple of years and the levelling effects of the Army can have.
It certainly seems to be true in the case of Prince Harry, with whom I have just spent 48 hours in the southern African kingdom of Lesotho.
Clarence House wanted the British media to see Harry's latest efforts in support of Sentebale, the charity which he co-founded to help disadvantaged children in Lesotho and, particularly, the many thousands who have been orphaned by the country's Aids epidemic.
The statistics of that epidemic are startling. An estimated one-third of Lesotho's 1.8 million population are HIV-positive.
Forty per cent of Lesotho's children have lost one or both parents to Aids. And, most sobering of all, average life expectancy in Lesotho - which 20 years ago was 52 years - has now fallen to 34. Plainly Lesotho faces an immense challenge.
Yet its own leaders seem reluctant to recognise the scale of the issue or to commit themselves fully to address it.
Their inertia is due to several factors, not least to a cultural reluctance which is evident across southern Africa to accept that a disease which is predominantly spread by sexual activity is causing such an immense problem.
All of which makes the work being done by Sentebale and the leadership role being played by Harry all the more important.
One of the difficulties of being a BBC correspondent who covers the activities of Britain's Royal Family is that to offer any praise of any member of that particular family will inevitably lead some people to suggest either that it proves the BBC as a whole is just a craven part of the establishment, or that this particular reporter has swallowed too much Palace red carpet.
I do not believe that is the case. I certainly hope not. But, at the same time, I do believe Harry deserves credit for what he and his charity are achieving in Lesotho.
It would be easy to deride the whole venture as a convenient, half-hearted plaything which gives Harry a good excuse to spend time in the soothing surroundings of southern Africa where, coincidentally, his girlfriend Chelsea Davy happens to hail from.
But on the evidence of what I saw of Harry in Lesotho, there is certainly nothing half-hearted about his commitment to Sentebale.
He plainly cares very much about the plight of children who are the innocent victims of the Aids epidemic.
As Sentebale's director of operations in Lesotho, Harper Brown (an Ulsterman whose background is in the Army and the NHS), told me: "Harry knows his stuff and he is deeply committed to this."
Several years ago Harry said he wanted to carry forward his late mother's interest in the Aids problem in Africa.
Since then he has created a charity which is working at grassroots level to help vulnerable young people. He is fulfilling the ambition he set himself, and in doing so he is demonstrating that he has become a considerable asset to the Royal Family.
He is emerging as a prince who is at ease with himself, and who is comfortable with people.
He has none of the stuffiness of some of the older members of his family and he carries a lighter sense of destiny than his brother.
The result is that he is a natural crowd pleaser who brings his mother's unaffected simplicity and humanity to what he does.
It is a powerful combination. It works and, in the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho, it is making a difference.
KC man charged in kidnapping, sex assault A Kansas City man was charged Monday with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman in midtown last September.
Testing of genetic material recovered from the 19-year-old woman’s body linked Trevino J. Cox to the crime, according to court documents.
Cox, 25, was charged in Jackson County Circuit Court with kidnapping and two counts of forcible sodomy.
The victim told police that she was walking in the area of 37th and Main streets when two men offered her crack cocaine, which she declined. One of them then grabbed her arm and they forced her to walk about a block and down an exterior staircase that was hidden from view.
One of the men then sodomized her orally and anally. He then tried to hand her some cocaine, but she ran away, she reported.
Woman gets nearly 11 years for NY adoption fraud By LARRY NEUMEISTER
NEW YORK (AP) — A woman who lied to adopt 11 disabled children whom authorities say she abused while she raked in more than $1 million in subsidies was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 11 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said Judith Leekin engaged in "a heartless, dangerous money-driven scheme" when she used fake names and lies about the children to defraud social service agencies in New York City and New York state.
Leekin, 63, has been accused of treating the children like prisoners, subjecting them to beatings and handcuffs while they stayed in a locked room without food, depriving them of medical and dental care and not sending them to school. Authorities said the children were so physically and emotionally abused they can never recover.
Leekin looked down and repeatedly dabbed her eyes and nose with tissue as Berman ordered her to serve 10 years and 10 months, nearly three years above the maximum penalty she had agreed to in a plea deal with prosecutors.
The judge also ordered Leekin to forfeit $1.68 million to benefit the children.
"This fraud turns the philosophy of adoption and the need to provide long-term care to children — so important to our social services system ... it turns that system on its head," he said.
Before Leekin was sentenced, she sobbed and apologized for committing wire and mail fraud and promised to surrender all her assets. She pleaded guilty in May.
"I love my children," she said, "and I miss them."
The children, now ages 16 to 28, suffer from a variety of severe mental and physical disabilities, including autism and Down syndrome. Leekin began adopting them in 1988, when she lived in New York City. A decade later, she moved to Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Florida authorities have charged her with aggravated child abuse and aggravated abuse of disabled adults, and she could face as much as 120 years in prison if she is convicted of those and other charges.
Prosecutors say the high school dropout from Trinidad lived lavishly while forcing the adopted children to sleep on the floor of a storage room next to a garage and banning them from entering the house except to use the bathroom or kitchen.
Attorney Howard M. Talenfeld, speaking on behalf of 10 of the children, told the judge that none of the children could testify before him because they were too damaged by the abuse.
Nine of the children are now in foster or group homes. Another lives on his own in Florida. One child is missing and presumed dead.
Talenfeld said one child was afraid to face Leekin again while five others who were capable of speaking were not brought before the court because social-services professionals advised that they would be further emotionally and psychologically damaged by the experience.
Leekin's lawyer Diamond R. Litty noted that her client was cooperating and surrendering all assets. She said many of the allegations are uncorroborated and at least six of the children have said they "miss their mother and still love her."
Talenfeld said he was most troubled by the 2000 disappearance of a child who suffered from Down syndrome, autism and sickle cell anemia.
He said some of his siblings were told the child, who would be 19 today, was taken to a hospital, while others were told he was buried in the back yard.
The judge recommended that adoption programs use mandatory fingerprinting of prospective parents and a wider investigation of backgrounds before children are placed, and suggested surprise visits to adoptive parents and active monitoring by government agencies.
Berman also noted that Leekin had been abused as a child.
"Neglect leads to neglect," he said. "Adoption is a privilege, not a right."
NEW YORK, Feb. 4 A UN anti-discrimination committee said women in Saudi Arabia should be allowed more basic freedoms, saying the practice of needing a man's permission to marry, work, travel or be educated should end. In a report published Monday, the committee also said there should be more laws offering protection to women. The Saudi government, however, denied it discriminated against women in submissions before the report.
Last month a Saudi delegation told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that human rights in the kingdom were based on Sharia law. The UN body questioned the Saudi state's understanding of the idea of equality, saying similar rights for men and women is not the same as equal rights, BBC News online reported Monday.
The report highlights the situation of women who have been victims of crime. In a recent case, a woman who was gang raped was initially sentenced to jail and lashes because the court found she was wrong to have been with a man who was not her relative at the time of the attack. The report said social attitudes and the patriarchal system deter women from reporting crimes.
It said men and women do not have equal rights in marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance and says female illiteracy is still high. The report concedes there have been visible improvements in the number of women in the Saudi workforce, but there are too few women in politics.
BANGALORE, India (UPI) -- A Hewlett-Packard executive has been charged in India with failing to protect a female colleague who was killed on her way home from the office, a report said.
Som Mittal was the managing director of Hewlett-Packard's activity in Bangalore when Pratibha Srikanth Murthy, 24, was raped and killed by the man who was driving her home late at night in December 2005.
Murthy's death raised concerns and controversy across India about how to adequately protect the country's 40 percent female workforce, The Times of London reported.
Mittal has reportedly been charged with violating laws that require late-working women to be adequately protected by employers.
Mittal is the first company leader to be prosecuted for such a crime, after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal to dismiss the charges, the report said.
Life now seems better for Rosa's sons as they have gotten their mother back!
Putting a family back together in Mexico By Scott Cotter
Rosa wanted to die…it was the only way she could forget. When the drugs and alcohol failed to block out the bad memories, she’d throw herself into traffic. Now, with help, she’s getting her life back.
Sometimes, to help a child, you must first help the parent…
Rosa was 11 when she took her first drink.
Mimicking behavior that had surrounded her entire childhood, she grabbed an unattended bottle of her father’s whiskey from the table and quickly gulped it down. It came with some rather immediate side effects…stumbling, falling down and vomiting.
Despite such a dire experience, three years later, at a time when most girls would be thinking about boys, clothes and music, alcohol became the starting point for a 14-year odyssey complete with drugs, huffing solvents, prostitution to earn food money, and three children born into the tempest of poverty, addiction and chaos.
“I wanted to die,” she recalls now with a clearer mind. “I would [jump] in front of cars so they would kill me.”
What she was doing, she laments, was trying to blot out the bitterly painful memories of a childhood spent in an abusive household where the only defining characteristics were violence, drunkenness and overwhelming poverty.
During the darkest times, she lived on the street where getting beaten, robbed or injured was just another night out. When she did see her children – who lived with her poor and aging mother – she provided them with little sustenance or support. And many times she would wake up in strange places, but with little idea of how she got there or what happened to her. Mostly, the memories in her head refused to fall silent.
“I just wanted to forget everything, but I didn’t,” she recalls sadly. “When I was drunk, I would remember more. Those things can’t be erased…not even when I’m dead.” Another chance at life
Jump ahead 15 years. Rosa is fresh from rehab. Although the years she spent trying to hide from her memories left her scarred inside and out, the 29-year-old is trying hard to reclaim the things she once tried to leave behind.
She has a new perspective and a new commitment to being a good mother, daughter, sister and citizen. Her children, Adrían, José and Lupita, once plucked from the street by Children International, are now healthy, in school and receiving all the support and love they need (Lupita, her youngest, still lives with Rosa’s mother in another town).
Rosa is grateful for Children International’s help in turning her life around, helping her find a rehab facility where she was able to get clean, and giving her children the health and dental care, clothing and shoes, educational assistance and nutritional aid they so desperately needed. It’s another chance, she says, precipitated by our compassionate staff in Guadalajara, Mexico, who understood that the only true way to help Rosa’s children was to help her.
“Children are strongly influenced by their immediate environment,” explains Neeta Goel, program director for Children International, “especially their families, which are their first learning environment. An insecure or threatening environment affects the child’s perceptions and emotions significantly.”
In many cases, improvements to a child’s environment are equally as important as providing the traditional benefits of sponsorship. That’s why Children International will often help with home repairs, community water wells, latrines and other projects. Or by addressing specific family needs such as helping with income-generating projects, nutrition education for mothers, vocational and literacy training for parents as well as emergency aid after disasters.
“What we hope to achieve,” continues Neeta, “is a more secure and happy environment for the child. This would not happen if they have a troubled family background or were growing up without their parents.”
Looking back, moving forward
With Rosa back in the picture and working at the local market earning a few pesos a day, the family’s prospects are looking much better. Her children are doing well and, some days, Rosa even finds her smile.
Still, when it’s quiet, and when the children aren’t around, the old pain and regret surface and cast a shadow that’s hard to ignore. She may be better, but the life she led for all those years took a toll. Rosa looks much older than she is; the trials and tribulations of her experiences are evident in every scar and wrinkle.
But she admits that, with the support of so many caring people and the sponsorship of her children, life is easier and getting better all the time. Her children have opportunities she never did. And now, finally, she can focus on righting some of the wrongs that came before.
Special thanks to Alejandro Bonilla in Guadalajara for reporting assistance and photography for this story.
Mayra is studying to be a teacher so she can help others like she was helped.
Mayra helping other children
Life After Sponsorship By Erin Fitzgerald
Recent sponsorship graduate Mayra Acan Set of Guatemala recounts the help she received from Children International. The soon-to-be teacher still cherishes the memory of her very first gift : a pair of shoes.
As young people around the world reflect on their recent graduations from high school and college, sponsored youth also have much to be proud of – their graduation from our sponsorship program.
Meet 20-year-old Mayra Acan Set, a 2007 graduate from Guatemala. Her struggles began at an early age. As the oldest girl, she cared for her younger siblings while her parents worked. When times were tough, she helped her mother wash clothes to earn extra income. Today, Mayra is studying to be a teacher. In her free time, she volunteers with our agency in rural Guatemala. Here’s what she has to say about poverty, sponsorship and her goals for the future...
How did your life change when you became sponsored?
I have memories of receiving dolls, receiving clothes, receiving medical checkups, having my photo taken and things like that. It was something totally new to me.
How has Children International helped improve your life?
Children International brought me out of a tunnel. I felt like a baby bird. I was a shy girl, and I thought that if I spoke in public, people would laugh at me. The thing is that for a lot of people, we indigenous women aren’t anything more than inditas (a diminutive term for indigenous ladies) who don’t know anything. So since I had the program, people cared about me, and they supported me. I started to change, and that change was obvious in school and at home. I don’t know if they knew it in the program, but little by little, they were shaping me into a leader.
Is there a memory that stands out?
I treasured my first pair of shoes so much that when they finally broke, I cried. I don’t know if you can understand that feeling, but here you buy clothes and shoes in the market. They’re secondhand shoes that sometimes are kind of worn out, and that time, the shoes were new – they came in a box, and they had a wonderful new smell. I also saved the box for a long time. I used it as a piggy bank.
Tell us about your experience with Children International’s youth program.
Thanks to the youth group, I was able to make friends that my parents trusted were healthy friendships. We participated in field trips together, chats about youth, drug addiction and sexual education. I gained a lot of knowledge and confidence in myself during those activities.
Why did you decide to stay and volunteer with the agency?
I don’t know if it was because I was so fond of the program or to give back some of the things that they gave me. I think it’s a little bit of both. I like it when they ask me to make a list or help a child write their letter because it reminds me of myself and how hard it was for me. I really feel useful, and that makes me happy.
What are your plans for the future?
In the near future, I would like to work in a rural school, to bring free education to all of the boys and girls and their parents. But in order to earn enough and help my parents and my siblings, I know I’ll have to work very hard.
Reporting assistance and photos by Javier Cárcamo.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like for a sponsored child to travel to a community center to pick up a gift? In Vida Nueva, Honduras, as many as 800 children and parents visit the center each day a gift distribution is held. Here’s your chance to join one of those children – “The Boy of Eternal Smiles” – on a trip through his community.
José Orellana Matute’s family lost everything they owned during Hurricane Mitch in 1998, but thanks to sponsorship and sheer determination, they are making a better life for themselves in the Vida Nueva, or “New Life,” community of Honduras. They’ve lived in the community for over nine years now, ever since it was set up as a relocation site for families who lost their homes during the storm.
“When we first came here,” José’s mother, Juana, says, “it was really difficult. The water in the wells made us sick to our stomachs. Then, after a while we started getting good water, and it was okay for us.”
What was once a polluted, precarious neighborhood overrun by thugs with guns started to change when Children International moved into the area. In fact, we were the first and only organization allowed to operate in the community.
Today, Vida Nueva is an up-and-coming neighborhood with 3,332 sponsored children who can safely play outside their homes and travel to the community center to get medical checkups and treatment, dental care, educational assistance, computer training and regular sponsorship gifts.
Risks in Vida Nueva still exist, but our dedicated staff members make sure your support reaches sponsored children like José each and every day.
Photo by Jesús Almendárez. Video by Miguel Cabrera Argueta. Both work at our sponsorship agency in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Boyfriend sentenced to two years for involuntary manslaughter of boy The Salt Lake Tribune Article Last Updated: 06/27/2008 12:42:26 AM MDT
A southeastern Utah man who admitted killing his girlfriend's son when he accidentally fell on him has been sentenced to two years in prison. U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell imposed the punishment Tuesday on 36-year-old Edgar Lynn Chee. Under a deal with prosecutors, Chee pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter within Indian country. According to court records, the Oljeto man was watching 2 1/2 -year-old Xavier John on Aug. 14 while his girlfriend was running errands. As Shannon John was returning home, she saw Chee driving toward her with her son's lifeless body in the car, the records say. The toddler was pronounced dead on arrival at Monument Valley Health Center in San Juan County. A Navajo tribal criminal investigator said there were retinal hemorrhages and bruising around the child's eyes and on his trunk, as well as a small ligature mark on his throat. An autopsy report said the cause of death was undetermined. Chee originally was charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was reduced in his plea deal. Defense attorney Robin Ljungberg contended in a presentence brief that Chee is a "gentle and caring" man with no history of violence against children. He said Chee and his family helped take care of Xavier, who allegedly had developmental problems and suffered from seizures.
Jilted fiance ordered to trial in killing The Salt Lake Tribune Article Last Updated: 06/27/2008 12:42:27 AM MDT
A Murray man has been ordered to stand trial for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend's brother during an April altercation sparked by a broken marriage engagement. Nazir Rahimi, 26, is charged with first-degree felony murder for the April 20 slaying of 19-year-old Farhad A. Mullahkhel outside the defendant's home. Mullahkhel and three of his brothers went to Rahimi's to retrieve a cell phone belonging to their sister, who had recently broken off her relationship with Rahimi, according to preliminary hearing testimony. Two witnesses testified that Rahimi stabbed the victim in the chest. When police arrived, about 20 people were fighting outside the home. Rahimi is to appear in court for a scheduling hearing July 14. - Stephen Hunt
Woman charged with kidnap attempt The Salt Lake Tribune Article Last Updated: 06/27/2008 12:42:18 AM MDT
A 51-year-old transient woman was charged in 3rd District Court on Thursday in an alleged kidnapping attempt on two girls at the Salt Lake City Main Library last week. Terryette Woods faces two charges of child kidnapping; both are first-degree felonies. Woods pulled an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old girl by the wrists at the library on the afternoon of June 18 and said, "You're coming with me," charging documents state. The older girl told the suspect she didn't want to go and was about to scream for help. But Woods let go of the girls and ran away when she saw a security guard, police said. Woods was spotted on the morning of June 20 at the TRAX station on 400 South, police said - the same spot where a library security guard saw her after the alleged kidnapping attempt. Woods was booked into the Salt Lake County jail last week. - Jason Bergreen
Grandmother sentenced for kidnapping Associated Press 2:39 AM CDT, June 27, 2008 GENEVA, Ill. - A Kane County judge has handed down a three-year prison sentence to a grandmother who forged a court document to kidnap her grandson from Aurora.
In the ruling Thursday, 42-year-old Jeanie Ann Andrews, who lists addresses in Florida and Indiana, also was barred from contact with her grandson as part of her guilty plea to one count of kidnapping.
The day before she was arrested, requested custody of her daughter's 8-year-old son.
The judge rejected her request, but prosecutors said Andrews used the judge's signature to create a document that indicated the judge had granted her custody. Police arrested her as she was allegedly driving the boy out of town.
And it gets UGLIER... My Life in the Firehouse - http://lifeinafirehouse.blogspot.com/ (EDIT: Before anyone else comments for me to "Please not assume that I am the only one who has EVER gone through this", I am doing no such thing. There have been people who have been through much worse. I haven't given you the whole story here. I haven't even given you the worst of the story here. I've only given you what I choose to reveal. Please stop making this about YOUR hurt feelings. I've deleted your comments.)
Before anyone else decides to give me the 'ole suck it up and ignore Dear Old Mom advice... Please don't think that anyone out there can identify with what I've been through. I've NEVER been the "WOE IS ME" type of girl. I've NEVER used my background as an excuse to act badly. BUT HERE IT IS:
I was beaten by my biological mother and grandmother, taken away by the state, spent two years in foster care and passed from foster home to foster home. I was labelled a Problem Child. I was only three and a half years old when I was adopted by this family. Apparently I was sent to a psychologist where I vaguely remember crying my eyes out at EVERY session. I HATED going. I don't remember anything about those sessions. I remember wetting the bed at night which I have subsequently learned is common for abused children. My loving adopted mother used to make me wear very short dresses and diapers and then publicly humiliate me in front of other children in the hopes I would stop wetting the bed. When I was 15 she cried and said she knew I was talking to someone, who was it? When I broke down and told her it was my guidance counsellor, she showed up at school the next day and humiliated me in front of the woman. That day as she drove me home from school she back-handed me so hard in the front seat of the car I saw stars. When I was 17 and she became pregnant with my brother, she used to tell me if she had a miscarriage she would blame me for it. The woman had miscarried five times already (before I ever came into the picture) so I was terrified. She forbid me to touch him when he was born, saying that I was a child abuser - accusing me of abusing children I had babysat. I can't even begin to touch the tip of the iceberg of all the things that she did to me both physically and emotionally in the 15 years I spent with her before I packed so many green garbage bags and moved out of her house. I don't even have the energy to tell you them all. Let's just say I was mentally and physically abused by yet another "mother".
I sucked it up and made it through my life. I'm not saying I did the best things. I coped. I'm not a drug addict. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not exactly the most emotionally available person you'll ever meet. I'm surprised I have the ability to show emotion at all. But no, you can't possibly IDENTIFY. I know you're coming from a loving place and I appreciate that. I know you're trying to help and give me support. I love you for that. But please. Stop. You can't possible know what it's like to be here. To be me. And I'm so profoundly grateful that you don't. I think I've done a pretty damn good job of ignoring the hell out of it and pretending it didn't bother me so much. I wish I'd been stronger. I wish I'd been able to handle her so that I could keep him in my life. Now I have to see if I can stop myself from killing her long enough to talk to him.
Curtin's call a good one Man attempting 100 triathlons in 100 days By Tully Corcoran The Capital-Journal Published Sunday, June 15, 2008
It's sick, it's perverse, it's masochistic. It's John Curtin's way of helping abused children. Curtin, a 41-year-old chiropractic physician from St. Louis, intends to compete in 100 triathlons in 100 days, in the process setting a Guinness World Record and raising money to support sexually abused children. The Topeka Tinman Triathlon on Saturday was Curtin's 15th triathlon in 15 days. "Your sick athletes are the ones that do the best," he said. Curtin isn't just sick. He's crazy. Really. "I have a psychologist that's been helping me out, a sports psychologist, and she says I'm crazy," he said. "It's certifiable. I'm crazy, yes. She happens to be my wife." Today, Curtin is competing in Lawrence, the 16th stop on a punishing tour across the eight states surrounding Missouri, plus Oregon, Arizona and Michigan. Fans can track his progress via his Web site, p3triathlon.com. Though the Guinness record is a desirable achievement, Curtin says his endeavor is really about the kids. "I decided to set the record for most consecutive triathlons in one year, and I decided to do it in 100 days," he said. "At the same time, to raise money and awareness for sexually abused children. They're kind of silent victims in our nation that don't get recognized. Money isn't given to them, enough to help them and their families during crisis." Curtin weighed 207 pounds at the outset and in 15 days has dropped to 188. He said his body feels fine, in large part because he takes extra care to maintain a specific heart rate that maximizes his endurance. With the help of endurance coach Joe Friel, he has been building up to this summer for a year. He isn't so much concerned with what he does during the triathlons — he finished 14th Saturday in his age division, completing the Tinman's short course in 1:02:50.67 — as what he does between them. "Mostly I worry about getting enough sleep and drinking a lot of water," he said. "I also get adjusted by a chiropractor on a regular basis. That helps keep me going." Triathlons have been a longtime passion for Curtin, who competed in his first one at age 13 and was doing half Ironman triathlons a year later. Curtin thinks anybody could do it. "I think everybody's cut out for it," he said, "as long as you have the motivation, the desire and the training behind you."
The mother surrendered to the LAPD on torture charges after a public appeal was issued to find her. Her live-in girlfriend was arrested a day later. By Ari B. Bloomekatz and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers June 15, 2008
The mother of a 5-year-old-boy and her live-in girlfriend have been arrested in connection with what authorities describe as "unbearable physical and psychological abuse" of the child, police said Saturday.
The mother, Starkeisha Brown, 24, turned herself in to the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street Division station late Friday night after officers made a public plea for help in finding the women and released their pictures. Brown was being held without bail on charges of torture.
The other woman, Krystal Matthews, 21, was arrested Saturday by detectives when she showed up for her appointment at the county Department of Children and Family Services. She was being held on $100,000 bail on charges of willful harm or injury to a child.
Police said both women have a history of violence.
The boy, who was in guarded condition at a local hospital, was rescued Monday by a stranger who found him abandoned and called authorities.
On that same day, the two women had an appointment with the Department of Children and Family Services and had brought the healthy child of a mutual friend and tried to pass him off as Brown's son.
Police said the women routinely beat the boy, forced him to put his hands on a hot stove, burned his body and genitals with cigarettes and often would not let him eat or drink.
At a news conference Friday, LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said that because of the burns from the stove, the boy no longer can open his hands.
Lt. Vincent Neglia of the LAPD's Abused Child Unit said in a statement Saturday that the abuse was "akin to a level of torture we hope our military personnel would never encounter."
Residents in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where the boy lived said Saturday that they were shocked to hear of the child's treatment and disgusted by the abuse allegations against the mother and girlfriend.
"I never knew a parent could do something like this. It was just a shock," said Mary Williams, 68, who lives in an apartment complex adjacent to where neighbors said Brown and Matthews live in the 11000 block of Figueroa Street.
Williams' 9-year-old grandson saw the boy often, and occasionally the two played together.
"How could you just do this and run off and leave him?" she said. "I hurt for that baby."
Another neighbor said, "If I [had known] anything, they would've been caught a long time ago."
The predominantly African American and Latino neighborhood is northwest of the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways. The street scape is dominated by modest apartment complexes and single-story homes, auto body and machine shops, liquor stores and small motels. Across the street from the women's home is Holy Rock Baptist Church and an Ultra Oil gas station.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in the neighborhood, in the 90061 ZIP Code, is nearly triple the national average, and about 10% of the population are homeowners.
I was born in Mexcio, DF of Belizean parents.I enjoy working with students and I believe that my purpose in life is to guide the minds of the youth around me, to share my life with friends and family and to respect myself and others for the opinions that shape our lives. I believe that we should live each day as if it was our last. We must cherish friendships and spread happiness to those around us. Give from the heart and you will feel a sense of satifaction. That I believe is my purpose for being on this earth.