PROJECT AK-47 End of Year Update: 2013
We are truly grateful for your support in 2013! We would like to share some highlights from the year to help you see how your donations have made a difference. Your generosity continues to fuel our mission to RESCUE , RESTORE , and RESHAPE.
- Jared Navarre , COO PROJECT AK-47
El Calor football (soccer) team
Known as “soccer” to those of us in the U.S., our El Calor football team made it to the playoffs in only their second year after moving to Division 2. There are now 4 satellite programs with over 100 children enrolled in each. We are planning to replicate these great prevention programs throughout Mexico, targeting the slums and violent drug regions.
Safe house for kids
You may recall the violence that erupted in our area during August and September, with hundreds being murdered. Thankfully, our team survived unscathed. Three new children, ages 5-8, came into our care at the safe house. Their parents were deeply rooted in the cartel world and in the midst of the violence, their mother was killed and their father fled.
Caged football (soccer) arena
We have been working hard to create sustainable projects that will generate operating funds for compassion projects, like safe houses. Last year we successfully built a caged soccer arena, which is now helping pay the bills at $2,000 a month! The arena is being maintained by our local soccer team so it has become a great after-hours activity for them too. We plan to build a second location in 2014! This will put your dollars to work long-term.
Running a logging business in partnership with tribal chiefs, negotiating with the rebel army, government corruption, and fighting local log pirates made for an authentic adventure. At the end of the year...we survived, and we supported over 75 needy families and 100 workers via the project. We built a cautious friendship with the NPA, helped the local tribal government stand up against corruption, and built continued trust with the Philippines’ government. For 2014, we’ve partnered with several trusted businesses to help us develop local businesses that are culturally sensitive and will eventually support our social justice projects.
In the NPA controlled logging area, we have successfully maintained 3 schools with a plan to build two others in early 2014.
Within the Muslim militia splinter groups, we have continued to run scholarship programs and have kept many children out of armed conflict and training. We are currently in conversation with the Filipino military and MNLF to determine other potential school locations.
With chaotic fighting in Zamboanga, one of our educational projects was forced to close for an entire season. The community was greatly affected with 120,000 plus people displaced, homes and buildings torched, and many killed or abducted.
Typhoon Haiyan struck in November and the destruction is unimaginable. With thousands dead and displaced, many children are in an insecure state and at high risk of military recruitment. The NPA is frustrated with the slow government response, which creates heightened potential for coercion into rebel ranks. In early 2014, we will focus our efforts on building strategically located schools and other protective environments for local children.
Child Soldier Projects
In 2012 our field workers estimated there were over 50,000 children in military training camps within the Shan States of Myanmar - far more than the official records. In 2013, those numbers remained the same, but forced conscription of children slowed. Equally important for us, the children’s homes and safe houses are much calmer. Our local staff and team have experienced a season of real respite for the first time in years. We are very thankful for that.
Our goal for 2014 is to expand one of our children’s homes and to raise enough support to accommodate 20 more children.
You can read Sihow’s personal story of fleeing the army this year and how we’ve negotiated him some time to stay in school for now…stories like this illustrate what we are truly about and why it is important that you are part of our community to rescue and care for children.
Sihow came to live at our safe-house 6 months ago. He was a child soldier for about a year
before he became a deserter. This is his story:
“I wasn’t ever registered as a soldier; my older brother was. The soldiers came to our house and read his name off the village register. My brother wasn’t in the barracks very long before he fled, and to this day, we don’t know where he is. So the soldiers came back to our house and took me away instead. Someone from our house was required to serve and I was next in line.
I was required to train all day, and at night I stood alert to guard. There was little to no sleep. When I was caught dozing off, I was given a hard punishment by the troop leader. The food was bad and there was never enough.
I knew my brother would never return, so I was stuck. But I thought, “if he ran away, maybe I could too.” So I did.
When Sihow came to our safe house, he told us that if he could study in our program he wouldn’t have to be a soldier. Unfortunately, we knew that wasn’t enough given that he was a deserter. So our director went and negotiated with the provincial governor. They’ve since given Sihow permission to stay with us until the equivalent of about 9th grade. So for now, he’s in our care and studying in the 4th grade.
Our goal is to equip him with other skills to protect him from becoming a front line soldier and give him a good government job in the future. The work PROJECT AK-47 does often requires delicate maneuvering and working between different political agendas and cultural contexts to protect children.
Sihow represents the kind of child that you have helped us rescue in 2013. We are grateful for our PROJECT AK-47 community and look forward to the great, fresh year ahead of us!