Good News Story: Filipino boy studying on street given a college scholarship

A little boy who was photographed doing his homework in the glow of a McDonald’s neon light has received an outpouring of support after the heart-rending image went viral.

Now Daniel Cabrera could be on track to achieve his dream of becoming a policeman after he received donations of cash, school supplies and even a college scholarship, his mother Christina Espinosa told AFP. 

Widow Espinosa and her three youngest children, including nine-year-old Daniel, have been homeless since a fire destroyed their home in Mandue City, Phillipines, five years ago.

Joyce Gilos Torrefranca - Inspired by a kid

The family currently live in a back room in a mini-grocery story owned by Espinosa’s employers.  She told AFP:

“We’re overjoyed. I don’t know what I will do with all of these blessings.  Now, Daniel will not have to suffer just to finish his studies.”

Among the donations received by the family are school uniforms and a reading lamp.

Espinosa added:

“He is a very studious and determined boy… he would insist on going to school even without his lunch money because I had no money to give.  He always tells me: ‘Mama, I don’t want to stay poor. I want to reach my dreams’.”

DANIEL-CARBERA-570

Daniel’s plight went viral after student Joyce Gilos Torrefranca spotted him bent over his school work at a wooden bench.  She posted the image to Facebook, remarking the little boy had “inspired” her.

One commentator said: “This kid’s perseverance in studying makes this picture such an inspiration. Despite the lack of personal space or inadequate lighting, still he chose to study.”

Since the donations poured in, the city’s social welfare office chief Violeta Cavada told AFP:

“Our problem is how to manage all this financial assistance.  He has become a symbol of poor slum boys in the city who can’t study because they don’t have electricity.”

Blind mum sees her baby before he’s born

Blind Mum 3D scan

I love this story of a 3D baby scan to help a blind mum ‘see’ her little baby:

Blind Mum 3D scan 1

For expectant parents, a baby scan visit is a time of joy and anxiety. It’s the earliest opportunity to see a child waiting to arrive.

Tatiana Guerra, 30, will soon give birth to her son, Murilo. She’s blind, so can’t see the fuzzy results of a sonogram. To promote Huggies nappies in Brazil, the ad agency Mood created a 3-dimensional model of her son as he appeared in a sonogram. It then surprised Guerra with the model, giving her a wonderful glimpse of her son that she could touch and study with her fingers.

Café owner leaves heartwarming note for homeless person raiding her bins for food

I loved this news story about a café owner who left a heartwarming note for homeless person raiding her bins for food

A café owner in the US who was “heartbroken” to discover a homeless person was searching her rubbish for food has put up a sign on the skip inviting them to come inside for a free meal.

Ashley Jiron, who runs P.B. Jams in Oklahoma, said she would not take the notice down until the person comes in for a proper meal.

Pictures of the sign have spread on Reddit and Instagram, drawing support for the show of compassion from around the world.

Cafe Owner heart warming note

It reads: “To the person going through our trash for the next meal, you’re a human being and worth far more than a meal from a dumpster.

“Please come in during operating hours for a classic Pb&j, fresh veggies and a cup of water at no charge.

“No questions asked. Your friend, the owner.”

“Last week, I had noticed some bags, when I had taken out the trash, were torn open and some of the food was taken out,” she told the KFOR news channel.

“That really, it hurt me that someone had to do that.”

She said she realised pride may stop the person coming inside but that she had to try.

Skip ign

Ms Jiron added: “I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it.”

 

Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech

Charlie Hebdo pen protest

Following the awful attack on Charlie Hebdo, the Europa partnership of newspapers released the following statement:

“The attack on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January in Paris and the odious assassination of our colleagues, fierce defenders of freedom of expression, is not only an attack on the liberty of the press and liberty of opinion. It is an attack against the fundamental values of our European democratic societies.

Freedom to think and freedom to inform had already been targeted in recent months by the execution of other journalists.

Refusing to give in to threats after the publication, almost 10 years ago, of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Charlie Hebdo magazine had not changed its culture of irreverence one iota. Similarly, we European newspapers, regularly working together as part of the Europa group, continue to promote the values of liberty and independence. We continue to inform, to inquire, to interview, to comment, to publish – and to draw – about every subject that appears to us legitimate, in a spirit of openness, intellectual enrichment and democratic debate.

We owe it to our readers. We owe it to the memory of our assassinated colleagues. We owe it to Europe.”

Europa: Le Monde, the Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, El Pais, la Stampa, Gazeta Wyborcza

In one sense I have real sympathy with their statement.  Freedom of speech is one of the key human rights.  Everyone, regardless of position, wealth, gender, race, religion etc. has the right to express themselves.  It is important that there is a freedom to challenge one another, to have different views.

I also want to be clear that being offended by satire does not in any way  justify the use of murder or violence.  But Freedom of speech has its limits.  In the United Kingdom the law prevents us from being racist, sexist, hateful, libellous or homophobic.  In addition we’re not allowed to disclose State secrets.  But even in the community we have limitations on our freedom of speech.  The golden rule of do unto others as you wish to be done unto you prevents us from deliberately attacking and provoking others in our community.

But isn’t that what Charlie Hebdo did in printing the cartoons about the prophet Muhammed.  The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had previously published a portrayal of Jesus as a contestant on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and Pope Benedict holding aloft a condom at Mass.  It is by definition a publication that likes to test the boundaries of taste, political and religious tolerance.

For me I would want to dwell on the concept that with great power comes great responsibility.  The challenge is that we don’t need to publish cartoons and articles for the sake of publishing them and equally we need to not just pick up guns and shoot people when we disagree with a drawing or comment they make.  We need to learn to be more adult like in our living together.

Currently we seem to be creating more extremists on both sides – the war on terror actually seems to lead to more terror.  Extremism leads to extremism.  Unless we change the way that we engage this situation will go on and on.  Already we’re seeing in the news more attacks against Muslims in the streets, mosques being damaged — proving true the very thing these extremist Muslims believe — that the West hates them.

We need to find a better way of challenge and disagreement.  We need to help our young people to lead us in a new direction.

Ched Evans is not the victim

Ched Evans 1

I find the whole Ched Evans story deeply disappointing.

Social media has led to a mob mentality: Evans blamed the collapse of a deal with Oldham on a mob mentality.  David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Clive Efford, the Labour MP, have all voiced their unease about Evans being helped back into the national game, and none is an obvious exponent of “mob rule”.  Equally I can’t quite see Jess Ennis as being the leader of a mob as she challenged Sheffield United to rethink their view on him returning to the club.  Instead the mob mentality that led to the collapse of the deal was that of Evans’ supporters making death threats to the Oldham staff and their families.  There were even suggestions one director was told the address where his daughter worked and that she would be raped if Oldham proceeded.

Footballers seem unable to talk about the importance of being a role model: I have not heard any professional or ex-professional footballer come out and talk about the importance of how they are a role model to influential young people.  Last November, the chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, described it as “not an important issue” on Newsnight, although this week he issued a statement saying that “it was important” to look at the issue of player’s behaviour, adding: “I would encourage the game to consider and discuss this matter and the prospect for future guidelines and codes of conduct.”  The PFA and FA need to set up strict guidelines about how players can rehabilitate themselves, and inspire the young who regard them as role models.

A lack of apology: The apology has taken too long to come, finally arriving 83 days after he was released from prison, via the Professional Football Association (PFA):

“I am grateful for the support of the PFA in helping me try to return to football and continue my career. 

“Upon legal advice, I was told not to discuss the events in question. This silence has been misinterpreted as arrogance and I would like to state that this could not be further from the truth. 

“I do remain limited at present by what I can say due to the ongoing referral to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned. 

“Finally, it has been claimed that those using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman are supporters of mine.  I wish to make it clear that these people are not my supporters and I condemn their actions entirely and will continue to do so.”

It is a classic PR written statement which apologises for the “effects that night in Rhyl has had on … the woman concerned” but not for his actions – it comes across like the child who is forced by a teacher to say sorry to another child for hitting them – they aren’t really sorry.

Henry Winter hits the nail on the head with this:

Evans’s next step on the road to rehabilitation must be to undergo an educational programme in which he learns respect for women and then works for the Professional Footballers’ Association in urging young players to avoid what has become known as “night games”.

Parts of the professional game have a misogynistic problem towards women, an arrogant outlook that the PFA should be confronting rather than embarrassing itself by trying to rush a convicted rapist back into professional football before he has served his sentence. Evans is out on licence. He should be allowed to return to football only when the judicial process is complete, and when he has shown proper contrition.

Footballers’ sense of entitlement, encompassing the “I’ve got a bird” culture, cheating on their partners, having sex with a woman too inebriated to give consent as laughing team-mates try to film events, before leaving through a fire escape, has now been challenged by the public.

Ditch the website: In addition I believe that Evans should take down his website.  This website has fuelled his supporters who insist he is innocent, and yet fail to remember that he was found guilty by a jury and his leave to appeal was rejected by a Lord Chief Justice.  This website includes asking visitors to “judge for yourself” from the uploaded CCTV footage from the night in question whether his victim was incapable with drink.  It doesn’t come across as someone who is showing remorse.

The key to all of this is that Ched Evans is not the victim. She is.

Prayers for Paris

The Church of England have published some prayers that maybe helpful as we come to terms with the ongoing news coming from Paris:

Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world.
It seems that none are safe, and some are terrified.

Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace –
peace that passes our understanding
but changes lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

 

God of Hope,
we come to you in shock and grief and confusion of heart.
Help us to find peace in the knowledge
of your loving mercy to all your children,
and give us light to guide us out of our darkness
into the assurance of your love,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

 

Merciful God,
hear the cries of our grief,
for you know the anguish of our hearts.
It is beyond our understanding
and more than we can bear.

We pray that justice may be done
and that we may treasure the memory of their lives
more than the manner of their death.
For Christ’s sake.
Amen

Archbishop John Sentamu criticises UK food poverty

John Sentamu

Archbishop John Sentamu in a speech at General Synod has called for “more equitable, more caring world” and questioned the effects of government’s welfare reforms:

In a long and often angry address to the Church of England general synod on Tuesday, John Sentamu said static salaries and rising prices had left nine million people living below the breadline at a time when the chief executives of the UK’s 100 biggest companies were earning on average £4.3m – 160 times the average national wage.

Sentamu, who chairs the Living Wage Commission, said politicians needed to stop referring to “hard-working” families and recognise that they were instead “hard-pressed” families struggling to survive despite their best efforts.

“Once upon a time you couldn’t really be living in poverty if you had a regular income,” he said. “You could find yourself on a low income, yes. But that is not longer so. You can be in work and still live in poverty.”

Reports of malnutrition and food poverty in Yorkshire “disgrace us all, leaving a dark stain on our consciences”, he said. “How can it be that last year more than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in Leeds – not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka but Leeds?”

The effects of the government’s welfare reforms, Sentamu said, were “beginning to bite – with reductions in housing benefit for so-called under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for workless householders and single parents, and the gradual replacement of the disability living allowance with a personal independence payment”.

“This is the new reality,” he said, “Food banks aren’t going to go away any time soon. Prices are rising more than three times faster than wages. This has been going on for 10 years now. And for people slipping into poverty, the reality is much harsher.”

If governments were powerless to do much more than “tinker” with the current economic trends, he added, the church would find itself doing even more.

Reflecting on Christianity’s long commitment to fighting poverty – from Saint Francis of Assisi to John Wesley, and from Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest and father of liberation theology, to the current pope – Sentamu said the Church of England had once again found itself compelled to speak up for the poor, and urged Anglicans to follow the example of the architects of the welfare state.

“They had a clear vision as to how things could be different,” he said. “In part, they were also tapping into the spirit of the immediate postwar years in which there was a great hunger to rebuild a more equitable, more caring world. It is that vision which we need to recapture today, but remoulded in a way which is realistic for the circumstances we face now.”

Poverty, the archbishop concluded, was “costly, wasteful and indeed very risky”. He said: “We in the church must make the argument that losing human potential at a time when we need all the capacity we can gather is hugely wasteful; that paying people below the level required for subsistence fractures the social contract and insurance, and that this is risky.”

Charity chief urges Prime Minister to create CSE national inquiry

Charity 4Children is calling for a stand-alone national inquiry into the extent of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

For Attila

4Children chief executive Anne Longfield has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to make the case for why a national inquiry is needed following the publication last week of the Jay report that found 1,400 children and young people had been victims of systematic sexual abuse over 16 years in Rotherham

The government has vowed to incorporate the findings from Rotherham into its recently announced historical child abuse inquiry, but Longfield argues this gives a “false impression” the issue is in the past when many believe CSE is a growing and widespread problem.   4Children is also concerned that the full extent of systemic neglect and agency failings identified in the Jay report will not be fully scrutinised or addressed if it is part of a wider inquiry.

In her letter, Longfield says the extent and severity of the Rotherham abuse merits a “high-level, time-limited, Prime Ministerial-led inquiry” that should focus on what went wrong in Rotherham; the extent of CSE across the UK; what needs to be done to tackle the problem; and how agencies and communities need to change in order for allegations of CSE to be taken more seriously.  

Longfield said:

“We are calling on the Prime Minister to establish a stand-alone inquiry to reveal the true extent of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and other areas and answer questions about how and why services continue to fail our children. Adding it to the remit of an historical abuse inquiry misses the point. This week alone a number of potential new victims have come forward.  

“Perpetrators of these horrific crimes were allowed to continue their abuse for decades because nothing was done to stop them. Yet the key findings from the report – agencies not working together and children not being listened to – are not new ones and government must act now to ensure that children’s voices are never ignored again when abuse of this kind is reported. 

“The full scale of this systemic failure may never be known, but government must act now to carry out an urgent and transparent investigation to listen to and protect children and make sure this never happens again in Rotherham or anywhere else in the UK.

 

Vicar of Baghdad has Hepatitis B

Canon Andrew White

Canon Andrew White, who is commonly known as the Vicar of Baghdad, has confirmed he’s been diagnosed with Hepatitis B.

Writing on his Facebook page he said:

I Have Hepatitis B
I am afraid my results have just come back and I have got positive Hepatitis B. So I think work is out for a while.

Canon Andrew White lives with multiple sclerosis, and has been playing a key role in standing up for Christians in Iraq and has played a major role in publicising the situation for Christians in the country.

Hepatitis B is a type of virus that can infect the liver and symptoms include feeling sick, lack of appetite and flu-like symptoms.  According to the NHS The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis B are able to fight off the virus and fully recover from the infection within a couple of months.

Funny headlines from around the world

news - schoolswork

Some of the more random headlines from the BBC News website over the last week or so:

Slavery in the New Forest

Little Testwood Farm - slavery

I was shocked and saddened to read this headline: “Eight men rescued from suspected slavery Little Testwood Farm in Calmore“:

POLICE have rescued eight men from a site in Totton following an investigation into potential slavery and servitude.

Officers from Hampshire Constabulary, supported by the National Crime Agency, executed a warrant around 6am today at Little Testwood Farm on Salisbury Road, Calmore.  The men are aged between 21 and 46 and are a mix of Romanian, Latvian and Polish nationalities.  Police also recovered industrial equipment that is believed to have been stolen.

A 27-year-old man from Luton was arrested on suspicion of knowingly holding another person in slavery or servitude and remains in custody.

The men have been taken to a survivor reception centre where they are receiving emotional and practical support. The centre is run by officers from Amberstone, Hampshire Constabulary’s specialist interview support team, with assistance from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Hampshire County Council and the NHS.

Detective Inspector Phil Scrase from Southampton CID said:

“As this morning’s action shows, we’ll take swift action against anyone suspected of exploiting vulnerable members of society for their own gain.  We know that people are being trafficked, exploited and enslaved across the country including here in Hampshire.  I’d urge anyone with concerns, suspicions or information that could help our enquiries to contact us in confidence.  For example, if you’re being offered cheap labour that’s too good to be true for the amount it costs, ask yourself: who’s really paying?”

Anyone with information about slavery, servitude, exploitation or trafficking can call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.  If you don’t want to speak to the police directly, you can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the national slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700

Bishops call for Iraqi Christians to be given asylum in Britain

Aid distributed to Christians in Iraw

The Observer reports: Bishops urge David Cameron to grant asylum to Iraqi Christians

The Church of England has demanded that the British government offers sanctuary to thousands of Christians fleeing jihadists in northern Iraq, warning that ignoring their plight would constitute a “betrayal of Britain’s moral and historical obligations”.

A number of bishops have revealed their frustration over David Cameron’s intransigence on the issue, arguing the UK has a responsibility to grant immediate asylum to Iraqi Christian communities recently forced to flee the northern city of Mosul after militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) threatened them with execution, a religious tax or forced conversion.

On Monday, France responded to the so-called religious cleansing by publicly granting asylum to Christians driven from Mosul. The Anglican Church argues the UK has an even greater responsibility to intervene, citing its central role in the 2003 allied invasion, which experts say triggered the destabilisation and sectarian violence that shaped the context for Isis to seize control of much of northern Iraq.

The bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev David Walker, told the Observer: “We would be failing to fulfil our obligations were we not to offer sanctuary. Having intervened so recently and extensively in Iraq, we have, even more than other countries, a moral duty in the UK.

“Given the vast amounts of money that we spent on the war in Iraq, the tiny cost of bringing some people fleeing for their lives to this country and allowing them to settle – and who, in due course, would be an asset to our society – would seem to be minuscule.”…