Nov 23, 2009

Last AAI scholar can finish her second to last semester! Almost there!

Thanks to an outpouring of assistance from AAI supporters, we have gathered enough funds for Ms. Henelize Ancheta to stay in school for her second to last semester at Notre Dame University-Jolo!

However, we still need $600 for her to finish her last year of college and for her to take her tests to become a certified nurse. We would like to call for your help once more to help Henelize fulfill her dreams and lift her family out of poverty. She is the last of the AAI Community College Scholars to graduate, and we need your support to ensure the completion of a successful program, so that we can send a new batch of deserving but underprivileged students to a higher education. The youth are the future of this community, and without their prosperity we cannot hope to elevate Mindanao from its status as one of the least developed areas of Southeast Asia.

Please help Henelize and click the Donate button below. We remain truly grateful for all of your support.

Nov 3, 2009

AAI Scholar in Need of Your Help

Ms. Heneliza Ancheta, a fourth-year nursing student at Notre Dame of Jolo College, needs emergency funds to ensure she can finish her education. She needs $500.00 for her penultimate semester, and $600.00 for her final semester and exams. Heneliza is the last of AAI's Community Service Scholars, and she needs you to help her achieve her dreams, just like 17 of her predecessors who have already graduated from college as part of AAI's program. Please find below Heneliza's personal statement to AAI:
Who I am

May peace be with you…

I am Henelize Ancheta, 20 years old and a senior in the nursing program at Notre Dame College of Jolo. I live in Habena Scoto Road Jolo, Sulu. I have seven members in the family. My father is a carpenter and my mother is a housekeeper [combined income is less than $2 per day]. I have three brothers and one sister. It is sad that I belong to a poor family as an eldest, because I take the most responsibility at home.
Since I was in elementary school, I have been dreaming becoming a successful nurse someday. However, my parents could not afford to send me to school because of the high tuition fee. That is why AAI helping me with the scholarship to overcome my poor situation serves as my inspiration to give all my best in my study. There is no reason for me to give up because I know God has plans for me and my family are here by my side to give all their full support and love. I am not hopeless and always pray to out to the Almighty to help me to achieve all my dreams and ambition in life.

I am very thankful and happy for this opportunity AAI has given to me. I am also thankful to my beloved principal and teachers who help me and most especially you sir, whom had given his/her wisdom to support me in my study.

I am always praying that in the future I can give a better life to myself and to my family and community. In behalf of my family we really appreciate for everything, the opportunity for education, you brought to us. I can not explain the happiness.

Thank you very much and God bless you.

If you would like to help Heneliza, please support AAI's Community Service Scholars program here, or at AAI's Universal Giving website.

Oct 1, 2009

Typhoon Ondoy

On Sep. 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (international codename: Ketsana), smashed into Metro Manila and 25 surrounding provinces, forcing Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a state of calamity in all of these areas. Typhoon Ondoy dumped a month's worth of rain on the capital and the outlying provinces in just over 6 hours. To put things into perspective, Typhoon Ondoy brought 455 milimeters of rain in 24 hours, while Hurricane Katrina brought 250.

Stranded residents in Cainta, Rizal. Photo from the Washington Post

As of today, the typhoon has claimed 277 lives in the Philippines. 2.5 million are affected, and 700,000 people have been forced into overcrowded, under-supplied evacuation centers. Even five days after Ondoy's arrival, many parts of the Philippines still remain underwater. Commuting and transportation of relief goods are made difficult to impossible due to flooded and muddied roads and stalled cars blocking the way. To make matters worst, a second typhoon is on its way to the northern provinces of the Philippines, provinces still reeling from the effects of Ondoy. A preemptive evacuation has been called for, which means more refugees seeking shelter from harried government agencies.

Typhoon victims reach out for donations at a relief center in the badly hit Marikina City, Metro Manila. Photo from the Washington Post

Thankfully, the world has not left the Filipino people to suffer on their own. The international community has been quick to respond with millions of dollars of aid in cash, relief goods and technical assistance. International groups have mobilized operations in the Philippines, responding to the Philippine government's appeal for help.

AAI, along with partner organizations World Vision and AmeriCares, donated a shipment of more than 450,000 water purification sachets, each capable of purifying 10 liters of contaminated water. The shipment was delivered to the relief center at the Malacacanang Presidential Palace on Sep. 30, 2009. AAI and its partners remain involved in humanitarian relief operations in Metro Manila and the outlying provinces, including donations of high priority medicines to relief centers.

Boxes of water purifiers from AAI and its partners are unpacked for repackaging at the Malacanang relief center.

Though the storm has passed, the fight for the lives and homes of the millions of Filipinos affected is not over. Evacuees, particularly children, are vulnerable to diseases such as dengue fever, leptospirosis, and cholera. Medical equipment has been destroyed, leaving patients with chronic conditions at the mercy of their illnesses. There still exists a desperate need for clean water. The Philippine National Red Cross is the main aid agency working in the area, and AAI is continuing its programs there, as well as existing ones in southern Philippines.

We can all do our part.

Sep 28, 2009

AAI Cancer Program for the Poor Success

Healing one Child at at Time:

The Asia America Initiative's Cancer Treatment for the Poor program is the first of its kind in Asia. With medicines provided by the National Cancer Coalition of Florida and HFK KrebsAllianz in Germany, the program now has more than ten partner institutions in the Philippines. These include the Philippine Marine Corps, the Philippine Society of Pediatric Oncology, the Kythe Foundation for Children with Cancer, Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Cancer Society and the Philippine Veterans Hospital system. In the following article, oncology specialist Dr. Mae Dolendo of Davao describes how a 6 year old girl with devastating kidney cancer, named Jessalyn, was saved by a miracle of kindness by AAI's partner agencies -- especially the Philippine Marine Corps, who arrived on a critical day for Jessalyn's survival. They brought in specialized medicines from Asia America Initiative contributed by our US and European partners. The vision and objective of the Cancer Treatment Program is to bring life to adults and children like Jessalyn, who otherwise would perish. This act of caring also has the ability to demonstrate a valuable lesson to people living inside or outside of the war zones in Mindanao. Just as the miracle of healing from a terminal disease is possible when religiously and culturally diverse groups work together, so too is peace possible in seemingly intractable conflicts. All it takes is for people to care and believe that peace can be built "one child at a time." Dr. Dolendo's article follows:

The Philippine Marine Corps: Making a Difference in People's Lives
By Mae Concepcion J. Dolendo, MD, DPPS, FPSPO

What does it take to make a difference? Does it mean changing the whole world all at once? Does making a difference in the life of a small child mean anything?

A Miracle Girl

In April 2009, a six year old girl named Jessalyn from General Santos City started to have abdominal pain and vomiting which prompted her parents to bring her for consultation. When she was examined by the doctor, he noticed a mass in Jessalyn's abdomen and on further work-up, a tumor was considered. She was subsequently referred to Davao Medical Center in Davao City for definitive diagnosis and treatment.

When she first came to us, Jessalyn was a cheerful and cheeky girl who can dance to the latest pop tunes and television music videos. But unknown to this otherwise happy little girl, a tumor is treacherously growing on top of her left kidney, slowly wrapping around the major blood vessels and creeping into her bone marrow. When all the work-ups were done, Jessalyn was diagnosed with a stage 4 neuroblastoma, a type of cancer which has an affinity to neural tissue like the adrenals. Her cancer has spread to her bone marrow. She needed a highly intensive chemotherapy which hopefully will increase her changes to survival. That was the medical situation; the dilemma was how to access the otherwise very expensive chemotherapy medicine. Jessalyn was the youngest of thee children, her mother was a housewife and her father works as a garbage collector. Her parents were crestfallen and were praying for a miracle to happen.

And it did. As if by miracle, others may call it fate, or simply answered prayers, the donation of Ifinotecan by the Philippine Marines Corps arrived on the day Jessalyn needed the medicine. This donation was part of the cancer medicines donated by the Asia America Imitative to the Philippine Marine Corps. And we had access to it because on April 20, 2009 the PMC and the Philippine Society of Pediatric Oncology (PSPO) signed a Manifesto of Joint Advocacy in support of children with cancer. (Refer to CITEMAR06 article, Jan-June 2009 edition).

Today Jessalyn has completed four courses of chemotherapy. She has survived a major surgery that removed all tumors including her left kidney. She is bald and a little thinner but she remains the happy and hopeful little girl we first got to know, and we look forward to her writing more chapters in her own story.

Up Close and Personal with the Man

On my way back from Singapore last August, I made a courtesy call to the new PMC Commandant with the purpose of getting to know more about the new leadership and perhaps an insight on how PSPO can continue to collaborate with the Marine Corps. The meeting was arranged by Lt Col Jose Cabanban who also accommodated me with lunch at the Officers' Mess Hall and the opportunity to meet other PMC Officers.

At exactly 2:00 pm, I was ushered into the Commandant's office for m appointment. I was pleasantly surprised that Gen Juancho Sabban was such a gracious and accommodating host. He was very patient in answering my questions; and though he carefully considered each question, he as very candid and spoke from the heart. I can tell that he is passionate about his work and knows every aspect of his job. Since he just took on the new assignment as Commandant, I focused my questions on his experiences in Mindanao with the hope of getting an insight into the values and thinking of the man and soldier.

He is a member of the PMA Class 78 and his career which spans all of 31 years came full circle in various assignments in Mindanao where he became Battalion Commander, Brigade Commander and eventually Task Force Comet Commander prior to his current position. I would presume that for someone who was seasoned in battle; saw a lot of action; lost friends and comrades; he would be tough, callous and jaded. I was wrong. What I saw was an Officer made wiser by his years in Military Service and who had a deeper understanding of the conflict in Southern Philippines. He understood the root causes of this conflict and people who lived through it. Being in Sulu, Basilan and Palawan for many years had taught him that war is not won by counting dead bodies but by reaching out to people with the hand of peace. This is the reason why the Philippine Marines has long adhered to the precept of a holistic approach in tackling the Mindanao problem. This includes not only keeping the peace and protecting the innocent but also doing everything with the cooperation of the people - assisting them in livelihood activities, even turning a "Boulevard of Death" into a "Road of Peace." It is in engaging the local population that peace is won and surgical precision of military activities is possible when force becomes necessary. This approach spares innocent lives and should be supported by everyone.

Being a doctor and an oncologist, this is something that I fully understood. It is in knowing what ails a patient that one can treat judiciously. Most times, the problem may not only be medical but psychosocial as well. Discussing with families and interacting with the children gives a bigger insight on what ails them and therefore, better ways to treat them. It also provides bigger opportunities for friendships because a child is not a child alone. She is the center of a family, a family related to other families who have numerous friends.

In a civilian point of view, I think winning the war in Mindanao is not about looking for enemies but creating friendships; of building roads and bridges; not walls; of preserving and not taking lives, if possibly. It is to kill enemies by making friends out of them.

This is not to say that the Philippine Marines are being soft. They will maintain the core competencies and fight to the death for love of God and county when pushed. But given the choice, the ways of peace will be given a chance.

With Gen Juancho Sabban at the helm of the Philippine Marine Corps, I know that the Marines on the ground will be well taken care of and through him there will be a better understanding of the communities affected by the conflict. I hope that he will be able to bridge them with the rest of us, for we are after all, one country and one people.

Meeting the 4th Marine Brigade

In the same meeting, I came across the Officers of the 4th Marine Brigade which I learned are reservists on call for special missions by the Marines. Gen Sabban though this would be of interest to me also. This humility, openness and confidence in engaging people are perhaps Gen Sabban's most admirable attributes.

Indeed, just by listening in and occasionally asking question with the 4th Marine Brigade and current CMO LT Col Antonio Manlapas, I had better grasp of the opportunities by which we can all contribute to bringing peace. I am also sure the PSPO will do what it can in its own capacity.

And though we might not change the whole world all at once, we can probably make a difference one at a time - for a child, a family, a community and eventually a county.

Sep 17, 2009

WFP Chief Warns Of Growing Crisis For World's Hungry

WFP Chief Warns Of Growing Crisis For World's Hungry

Shared via AddThis

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran released this statement in London.

LONDON - In the week that marks the first anniversary of the global financial crisis, there are more hungry people in the world and less food aid than ever before. For the world’s most vulnerable, the perfect storm is hitting with a vengeance.

The double whammy of the financial crisis and the still record high food prices around the world is delivering a devastating blow. Throw in a storm, a drought and a conflict and you have a recipe for disaster.

WFP’s budget to feed 108 million people in 74 countries this year is US$6.7 billion. But today, we have just US$2.6 billion. Donors have been extremely generous, but the fact is that the cost of food is still high, needs have gone up and this requires the world to step up to the plate in a bigger way.

We are making an urgent plea to the world that as the green shoots of economic recovery are appearing, we do not forget those who are most in need, and who have been hit hardest by this crisis.

Today in the United States and much of Europe, more people are relying on government safety nets for food and support than perhaps ever before, but for 80 per cent of the world, there is perhaps no safety net.

We urgently need an additional US$3 billion to meet those needs, which is less than 0.01 per cent of what was put on the table to stabilise the world financially. We think this is critical for the world’s peace and stability.

At our current funding levels, we will – in October – have to cut our services throughout the world, including to half of those we are trying to reach in Kenya. We will be reaching one-fifth of those we have been targeting due to the impact of high food prices in Bangladesh. In Somalia we will have to cut rations by half. Around the world, there are many more examples like this.

Aug 6, 2009

A Letter of Thanks

Asia America Initiatives

Dear Brother Albert:

Ist of all, in be half of our established ground community organizations and network organization, we would like to acknowledged with thanks and gratitude your recent visit and very fruitful visit to our people who are in dire needs of attentions specially the victims of war in the areas of Central Mindanao.

The main trust of Minsupala Development of Foundation as I lead it for more than 10 years ago is the development of community based organizations and alliances of different organizations to address commonality the problems which our people have severly suffering, like the bad effects of war and climate changes.

Your recent visit to us is very valueable and fruitful and it could never be forgotten. The joy of our needy people in the evacuation areas as we visited them is very hard to be given meaning except hopes are still available for them since we ground workers are not taking the rest to serve them.

As I wrote this message, I hope your enthusiastic support will consider in the future to fund a projects activities which I believed will serve a very commemorative legacy while you still have the intention to visit our community in some other times or other days, such as:

1. Establishment of Basketball Court to be build in Barangay Talitay which is also an area where more than ten thousand displaced people by war are accomodated. This basketball court will serve numbers of youths who are also an evacues treated in the area;

2. Some financial suppport for the development of human resources, specially skills training for ground health workers whom we can deploy to different evacuations areas to feed the needy and very pity people. I understand like this activity is a mother of all kind of activities because the success of every project depending on the quality of knowledge and skills we established.

Thank you and may God bless you always.

Your brother in faith,

Yusoph I. MUHAMMAD (Datu Oskie)
Director, Minsupala Development Foundation
Mobile # 09196066131

Aug 3, 2009

War for What?

By Vanna Punsalan

The Philippine archipelago is composed of 1, 107 islands and islets, making it one of the largest archipelago in the world. It is mainly composed of three major islands: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Luzon is where the seat of the Philippine government is. The Visayas is where you can find beautiful beaches and vacation places. On the other hand, Mindanao is where most of our Muslim brothers and sisters are concentrated.

At present, we can read and hear so much sad news (both in print and broadcast media) about the goings-on in Mindanao. Bombings are mushrooming everywhere and this is quite disheartening to note.

Many families have relocated to other areas, while those who stayed psyched themselves to become immune to the loud sounds of gun fires and explosions. The children are getting used to playing empty magazines of guns and armalites littered in their area. Mothers had taught their children to play hide and seek just to be safe and save themselves from whatever might happen. Mindanao today is a very volatile area, a silent bomb slowly ticking away. Kidnappings, ambushes, and bombings have risen in numbers in this nature-rich island in the past decade. When and why did these start?

As a kid growing up in Luzon, I have often heard of the group Abu Sayaff in Mindanao. The group’s name, based on media reports, is synonymous to kidnappings and merciless killings in Mindanao. Abu Sayaff is clamoring for the Bangsamoro or the supposed homeland of the Muslims, which will cover all the territory within the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan area or MINSUPALA. Many people, both foreigners and Filipinos, have been kidnapped in this area by Abu Sayaff members. The last group kidnapped, which created big headlines, were two foreigners and a Filipina, all working for the International Red Cross. We all know what Red Cross stands for. They were there to help people who are victims of the senseless war. They were there to lend a hand, especially to the children whose childhoods have been stolen by the turn of events in the island. But the Abu Sayaff must have been thinking otherwise.

Just the other day, the one-year old boy who was hit by a shrapnel on his chest when a bomb exploded in front of a church in Cotabato passed away, after battling for his life for the past couple of days. That boy could have been the next president of this country, for all we know. He could have been the best president this country would have ever known. Alas, his life was cut short by adults who, by the natural course of things, should have known better. To his parents, he was their little boy who could have grown up to be a fine young man. But to the group of people who wanted to wreak havoc to Mindanao’s peace and order, he was just another collateral damage.

The Abu Sayaff, the Moro International Liberation Front (MILF), the National People’s Army (NPA) and their allies are fighting for their ideals. But living in a civilized world means having to live with the laws and rules that have been passed on through legislation. While there may be some shortcomings or loopholes in some of our laws, we still need to respect such laws.

So what is our government doing to eliminate or even curb these senseless violations of the ordinary citizens’ rights to live in a free society? Perhaps it is about time that our congressmen and senators should focus on the peace and order situation in Mindanao. If a sex video scandal of an actress and a doctor turned part-time actor is worthy of a Senate investigation, shouldn’t these senseless violence in Mindanao be worthy of their time and budget appropriations too? Or would these unfortunate incidents be looked into, the welfare of the people in Mindanao be appropriately assessed, and needed financial and other assistance be given to them now that the national election is fast approaching?

When the President left for her trips abroad recently, many Cabinet members went with her despite the threat of swine flu. That trip cost millions of pesos for the Filipino taxpayers. As seen on TV and newspapers, the Cabinet members had with them members of their families. Isn’t this preposterous, seeing our tax monies being spent for these trips while many families in Mindanao suffer from hunger and cold because they no longer have a place they could call “HOME?”

Isn’t it outrageous to know that many government projects’ budgets are bloated because of “tongpats” while many children in Mindanao are crying for a plate of food? And isn’t it absurd to see in the news what our legislators are doing while they are on session either in Congress or in Senate? TV news cameras caught some of them sleeping, others are always absent, while others do not listen to their colleagues who are speaking on the podium. For an ordinary taxpayer like me, I feel like crying. The Professional Heckler (yes, the blogger) is right – the problem with political jokes is they get elected. Do we really deserve this kind of government officials?

With elections, the budget is always pegged in millions if not in billions of pesos. The military budget is the same. I’m just wondering…. How many soldiers do we have as against the number of the outlaws in Mindanao who are now sowing fear in the area? How many weapons do we have as against theirs? How many experts in the art of war do we have as against them? But how come until now, they are still out there, scot-free? When will the killings, the kidnappings, the bombings stop in Mindanao? When will the children be able to sleep peacefully? When will they be able to play outside and smell the fresh air, not an air tainted with the stench of gun fires and bombs?

When my son grows up, what kind of history of our country do I tell him? Should I admit that within this period of our country’s history, the government was not able to pulverize rebels and bandits, especially in Mindanao? Should I admit to him that our legislators focused more on inane issues like sex video scandals and escort services? Should I admit to him that life was very difficult for the children in Mindanao?

What was the war for in Mindanao in the first place? Were greed and corruption so strong that it was alright to steal the children’s childhoods and dreams from them?

Let’s take a cue from one of Michael Jackson’s songs…let’s all step forward to heal Mindanao, make it a better place to live in, especially for the children. After all, we are one country, one people.


August 3, 2009

On August 5, 2009, an Emergency Humanitarian Mission into the armed conflicts and typhoon flooded area of Datu Piang, Maguindanao organized by Asia America Initiative, a non-profit charitable and educational organization. Asia America Initiative (AAI) with assistance from international donors and local non-governmental organizations will deliver P15,000,000.00 of emergency medical and other humanitarian supply.

The mission is being coordinated in partnership with local government units in Mindanao. Participating private organizations are both Christians and Muslims working together for peace and to relieve the suffering of more than 300,000 and turn-away displaced persons from both armed conflict and the recent typhoon. Donors include International Medical Corps Worldwide, Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of the Poor and International Relief and Development, Mckie-Hemrick Foundation, Kindness in Action, and Interchurch Medical Assistance. For the volunteer youth arm we have AAI's Catalysts for Peace, and partner organizations such as Municipality of Datu Piang, Young Moro Professionals Network, Ayala Young Leaders Alliance, Alliance of Bangsamoro for Peace and Sustainable Development, and Liguasan Youth Association for Sustainable Development.

The mission will be focused in and around the town of Datu Piang were more than 90,000 families are surviving without basic needs like food, water and shelter in the mud and monsoon rain.

Kindly send your news team to attend the said activity at 9:00 AM in Datu Gumbay Elementary School, Datu Piang, Maguindano. For more details, you may coordinate with Ms. Rohaniza Sumndad (09175070323), Kim Bagundang (09262768698), Razel Junsay (816-3305/09208366933).

Jul 30, 2009

Caravan of Action to Forgotten Refugees

Sleeping near muddy foxholes to hide from explosions and without reliable shelter from bone-chilling monsoon rains, the world’s largest new population of refugees seeks survival in Mindanao, Philippines. They are an estimated half-million Muslims and Christians caught in the crossfire of armed conflict. Two weeks ago, AAI’s Albert Santoli and Rohaniza Sumndad announced an emergency aid mission. There has been an immediate buildup of support. Starting with only a couple duffel bags of donated medicines and toys, AAI has received growing support from international and local organizations and student volunteers that has grown into network a Caravan of Action to assist thousands of refugee families. Support is growing, but we need much more food and medicines than AAI can currently provide. Your contribution of any size will help us to save lives.

Life saving supplies and toys for a traumatized children were contributed by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Poor, International Medical Corps Worldwide, Interchurch Medical Assistance and International Relief and Development, Inc. Funds from Philippine Senator Richard Gordon have been donated through the Philippine National Red Cross that is enabling the on site purchase of food and the cost of facilitating the journey into the violent zone of crisis. Their primary destination is Datu Piang, where more than 11,000 families are living without basic shelter, food, water, or shelter from the mud and monsoon rains.

There has been an outpouring of volunteerism from organizations such as AAI’s Catalysts for Peace, Young Moral Professionals Network, Ayala Young Leaders, Alliance of Bangasamoro for Peace and Sustainable Development and the LiguasanYouth Association. Operation Blessing, Philippines is sending medical doctors and is donating a water-purifying machine. As of July 30, the caravan of humanitarian volunteers continues to grow. Simultaneously as part of the peace process, Christian and Muslim religious leaders have called for a halt to the violence. Although support is growing, the large number of refugee families will need far more support that is currently available to sustain the critical survival needs of this vulnerable population. We are appealing for public donations to successfully conduct this mission.

For donation, please click here

Jul 29, 2009

Interesting news in Mindanews

Abp. Quevedo to Gov’t, MILF: meet “in two or three days ...” PDF Print E-mail
by Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews
Sunday, 26 July 2009

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 Juy) – Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo hopes key officials from both government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “come together in two or three days and agree on an immediate action of collaboration” to bring the internally displaced persons (IDPs) safely to their homes before Ramadan and in “rebuilding/rehabilitating their homes and properties.” Quevedo was reacting to the declarations of suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) by the government on July 23 and the suspension of military actions (SOMA) by the MILF on July 25.

Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, begins on August 21 or 22.

There is no announcement as yet as to when the two panels will resume negotiations. But sources from both panels told MindaNews, “very soon.”

“I pray from my heart that the declarations of SOMO and SOMA would also influence those who plant bombs in public places so that they would stop their murderous operations,” he told MindaNews in an e-mail.

“I pray that the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and MILF would now collaborate in bringing the IDPs safely to their homes before Ramadan and in rebuilding/rehabilitating their homes and properties,” he said, adding, “for this immediate purpose, I pray that key officials from both sides come together in two or three days and agree on an immediate action of collaboration. Communications between the two groups could set up such a meeting.”

In another e-mail, Quevedo said he is also praying that “defensive postures would remain so despite provocation.”

On July 23, Quevedo wrote “all warring parties” an “open appeal for peace and for the evacuees” which was read at the State of the Bakwit Address (SOBA) at the Notre Dame University gymnasium in Cotabato City morning of the same date.

Quevedo urged them to “end your war” because “enough is enough.”

“For the sake of our evacuees and in the name of our one God of Peace, end your war! Go back to the negotiating table. Let the thousands of evacuees return safely to their home. Collaborate with one another towards this objective. Together, rehabilitate their destroyed properties. Give them another chance for a truly human life.”

“From the depths of my soul I can only cry out to all warring parties, ‘Enough is enough!’ End your so called search and punish operations. End your terrorist bombings. End your bombardments, end your raids, all you warring parties! Enough is enough!” Quevedo said in the message read by Sister Rose Susan Montejo, superior of the Oblates of Notre Dame.

“I condemn in the strongest terms as serious moral evil such crimes as terrorist bombings that by their very nature target the innocent, punitive raids on villages, bombardments that fall on civilian populations, landmines that can kill any passerby. For me ‘collateral damage’ simply means murder and deliberate unjustifiable destruction of property,” he said.

“War,” the archbishop wrote, “inflicts more destruction on civilians than on combatants. For every combatant killed, scores of civilians suffer or die. In the past twelve months I have seen thousands of civilians languishing in evacuation camps, first in the Pikit and PALMA (Pigcawayan, Aleosan, Libungan, Midsayap, Alamada in North Cotabato) areas and now in Datu Piang and various other places of Maguindanao. They give birth to babies under dismal conditions, they beg for food and water, they struggle for life in the most miserable situation. They die as statistics. Such human tragedy, it is said, has spawned brutal retaliatory terrorism elsewhere in our region.”

“Due punishment for raids has long been meted out in an attrition of casualties and damaged properties. And now what most sadly remains is the senseless logic of war, of action and reaction. And the suffering of thousands of civilian evacuees. Enough is enough!”

“There is no human conflict that cannot be solved through a genuine honest dialogue of the heart,” he said.

Quevedo was president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines from 1999 to 2003, during which he also appealed to the warring parties to end the war in 2000 and 2003 for the sake of the IDPs.

In 2000, nearly a million persons were displaced by then President Joseph Estrada’s “all-out war” while a little over 400,000 were displaced by the Arroyo administration’s war against the MILF in 2003.

The renewed hostilities in August 2008, following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), displaced a total of 157,584 families or a total of 756,544 IDPs from August 10, 2000 to July 7, 2009, according to the latest situation report of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) dated July 14.

The same report states that as of July 7, 2009, 51,326 families or 254,119 persons were still in the evacuation centers or “home-based” – those staying with relatives.

Jul 27, 2009

Internship Reflection Time: What I am taking away and what I am leaving behind -- Sandeep Gautam

What is the relationship between NGOs and military actions? Why does Africa continue to suffer with increasing hunger, poverty and chaos despite billions of dollars of aid from developed countries? Is the US foreign policy working in Pakistan and Afghanistan? How can financing be used to fuel economic growth?

These are some of the many questions that I tried to untangle during my internship at Asia America Initiative. Often internships are what you make out of it. For me, it was a truly learning experience, to say the least. One thing that I am really taking away from my internship is the knack of getting right into the core of a problem while still looking at the bigger picture. I read a lot, indiscriminately from all sources, just to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. Lively conversations with Mr. Santoli and fellow interns often brought together any missing pieces. This became a process through which ideas were developed and recorded in the blog.

This brings me to a question of what I am leaving behind. Well, I am not exactly leaving but I will write it any way. I was mainly involved in promoting views and ideas, particularly through blogging and I want this to continue in the future. This should go on because this is important. AAI is partly a think tank in itself even though we go a bit beyond just advocating policies – we implement our ideas and live through the changes. Future interns should understand that not everything you write will get responses, not all views will be celebrated. But we should continue to write what we think and why we think so.

That everything we do here at our office in Washington helps impoverished families in underprivileged and at risk South Asian and South East Asian communities was very inspiring throughout. For someone who has seen and lived through ordeals of war-ridden communities in Nepal, to get a chance to help heal the wounds of war victims was a real treat.

Write-up about Internship: Karolyn Wojtowicz

When I started my internship at Asia America Initiative, I had no idea what to expect. I did not know the current situation in the Philippines, where the majority of AAI’s programs exist. I did not know how a non-profit international organization worked and achieved its goals in an economic recession. And I did not think that another intern and I would be starting a program in Afghanistan on our own during our first two weeks of being at AAI.

The process of creating Families for Hope began with researching information about the BiBi Mahroow and Afshar camps located near Kabul. Pictures and stories of families located there were collected by Marzia Meena, who leads MRSDO, an organization in Afghanistan that AAI occasionally partners with. Reading the stories of the people who are living in tents in the middle of winter, not getting enough food, and having no health care cried out to me as a dire plea for help.

The struggles of the families became more evident as the photos were looked over to create a one page handout and a powerpoint presentation. The powerpoint presentation led to the idea of a promotional video that would share the stories of the families on its own. The video begins with “Imagine - you've lost everything. You're a single mother, heading a household of twelve, including your sister and cousins… Then the Taliban came.” The entire video, located on this link, was created by Clare and I – we chose the images, wrote the script, recorded, compiled, and placed it on youtube. The families in Afghanistan don’t need much to survive and the hope is that with AAI’s Families for Hope program, these families will receive the food, water, shelter, health care, and education that they need.

As I near the end of my internship with Asia America Initiative, I can say this about my summer: I had an internship in Washington D.C. where I worked with an organization doing international humanitarian work; I worked directly with leaders, founders, and presidents of organizations and companies around the world; learned about the dire situation in the Philippines - where even the United Nations is no longer because it is deemed an unsafe area; learned the dedication that is required to successfully run an international non-profit organization; and another intern and I created a program and advertising tools on our own within two weeks that could help thousands of people in a country halfway around the world. What did you do with your summer?

Jul 17, 2009

The Philippine Daily Inquirer writes about AAI

A Washington-based non-government organization will distribute food and medicines to residents displaced by war between the military and Moro rebels in Mindanao.

In a statement posted on its website,, the Asia America Initiative (AAI) said its representatives, including its president, Pulitzer prize nominee Albert Santoli, would distribute relief goods to internally displaced persons in Maguindanao on July 27.

The AAI, which also works in other war-torn areas across the globe, is a non-profit agency engaged in countering terrorism and communal violence by promoting peace and prosperity.

AAI coordinator Rohaniza Sumndad said the plight of the Maguindanao evacuees caught the group’s attention.

She said the condition of the evacuees was pitiful as they have been living in “muddy open fields, under heavy rains with minimal plastic tarps to protect them.”

Click here for the link

Jul 16, 2009

Urgent War zone mission

On July 27, AAI president Albert Santoli will depart for the Philippines for an emergency relief mission to assist more than 90,000 men, women and children who have been displaced by heavy fighting in central Muslim Mindanao. The evacuees are living in muddy open fields, under heavy rains with minimal plastic tarps to protect them. The temporary encampments have no clean water or sanitation facilities resulting in high incidences of fatal fevers, diarrhea, viral infections and dehydration. AAI's interfaith Catalysts for Peace, led by AAI coordinator Rohaniza Sumndad, will distribute medicines, re-hydration salt and water purification tablets. At present, AAI receives no government funding. We are appealing for public donations to successfully conduct this mission.

As of June 30, the United Nations World Food Program and the Philippine government claim at least 359,000 Internally Displaced Persons. AAI is targeting a group of 30,000 evacuees in Lanao del Sur, 30,000 evacuees in Datu Piang, and another 30,000 in close vicinity in Maguindanao Province. In Datu Piang, the tragic death of a seven month old baby girl, Zaida (see photo above), epitomizes the danger to the most vulnerable - infants and grandparents - who have no protection from the elements. More than 65% are under the age of 18, with a high number of infants and toddlers.

Baby Zaida, her three brothers and sisters, and her parents had lived under harsh conditions in an open area surrounding a public school since Apil. Local authorities and the Red Cross are overwhelmed by the large number of families who have left their homes with only the clothes on their back. The UN has just ordered their agencies, including the WFP to temporarily withdraw from the area because of ongoing bombings and other incidents of violence.

AAI president Santoli reflects, "The ongoing tragedy in Mindanao, whether in Datu Piang and the surrounding area or in the deep southern islands of Sulu, is nearly invisible to the rest of the world. We have found that Christians and Muslims are willing to work together for peace and to help each other create a better future for their children. Our role is to make sure that they are not forgotten. Through saving the lives of innocents, not only is this initiative a local inspiration, but it is a positive example for other troubled regions of the world."

AAI and our Catalysts for Peace cannot do this alone. We need your help. No contribution is too small. One dollar of water purification can save the life of one child. Help us build peace, one child at a time.

For donation, please click here

Jul 15, 2009

Bridging the Cultural Divide: NGO-Military Relations in Complex Environments

What is the relationship between NGOs and military actions?

Click here for an interesting insight

Dambisa Moyo answers why aid is not working

Our organization Asia America Initiative has found that the greatest impediment to developing rule of law, social justice and economic development is the unregulated free flow of foreign aid into undeveloped parts for the world. The most significant case is Africa. We are highlighting the controversial but profoundly accurate economic observations of Dambisa Moyo. She emphasizes that over the past fifty years more than $1 trillion has been donated to Africa (while possibly at least that amount of African natural resources has been plundered by international governmental and private industries) with an end result of increased poverty, hunger and chaos.

For a better understanding of why aid failed to uplift Africans and an alternative road map for development in Africa, follow her book Dead Aid.

Jul 10, 2009

Recluse North Korean Peninsula continues to create troubles

North Korea might be a failing economy but definitely not a dormant one. It made headlines, few weeks ago, with the rumors of possible missile attacks towards Hawaii. It is again speculated to be behind the cyber attacks that hit the websites of US and South Korean government agencies, banks and businesses for a couple of days after the American Independence day.

Given North Korea’s record of creating troubles in the past, it is an obvious suspect for the recent attacks. The hermit state measures its success not from feeding its starving population but from messing around in the world, especially more so when it comes to South Korea and the US. On top of that, the deteriorating health of its dear leader and the struggle in finding a suitable successor make North Korea even more desperate.

All being said, the attack was meant to be a symbolic one. The damage done was almost close to nothing. US and South Korean authorities soon took control of the websites and record is that no important information has been leaked. The not-much-effective nature of attacks also makes it typical North-Korean.

However, this might be a harbinger of bigger shocks to come. The world is such positioned that cyber attacks, of any substantial scale, can dismantle its balance. Should stock markets, international trade and outsourcing industry that propel the world economy today come to a halt, the consequences can be far-reaching. In all reality, North Korea’s capacity to at least make an attempt to disrupt the world system should not be undermined. Ironically, the money it gets from selling missiles to Iran, Syria and Pakistan might not be enough to feed its starving population but is more than enough to produce regular nuisances around the world.

This crazy and erratic aggression by North Korea pours water over all hope of its negotiation with the international community. It continues to reluctantly drag itself towards the negotiation table, only to mess up at the end with new surprises. As for now, lets hope that the recluse North Korean peninsula stops playing around and gets back to do what it ought to be doing.

Jul 2, 2009

Food and Water Crisis

This is official. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Robert Zoellick have already sounded the alarm. Delegates in the Davos meeting this year were requested to respond. The food and water crisis is set to hit the world hard and if corrective actions are not taken on time, it can take the form of a catastrophe.

Food prices continue to go up and in a world where 1.02 billion people are hungry (WFP), this is definitely not a good news. At a time when thousands of people are made homeless every day due to conflicts in different parts of the world, this crisis is taking a toll of many lives. Food riots have become common phenomena in Sub Saharan Africa, Haiti, Bangladesh and in many other developing countries. The situation is already so severe that even big organizations like World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and UNHCR are struggling to curb this crisis.

How did we reach this point? The world is running out of water and this has severely impacted food production. The demand for food is ever increasing, particularly from emerging populous economies like India and China. Countries with food surpluses few years ago are now struggling to feed themselves. India, for instance, used to export rice to Bangladesh till few years ago. Owing to decreasing food production and increasing prediction of food shortages, India now imports rice from Australia, triggering rice crisis in Bangladesh. On top of that, increasing food production for bio fuels has further complicated the matter and raises more questions than solutions. It has given rise not just to ethical dilemmas and controversies but also to steep price hikes making food out of reach from the hands of world’s poorest population.

Having realized the gravity of this issue, Asia America Initiative launched several agricultural projects in Mindanao, Philippines. We empower agricultural communities not just to be self-sufficient but also to provide surplus to other communities in desperate need. Join AAI as we create models of communities that can be followed all over the world to best tackle food and water crisis.

Jun 17, 2009

Families for Hope

Join Asia America Initiative's Families for Hope program to help displaced families in Afghanistan. This program matches donors with refugee family in Afghanistan -- giving them hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.

Click here to help

Jun 16, 2009

VOA's coverage of Asia America Initiative's Program

Asia America Initiative's Cancer Treatment for the Poor program is a model of cost-effective humanitarian action. The program brings hope to the lives of hundreds of cancer victims who otherwise would have no access to treatment.

AAI receives no government funding for the program. We rely on donations of medicines from partner organizations and funding support from private citizens to cover basic costs.

VOA's Coverage

Jun 10, 2009

Troubles in South Asia

South Asia is a center of international conflict and a region rife with dramatic paradoxes. Home to India, the largest democracy in the world, it also is the center of religious extremism in the form of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Hindu extremists, Maoist guerrillas and other violent quasi-religious organizations. Home to powerful women leaders like Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Sheikh Hasina, Khaled Zia and Sonia Gandhi, the region has suffered through assassinations of some of those female leaders, women rights violations and extensive girls’ illiteracy. The region, in its entirety, is ethnically similar; yet it is full of tribal and cultural differences.

While Pakistan and Afghanistan currently cover the front pages of newspapers, other counties in South Asia are also experiencing rampant turmoil. South Asian countries have histories of troubles that often spill over the region. Tamil expatriates from India started a civil war in Sri Lanka in 1976 which, according to many, ended recently in May 2009 after the insurgents were defeated by Sri Lankan army. The massive loss of civilian lives, for which both sides are responsible, is largely unaccounted for. Similarly, Bhutanese refugees who have been staying in Nepal since the early 1990s raise important security questions and are threat to political stability in the region. The civil war in Nepal came to an end on paper but not on streets. India and Bangladesh have not forgotten their animosity over the partition of Bengal. Last but definitely not the least, a nuclear weapons threat overshadows the India-Pakistan rivalry.

One thing has been constant in most of these troubles -- international intervention has not improved the corruption it gave rise to. Bangladesh and Pakistan are renowned for extreme corruption and Nepal is currently catching up. Foreign intervention has led to concentration of power in the hands of a tiny elite population who controls a big chunk of country’s assets. The ever widening gap between the ruler and the ruled is the reason we see unhappy people on streets and chaos everywhere. Foreign aid has rarely empowered people and, for all intents and purposes, foreign aid must be reformed.

Asia America Initiative was created seven years ago, after the 9/11 tragedy to curb the cycle of poverty and underdevelopment that feeds extremism. The lack of hope in many areas of the world is intensified by corrupt governments. We must go right where the problem lies and where the solutions can be found through local empowerment -- among common people, in their communities. Peace can only emerge when people feel empowered and can change their lives for the better. The articles below show the consequences of failed local governments and shortsighted or violence-driven international military intervention.

May 26, 2009

Crisis in Pakistan - Afghanistan border

In the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, the growing strength of Taliban militants is a serious threat. A research by the BBC News shows that only 38% of the area is under full government control. The number of displaced people in the Swat valley is skyrocketing, the current UNHCR estimate being almost 2.4 millions. Similarly in Afghanistan, casualties among civilians are rising across the country. These are tough times for the region. And, if proper actions are not taken now, things can go nasty and the worst we fear might be possible.

The last thing that Pakistan wants at the moment is the rising influence of the Taliban among people. Sadly this seems to be happening and the irony is that the government is indirectly helping the cause. The government has been highly criticized for the way it has handled the crisis. The government-run camps have below par facilities for displaced people and are substantially inadequate. They can assist only a small fraction of civilians. The result is that it has encouraged the rest to seek help from the very forces the Pakistani army is fighting against. This has jeopardized the prospect of peace and stability as refugee camps have become recruiting grounds for different militant groups.

On the other side of the border in Afghanistan, UN reports that civilian deaths have increased by 39% from last year. In Helmand province, the place with the maximum number of displaced civilians, as long as civilians get security, they don’t care where that is coming from – the Taliban or the government. The situation is critical. The stakes of the government’s failure are high, for the Taliban will try to increase its influence in areas where the government and foreign troops fail.

With the rising Taleban insurgency, children continue to suffer in Afghanistan. Illiteracy has always been a major issue in Afghanistan where more than two-thirds of people over the age of 15 cannot read and write. But in the recent years, the situation has worsened. Schools have been blown away, children have been attacked. Some schools serve as refugee camps to displaced people. Children have haunted memories in attacked schools. Things are unlikely to go better and children are unlikely to get back to schools unless we replace fear with hope.

The going seems tough in the region and in times like these smart decisions need to be taken. The government has an opportunity to win the hearts of people by providing stability and security to people. Any mismanaged funds and foreign troops hereafter would only alienate the population.

May 20, 2009

Spreading terror in the name of fighting terror

During this period of great instability across the globe it is especially critical that while the forces of extremism and intolerance exploit the poverty and suffering of vulnerable communities, we also must challenge the effectiveness of US and allied counter-terror policy. This reflection is a summary of a meeting this morning among our staff of international interns and our director Albert Santoli who just returned from working in the area of conflict in the Southern Philippines. At AAI, we try to make every penny count to make sure that our partner organizations in Afghanistan and the Philippines can provide adequate school facilities for children at risk of a life, of poverty and violence. At the same time, in looking at the headlines of events in Pakistan and Afghanistan, areas of Africa such as Somalia and even in the Philippines, so much American and International funds are not being used as effectively as they could be. Instead the ongoing hopelessness despite hundreds of millions of dollars intended for improving social conditions makes young people more likely to drop out of school and become targets for recruiters of violence. It is ironic that aid intended to fight terror has spread the hopelessness and violence to cause an expansion of those conditions and wrecked more havoc

Pakistan is a classic example of how mismanaged foreign aid and military support can drag a country to a brink of failure. Even since Pakistan’s independence from British India in 1947 and more so in the last ten years, the US government has been pouring a lot of money in this region. Results, as we can see today, are mostly negative. Instead of supporting democratic forces in Pakistan, US military aid supported the military dictatorship, which further alienated the people and radicalized them. The failure of US military aid is clearly evident near the Pakistan-Afghan border where more than 1.45 million civilians have been displaced from in and around north-west Pakistan’s Swat valley (UNHCR, May 19 2009).

Similarly in Africa, the US foreign policy, in some ways, is responsible fro the chaos in Somalia. US backed Ethiopian forces invaded and destroyed any hope for peace and stability. The Ethiopian occupation led to substantial loss of lives and property. It did not help Ethiopia either. The military funding did not lead to democratic empowerment of the Ethiopian people. It merely strengthened the military dictatorship.

These are only a few of the instances where unbalanced US foreign aid has created more problems than it has solved. The Obama administration has pledged to find new ways of spreading democracy and alternative ways to fighting terror. The question is: can the system change? A number of organizations including AAI are promoting comprehensive development based on education and promoting job creation as an effective way to deter mass violence. We are speaking to large foundations and other sources of humanitarian support to see if we can get more funding to further our mission of building hope in impoverished frontline communities. Locally, our intern team is planning to chip in with some fundraisers. Everything helps. At a time when millions are made homeless by the threat of terror, everything helps.

Mar 10, 2009

Concert For Peace in Mindanao

Rocksteddy Rock’d @ Kidapawan

The time has come for music and lyrics, not bombings and gunfire to rock the island of Mindanao. On Friday March 6, thousands of Mindanaoan youths, Christians and Muslims, welcomed the visiting ROCKSTEDDY Band and united for peace in Kidpawan, Cotabato… one of Mindanao’s most feared armed conflict areas. The joyful celebration for peace was organized by Asia America Initiative (AAI), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting humanitarian ideals, through its volunteer youth arm Catalysts for Peace (AAI-CFP) – Cotabato chapter with Young Public Servants (YPS) and Youth Vote Philippines. The benefit concert at JC Complex, Kidapawan City was dubbed: MUSIKAMINDANAOAN: Building Catalysts for Peace and Responsible Voting. Local talents SKOLARZ BAND, A DAYLIGHT SERPENT BAND, UNITE STREET BAND, OFF LIMITZ DANCERS, PRINCE AND PRINCESS REPUBLIC, AND PUSAKAL DOLLS also performed.

Giving life to the partnership battlecry, “I Vote and I Stand for Peace”, thousands of high-spirited Mindanaoans celebrated life and hope through arts and music. It was a showcase of local performers’ star potential and of the audience’s practice of their first adult responsibility - registering for the 2010 elections and participating in peace initiatives for Mindanao. It was truly a night of good crowd, great music, and good causes: peace – building and responsible voting.

“The responsibility of achieving peace in our homeland (Mindanao) is vested upon us Mindanaoans. WE should be the prime movers of justice and social development for we are the fruit of our homeland’s rich culture and extraordinary wealth.” – a powerful statement from AAI Philippines Director Rohaniza Sumndad.

Mar 6, 2009

Scholars for Scholars Fundraiser

After a great success of the first fundraiser event at the University of California Washington DC Center, our intern team decided to host another fundraiser. The event was called Scholars for Scholars Fundraiser because the proceeds will be used to pay for graduation fees for students at Sulu State University and Notre Dame University. It was a great effort, with the interns going to the donors such as Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Cosi shops at 6:30 a.m. The benefit lasted until mid afternoon with a profit of $300. Everyone had a lot of fun!! As the quarter is coming to an end, this was the last event for Winter 2009 intern team.

Feb 23, 2009

Dinner and Donuts at UCDC Center

Asia America Initiative organized a fundraiser on February 18 at UCDC center that houses over 300 students from all campuses of University of California. Various kinds of food, ranging from Chinese, Thai to Middle Eastern, were provided at a very low price. To finish it off, delicious Dunkin' Donuts and beverages were also served. It was surprising to me that we were able to get most of the food 100% donated. Once we explained to the owners of the restaurants about our organization, they were very willing to help our programs abroad. I have to say that the fundraiser was a big hit at the center. Students enjoyed our yummy food in an informal setting, where they socialized with other students. Even professors and staff came out to support us by giving us donations. It turned out to be a really fun activity for all of us. We took advantage of this great opportunity to publicize our organization's mission and programs in South East Asian nations. We were able to raise more than $300 and all of the proceeds will go directly to Community Services Scholarships, which are provided to students in conflict-plagued communities with extreme poverty and terrorism. The money will be distributed among students from Mindanao State University, Sulu State University and Notre Dame University.

Overall, the event was a great success and the result that came out really exeeded our expectations. We are considering to hold another fundraiser at the center soon, probably in the next couple of weeks. We will provide donuts and coffee. What's a better way to start off your day than donuts and coffee in the morning? We are in a process of securing a date for this event. I will post pictures from our fundraiser event once I receive them from my co-intern. So stay tuned u guys.

Feb 17, 2009

2 Slain in Foiled Basilan Abduction

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) Two suspected kidnappers were
killed in Basilan province on Tuesday when police and Marines
foiled theirattempt to snatch a seven-year old boy in Isabela
City. Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, Basilan police
director, said the suspects seized the boy in the vicinity of
Jessica Hills at around 1 p.m. and then fled with the victim
towards Lamitan City on a motorcycle.

Police and Marines immediately gave chase while checkpoints
were set up on possible escape routes.

A firefight broke out in Maloong, Lamitan when the suspects
opened fire at security forces manning a checkpoint.

Lamitan City Mayor Roderick Furigay, who personally joined
then rescue operations, said suspect Hair Muhmin, 29, of Dugaa
village in Tuburan town, was wounded in the firefight and died
while undergoing treatment at the Lamitan District Hospital.

The second suspect, who remains unidentified, was killed around
5 p.m. in Barangay (village) Sengal, Lamitan by troops of
Marine Battalion Landing Teams 1 and 7, and the Marine Raiders
Company,Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo saoid.

Isabela Mayor Chaerrylyn Akbar said she immediately raised a
P100,000 reward for the rescue of the boy as soon as she
learned of the kidnapping, the first in the city.

She said the victim is a Grade 2 pupil at the Isabela East
Central School and the son of a bank manager Isabela.

Furigay said they learned of the kidnapping through radio and
“immediately alerted our troops here.”

Meanwhile, Basilan authorities remained clueless about the
kidnappers of Sri Lankan peace advocate Umar Jaleel.

Commodore Alexander Pama, Joint Task Force Trillium commander,
on Tuesday urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to
help authorities rescue Jaleel.

Earlier, Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, had
earlier pointed to a faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group as the
one holding Jaleel. “It would be wise for the MILF to sit with
us."Let’s compare notes, helping the authorities in addressing
the case of Jaleel is an opportune time for the MILF to show
their goodwill, their sincerity,” Pama said.

Jaleel’s colleagues at the Nonviolence Peaceforce also have not
received word from the kidnappers since his abduction on
February 13.

Feb 6, 2009

War Makes Me Sad

This incredibly touching story is of a child who endured a harsh life during a war between Muslims and Christians. This conflict is one of the longest in Asia. Hopefully, this true story will send a message to the world that violence is not the answer to settle differences. The lesson you should learn from this story is NOBODY WINS IN A WAR! That is why it is significant to have grassroots programs that integrate health, education and economic development. This is exactly what AAI is trying to achieve in Mindanao. Rather than donating the money to corrupt local governments, we go into these regions where the needs of the people have been ignored and forgotten.

Feb 3, 2009

AAI Program Snapshots

Garden of Peace: A Healing Center for Children Victims of War

Following the success of the project Fruit of Hope, Asia America Initiative Director Albert Santoli and Program Coordinator Rohaniza visited the war zone of Sulu of Muslim Mindanao to continue the integration of education and livelihood as a means of conflict resolution. AAI is partnering with the local government to coordinate projects that are planned with major international corporations and local cooperatives. The facilitating institution is the Fisheries College at Mindanao State University.

AAI began the creation of "A Healing Center for Children Victims of War. The center focuses on 200 Muslim children between the ages of 3 and 8 years old who were born and live in the area of conflict and terror. The emphasis is on people-to-people peace building. The objectives are to raise and deepen awareness of the effects of conflict on children; to call for more interventions in response to serious issues due to the exposure of armed conflict; to prevent children in areas of armed conflict to be recruitment targets of terrorist groups; and, to serve as a peace sanctuary that is needed in the children’s psychological growth and personality development, as well as a generational peace building process.

AAI seeks to create and sustain the center on private contributions from ordinary people as a statement of human solidarity among people of many cultures. The center is being created in partnership with local educators, religious leaders and the governor's office which is donating the land but does not have the funds to build and operate the center.