ERC to launch harmony campaign, unity play

first_imgThe Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) is set to launch the first part of its 2019 harmony campaign on Friday at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown in its bid to foster cohesion in society.The activities are scheduled to commence from 18:00h with a national unity song performed by prominent Guyanese artistes Mark Ferdinand and Tshanna Cort. Adding to the excitement, there will be five harmony-themed public service announcements, four posters, a harmony “passport”, and designs for two billboards and the Commission’s new website, which will also be presented as the night unfolds.Meanwhile, a stage play, “I AM US”, which speaks to “unity and which examines some societal factors that impact on social cohesion”, will also be presented to the public for the first time.The theatrical presentation will feature prominent Guyanese actors and actresses, and will be staged on March 2 after the gala opening ceremony and on March 3, at the National Cultural Centre. Both performances are slated to begin at 19:00h and admission is free of cost.According to the Commission, this campaign seeks to promote its constitutional mandate of establishing good relations and a sense of togetherness among the people of Guyana.“The Commission firmly believes this campaign, which is in keeping with its constitutional mandate to promote harmony and good relations, is vital in helping to enhance the environment to foster unity among all Guyanese. It remains optimistic that Guyanese will find useful the materials which will be made available and will be conduits to aid distribution countrywide.”All are requested to attend and the invitation is extended to all stakeholders.last_img read more

Foundation for a family

first_imgWHITTIER – One Whittier couple will spend this holiday season housed in their own handiwork, where they raised a family and made a home more than 50 years ago. John and Jane Healis moved to unincorporated Whittier in 1948 from New Jersey to start a new life in a friendlier job market. They spent their first years in California in a tiny trailer while they built their dream home from pumice blocks. “Neither of us had ever done block work before,” Jane Healis said. “It was weekends, holidays and vacations.” Jane Healis, 82, and her husband John, 86, spent three years and $15,000 acquiring a lot on Burgess Avenue and building their house, block by block. “We wanted to keep out the termites,” John Healis said. Jane Healis said the house always felt homey, however. The large back yard was filled with old cars that John worked on with their sons, along with a coop that held 300 parakeets, a pen for pheasants, peacocks and quail, a rabbit hutch and an aboveground pool in the summer. The family also harvested avocados from the remaining trees on the lot, and one year brought in more than 1,000 pounds of the fruit to sell around the neighborhood. The couple has made few changes over the years. The 1,500-square-foot house was built with three bedrooms and just one bathroom (last painted in the 1970s in bright blue) and it stands with the same floor plan today. The kitchen is also all original, and the metal cabinets, stainless steel sink and old stove are more than 50 years old. Only the refrigerator and dishwasher have been updated. All three of the Healis children were raised from birth in the house, and the couple’s two sons and one daughter often invited friends over to the unusual abode to play. “This was the house that everyone in the neighborhood hung out at,” oldest son David Healis, now 49, said. “It was a cool place to grow up because there was so much room.” The Healis’ daughter, Susan Costa, said she will remember her parents as pioneers, both for their unique house and for the strength they provided for their children. “We had a great childhood,” Costa said. “One of the accomplishments that our parents are proud of is that all of us kids have been married 15, 20, and 25 years.” Like the house itself, Costa attributes the family’s success to their strong foundation. “I think the best lesson is that you can be whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do, but you have to work for it,” Costa said. “That’s what our parents taught us.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsConstruction began in February 1953, on a quarter-acre lot covered in orange and avocado trees. Six trees were removed for construction, but Jane Healis said the hardest part was digging trenches. “I think I spent half my time digging, digging, digging,” Jane Healis said. The house is built in the California ranch style, but has a distinct aesthetic because of the unique building materials used in construction. The blocks, with a similar look and feel to cinderblock, are exposed throughout the house, just painted over. Each brick weighed about half as much as a cinderblock, making construction a little easier, John Healis said. The fireplace in the living room, made of the same material, is painted dark brown. The windows are framed with steel, and the front door is painted metal, not a traditional wood door. last_img read more

Trafficking in people is big business for criminals

first_imgLOS ANGELES – Florencia Molina’s personal hellhole was a dressmaking shop on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She worked there up to 17 hours a day, seven days a week, and lived there, too, without the option of showering or washing her clothes. Other victims of American-style human trafficking have had very different venues for ordeals as bad or worse – brothels and bars in New Jersey, slave-labor farms in Florida, a small-town tree-cutting business owned by a New Hampshire couple. Trafficking is a stubborn problem and a staggering one worldwide, affecting an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 victims a year. Federal officials say 14,500 to 17,500 of them are trafficked to the United States, where the myriad forms of modern-day slavery present an elusive target for those trying to eradicate it. Victims have come from at least 50 countries in almost every part of the world, and are trafficked to virtually every state – to clandestine factories, restaurants, massage parlors, even private homes where women and girls are kept in servitude. Now a cashier at a discount store, Molina was enticed to California by a woman back home in Mexico’s Puebla state who promised a job and free housing. “I came to the United States with lots of dreams, but when I got here, my dreams were stolen,” said Molina, 33, who left three children behind in Mexico. On Jan. 1, 2002, she worked her first shift at the dressmaker’s, sewing roughly 200 party dresses over 12 hours. Later, the shifts stretched to 17 hours. Molina was locked into the shop at night – sleeping in a small storage room. The shop manager confiscated her identify documents. “For me, it was completely dark, without money, without English, no papers,” Molina said. “The owner told me, ‘You can try to do whatever you want. Dogs in this country have more rights than you.”‘ After 40 days, Molina summoned up the nerve to flee, and soon encountered FBI agents who were investigating the dress shop. They sought her cooperation in prosecuting the owner, and Molina – after difficult deliberations – agreed to help. “The owner had always told me I would pay the consequences – or my family in Mexico would suffer – if I went to the authorities,” she said. “But I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want one more person to be in the situation I was in.”‘ By cooperating, Molina received a T-visa, a status created by Congress in 2000 that allows trafficking victims who assist prosecutors to stay in the United States for three years and then apply for permanent residence. Molina’s three children have received permission to join her in California. Though Congress authorized up to 5,000 T-visas annually, less than 700 had been issued overall as of September. Some victim-support experts say the modest numbers result from overly strict criteria, notably the requirement that victims assist prosecutors. “It can be a very difficult decision to come forward … when a victim has every reason to believe a trafficker can make good on a threat against family members,” said Steglich, the Chicago attorney. Federal officials defend the rules as necessary to separate fraudulent claims from genuine ones and to put traffickers out of business. “These traffickers are extraordinarily evil,” said Bradley Schlozman, the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights. “If a victim doesn’t come forward, that trafficker is going to turn around and exploit other individuals.” Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families with the Department of Health and Human Services, said reaching victims is a key goal of a new federal program. Regional task forces have been formed; a national hotline is being advertised in ethnic newspapers. “The problem is the traffickers are very good at controlling their victims,” Horn said. “Getting the message directly to the victims is difficult.” Some people are abducted by criminals and brought to the United States, but many come willingly, swayed by promises of good jobs or marriage that prove false. Maria Suarez went from Mexico to Los Angeles legally in 1976, a 16-year-old with a sixth-grade education and no English. She was offered a housecleaning job at the home of a 68-year-old man who instead converted her into a virtual slave – threatening her if she told any one of the rapes and beatings that ensued. In 1981, the man was killed by a neighbor; Suarez agreed to hide the weapon, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 25 years to life. Officials later confirmed Suarez’s claim of being battered; she was paroled in 2003 and certified as a trafficking victim eligible for a T-visa. Now 45, Suarez attends Pasadena City College, hoping to gain U.S. citizenship and become a social worker. She urges authorities to be understanding of sex-trafficking victims. “It was a disgrace,” she said. “How was I going to confront my family and tell them what was happening to me?” Before the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, no comprehensive federal law existed to prosecute traffickers. Since 2001, the Justice Department says it has prosecuted 277 traffickers and obtained convictions in every case. Schlozman said the department is intent on combating all types of trafficking, but estimated that 75 percent of the prosecutions involved sex trafficking. Some victims’ advocates say the government stresses sex cases because they generate more news coverage or because they are a priority of conservative Christian groups loyal to the Bush administration. “Christian evangelicals see this as an important mission – rescuing women from sex trafficking,” said New York University law professor Michael Wishnie. “There’s a risk of distracting attention from much more common situations (in sweatshops) that many more people find themselves in.” Among the groups campaigning against slave labor is the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers. One of its leaders, Laura Germino, said the government could undermine trafficking by cracking down on all types of abusive workplace practices. “You can’t view trafficking in a vacuum,” Germino said. “If you bring an end to sweatshops, you would curb trafficking.” An estimated 40 percent of trafficking victims are under 18; Given Kachepa was among them. As an 11-year-old orphan in Zambia, he was recruited into a boys choir that toured the United States for 18 months. Promises of education and money proved false, and the boys – constantly threatened by their handlers – endured an arduous concert schedule until authorities finally intervened. Kachepa was taken in by a Colleyville, Texas, couple who became his guardians. Now 19, he obtained a T-visa and entered college in August. “The most important thing is constant educating of people,” he said. “There’s help out there – but victims don’t know it.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “Human trafficking is so hidden you don’t know who you’re fighting – the victims are so scared, they’re not going to tell you what’s happening to them,” said Given Kachepa, a former victim of a scam that exploited Zambian orphans touring the United States in a boys’ choir. He was later taken in by a Texas couple. Aligned against the traffickers is an array of federal, state and local government agencies, teamed up with an odd coalition of private groups that include Christian conservatives and left-of-center immigrant-rights advocates. The result is perhaps the most far-reaching anti-trafficking campaign of any nation, yet some victim-support groups question its effectiveness. They contend that federal criteria offering assistance to victims only if they help prosecute their traffickers deters some people from seeking help. Others say the government has placed too much emphasis on sex trafficking and too little on workplace abuses at sweatshops and farms. “We see sex cases being prioritized (by federal prosecutors), but other cases we’re having a hard time getting looked at,” said Elissa Steglich, an attorney for the Chicago-based Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center. “Whatever type of slavery you’re dealing with, they’re horrors all the same.” Molina was the beneficiary of one case in which the anti-trafficking campaign worked as intended. Her helpers – as she escaped from the dress shop, learned English and gained legal U.S. residence – included the FBI and the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, which provides victims with shelter, legal aid and other services. last_img read more