Happy New Year

It may be over two weeks late, but we would like to wish all our followers a happy, healthy & wealthy 2014!

A lot has been happening at C.R.E.E.R’s base in France and in Cote d’Ivoire.

The founder & Vice President’s daughter (also a member) are due to leave for Cote d’Ivoire under their own financial means in 3 weeks time.  Flying initially into Ouagadougou, they will go south via Ghana doing some research.

Due to the quietness of our promise in Abengourou despite much personal financial input into the trip in March 2013 by the founder, it seems that the promise of land was yet another false hope.  After the promises made in Ayame in January 2011 of a tract of land, the future was looking desolate a few weeks ago, but we will not give up!

There are other leads and ideas to get C.R.E.E.R on the road to starting up in Cote d’Ivoire which sends two of the team southbound.  The idea is to look at other plots of land & establish if they are feasible to be bought; this is a major problem in the country, land is often squabbled over within families & the title deeds never come to fruition.  The board want to be sure that the land that will be built upon won’t be retrieved after a building has been constructed.  In the mean time, our Treasurer is holding onto our funds ready to use them when there’s a green light.

2013 was a long journey, hopes, promises & false promises; it was difficult for the whole team to believe that this would be a reality!  We need support on a worldwide basis.  To help us; we’re doing the right thing, however long it takes.  Rome wasn’t built in a day but then again there are children out there NOW who need help, who have been trafficked.

Moreover, we’ve now also got word of children being trafficked for rubber & teak plantations, the need is forever growing!

Looking forward to keeping in touch with supporters with hopefully good news in early March!

Discussions at Nestlé

Silence has prevailed for a few months, the C.R.E.E.R board have been busy with a number of projects for future fundraising.  On return from the founder’s visit from Cote d’Ivoire, we rang Nestlé again who were already aware of us, to explain what happened on the trip there.

Nestlé invited us to Vevey, their HQ in Switzerland at 10am on 9th July.  Train tickets for the Founder & Treasurer were duly booked & a hostel reservation was made.  The day of departure, the Treasurer wasn’t well with a bad back that had been a problem over the weekend.  On Monday 8th July, the Founder found herself alone boarding the train to Vevey via Geneva & Nimes.

After a long 11hour train trip with 3 changes, Vevey was in sight, a beautiful town on Lake Leman!

??????????DSCN2288??????????The meeting started at 10am,  Nestle has it’s own Avenue in Vevey; a short walk from the lovely ‘Grande Place’.  A presentation had already been put together for the meeting with a few extra support letters arriving at the last minute that needed printing out.

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Overall, the meeting went well, C.R.E.E.R is a ‘new’ NGO without a building as yet or children so the fact that Nestle’s door remains open is a positive.

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However a few questions were puzzling.  Without wanting to explicity say ‘there are trafficked children on cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire (which we are SURE you are aware of)’ there were a few questions that were raised in regards as to ‘where’ the children for the centre would appear from.

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Surely this is obvious, there are children out there that have runaway from their enslavement and living on the streets.  There are children that are arriving at the borders that need specialist assistance & not to be put in an orphanage.  There are also those children that may hear of us & come to us.  However C.R.E.E.R will not be visiting farms to extract children from cocoa farmers, this would cause chaos!

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A second issue was the repatriation.  C.R.E.E.R will be working with other organisations both on a governmental level & in terms of iNGO’s such as UNICEF, Oxfam etc to ensure that repatriation will give a solid future for each child.  Of course we cannot assess & are not ‘gods’ to make the decision for each child but we aren’t prepared to repatriate a child to a home where the family may re-sell that child or they aren’t accepted into the community.  Those that ‘can’t’ go home for whatever reason will be offered a place on a long term basis in the centre; but this won’t be our work, it will be the work of external organisations to ensure their future.

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Another point that was raised was why the government aren’t carrying out this project.  It was clearly stated that the government had built two centres for a total cost of US$206,000 & had written about this in the US AID TIP 2013 which they then refused to acknowledge any donations as their trafficking problem would be kept in-house.  The centre that we visited in 2011 during the crisis was built in a shantytown.  It had never been used, it was vandalised, people were squatting on the land with their own buildings … need we go on???  Sorry, but Nestlé, had you done your homework on this?

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We were touched by the letter from Mr. Outtara, a Director of a governmental agency that we met in Abengourou who strongly wrote in our favour.  As well as many other supporters including our US based Ghanaian consultant.

Support from all our followers is still needed to ensure that Nestlé as well as other companies support our mission, that we can get this project off the ground!

Thanks for continuing to follow us!

Dreams realised after five days work in Cote d’Ivoire

Arranging a trip to Cote d’Ivoire via Ghana in under a week is not for the faint-hearted, particularly when your visa for Ghana has expired! This is what happened just prior to Easter.  The decision was made by C.R.E.E.R’s board that unless one of the board was on the ground in Cote d’Ivoire, nothing would move forward.  The only option due to flights was to go via Accra. Thanks to good friends of C.R.E.E.R’s in London, one of the Founder’s passports was sent in advance to obtain another 2 year multiple entry visa for Ghana, to be issued in 24hours.

A quick turnaround in London and landed in Accra on the Wednesday evening.  A lot of pleading on the Thursday before Good Friday (a public holiday in Ghana), the Ivorian Embassy went out of their way to assist the passage by bending all the rules.  C.R.E.E.R’s founder managed to get a visa in 5hours rather than the normal 3 days due to the exceptional circumstances.  Luckily the consul remembered the face having given a visa during the 2010/2011 crisis after much pleading then! Accra - Abobo Travelling by public transport to the Ghana-Ivorian border at Elubo/Noe on a public holiday is never all that enjoyable especially with an early 5am start!  Finally at 7pm (14hrs later) on Good Friday evening C.R.E.E.R was re-united in Bassam with our Ivorian Director, Erick after 2 years of only contact over the internet and phone!  After a mere 5 changes of transport to get there in the hot, cramped, uncomfortable conditions West African bush taxis always offer!

The few long 18+hr days of work started in earnest the next day with a base in the Abobo district of Abidjan.  An Ivoirian board meeting didn’t go as planned due to various family commitments but we saw all the board members that Easter weekend around Abidjan. Monday morning; another early start to travel to Abengourou, a mere 193km away, however the road after Adzope is in a bad state.  Four hours later, sore from the tightly packed minibus with homemade metal framed seats (& poor padding) we arrived in town.  The founder had previously visited Abengourou in 2009 and remembered a few landmarks, but now we had to explore the town thoroughly to see it’s suitability.Abobo Abidjan - Abengourou Erick had carried out a lot of the groundwork for C.R.E.E.R since last seeing him during the Ivorian crisis in January 2011.  Our latest news was that King Nanan Boa Kouassi III of Abengourou was willing to donate land to the project; but to move this kind gesture forward our presence was needed on the ground.  Abengourou is ideally situated for the project, with the border at Niable for Ghana under 20km away. Cote d’Ivoire’s 10th largest town, it has all the facilities that the project needs.  It’s in a region of agriculture including cocoa, rubber & timber.

Our first few hours in town we got our bearings & immediately went to the hospital, Centre Hopitalier Regionale d’Abengourou to see the facilities and find a competent professional to join the team part-time.  DSCN1974DSCN1969DSCN1971We met with Sylvie, a nurse, who was very interested in the project for Abengourou and agreed with us to work on a contractual basis.  When we’re operational she will work with the centre, visiting on a fortnightly basis to check the children and advise on medical and dietary matters.

Tuesday morning dawned; Abengourou was suffering from a power cut so  sleeping past 5.30am was impossible with the hotel room’s fan not working, a ‘mere’ 35 degrees by 8.30am!

Meeting with Director of Youth, Sport & Leisure, Abengourou We headed out to firstly visit our bank in town to start organising an account; quickly followed by a visit to the post office to enquire about a postal box.  We were expected by the King at the Royal Court at 10am.  However, his adviser sent us to the Director of Youth, Sport & Leisure who gave us an in-depth interview about the project, Erick had already been through this on a previous visit.  They were alarmed by the story of ‘Zoe’s Ark’ they quizzed  us at length to ensure our suitability.  It was reassuring that they were taking C.R.E.E.R seriously and weren’t leaving any stone unturned! Roi d'Abengourou

Returning to the Royal Court, we sat with the notability; the King spoke through his spokesman to fully agree the project.  He granted us our land and our presence in Abengourou to help street children, some of which are trafficking victims.

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Elated, we departed for a late lunch prior to returning to the long road back to Abidjan! None of this would have been achieved without Erick’s hard work, his friend Charlemagne & Mamy, the King’s niece facilitating for C.R.E.E.R.  Another long afternoon on the road in Charlemagne’s car; the Founder arrived in Grand Bassam at 10.30pm due to the roads and traffic!

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Wednesday was due to be the day of departure to return to Accra but it wasn’t to be.  Our NGO paperwork has been in order & many NGO’s work with the paperwork we had but there was one final formality that hadn’t moved forward & had to be organised prior to departure.  Our paperwork had been sitting at the police station for 18months which wasn’t ideal considering Erick had made many trips to prompt the police to move it forward.  Despite a call a few days earlier to inform the police we wanted a meeting, our presence was a revelation to them at 8am.  We were told to return later in the morning; we duly took our place in an office at 10am to find that all our files on their computers had ‘vanished’ and it all had to be typed from scratch again.  Frustration!!!  After 4hours of sitting tight to ensure the papers were finally printed and sent to the correct office; the return journey to Accra was in sight, but for the following morning … Another early start at 4am to cross the border as it opened! Thrilled that C.R.E.E.R finally has a home in Cote d’Ivoire with a town that has welcomed us and wanting to work with us!  It couldn’t have been a better trip!

A few shots of Abengourou

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Why, where, what will C.R.E.E.R be?

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C.R.E.E.R = Centre de Reinsertion et d’Education pour les Enfants de la Rue

(Centre of Reinsertion & Education for street children)

Cote d'Ivoire near the Ghana border

Why?

Some children are sold by their families for about US $60, believing that they will have a good life with an employer or promised that they will receive an education.

The families often need the money to manage the rest of the family.

Traffickers will sell these children onto farmers, domestic homes and brothels  offering children for US$200-US$250+.

Many of these children end up mentally and physically scarred from working  like bonded slaves; some will manage to runaway but live on the streets.

Why do families sell their children?

This video says it all, it’s why there are so many children coming from the Sahel belt; the Sahara encroaching on farmland; seeing it for yourself is startling, this video makes it all a bit more real

A farmer with dry land, how can he be expected to feed his family if the land isn’t sustainable?

It’s not just in Niger, but in Burkina Faso, Mali (where there’s more than just drought right now!)  and right across to Mauritania on the Atlantic coast where many West Africans are working for a pittance & slavery has only just been made illegal …

What makes it worse is when families such as these, share their food bowl with you; C.R.E.E.R’s founder has eaten with similar families.

So many are ‘forced’ to sell a child for US$60 or so, to pay for the rest of the family, buy necessary provisions or receive medical care.  The US$60 will go a long way for the family but the child who is sold will end up trafficked & working for others somewhere …

We all have to give back in abundance.  Our own way is to help the trafficked children in long-term rehabilitative care, providing an education to empower them out of this vicious cycle.

Read more here about the young girl’s legacy who gave the inspiration to create C.R.E.E.R http://wp.me/s3aqBS-17

Where?

C.R.E.E.R is to be a non-profit, non-political and non-religious centre in Abengourou, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).   We expect a mix of Christians & Muslims as well as local religions; those that want to follow their faith can do so locally and will be taken to their place of worship by our staff.  We aim to work with the children, to give them future hope and be able to lead a normal adult life, after being part of a family at the centre.

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What will C.R.E.E.R be?

As the first such designated centre in West Africa our aim is to give long-term rehabilitation for trafficked children from all over region that are being brought over the border for farming, domestic servitude & prostitution.

We’ve already talked to the immigration authorities.  The Ivorian Authorities are keen to see us set up as there’s nowhere that solely caters for trafficked children.  They house those that they can intercept at the border, wherever they can find a bed.  Our aim is to repatriate those that have families that can take care of them & educate the children that cannot be repatriated.

The idea is to create the centre as soon as possible.  C.R.E.E.R has worked hard since conception in 2010 before the Ivorian crisis and was unfortunately let down already regarding land with false promises in early 2011.

We aim to be as self-sufficient as possible, enabling the children to learn about animal husbandry as well as renewable energy sources and their maintenance.

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1.  We have been promised 5-hectares of land just over the border from Ghana in Cote d’Ivoire’s 10th largest town, Abengourou.  We will build the centre with single sex dormitories and workshops but to also create a small holding that the children will manage with tutors.

a)  The centre will provide accommodation for about 30 children initially.
b)  All children will receive an education, maths, French and also potentially English as core components of other subjects.

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2.  On the land we want to build workshops, this will be the vocational part of the project so that all children will have a chance to leave with a skill.

We hope some will further their education too in tertiary establishments.   The workshops will consist of vocational skills such as sewing, mechanics, carpentry and cooking etc.

We have a wonderful manager who is now ready to work with us, he has already managed an orphanage for several years & dearly missed by the children there.   He has held a variety of important meetings for C.R.E.E.R with government ministers.

We totally trust him & believe he will drive things forward in the interests of trafficked children.

In the longer term we’re hoping to have other C.R.E.E.R centres in Africa, the next one being at the other end of this trafficking corridor, just inside Nigeria’s border.

If you’d like to help, please email us at : c.r.e.e.r.rci@gmail.com

Or join our group http://www.facebook.com/groups/c.r.e.e.r.rci/

Or page http://www.facebook.com/pages/CREER/160911540628718 on Facebook

We’re also on Twitter @CREER_RCI

Please help us to get the first building at the centre constructed

(Thanks to ThirdEyeMom for the video & Sahel update: http://thirdeyemom.com/2013/02/26/starving-in-sahel-its-time-to-care)