Friday 23 March 2012

Songs of Innocence: The Chimney Sweeper, by William Blake

The poem, ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ is set against the dark background of child slavery that was well-known in England in the late 18th and 19th Century”.

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved: so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

And so he was quiet; and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight, -
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

Thursday 22 March 2012

The Children Who Built Victorian Britain

The Children Who Built Victorian Britain

Like in Victorian times, when England needed child slavery to sustain its industrial expansion, at present our first world needs the fuel of child slavery workforce to sustain its economy and our standard of living. We may not wish to bear the guilt of our crime because they do not live in the workhouse next door. Yet, does this free us from our responsibility for their lives?  

Like in Victorian times, when children sent to war went through hellish experiences, nowadays hundreds of thousands of child soldiers are forced into wars caused by conflicts of economic interests. We may choose not to see first world countries are the ones that sell the weapons these children hold. However, do our pretended ignorance and silence not make us accomplices of this crime?

Like child farmers, child miners, child brick makers, child masons… in Victorian times, who sacrificed their lives to build Victorian England, there are 400 million child slaves in the world today who are being deprived of their childhood. It is hypocritical and offensive to show sorrow for this children, they deserve more than our sympathy. Their suffering cries out for our respect, empathy and commitment.


The Children Who Built Victorian Britain - Part 1

Different Types of Child Slavery in Victorian Times

Different Types of Child Slavery in Victorian Times

Blacksmith: Being a blacksmith was a tenacious job that was a hard job for adults, let alone a child from ages 5-15. It required a lot of hard work and effort to mold metal into usable utensils and objects. Although being a blacksmith was not very easy, the economic and social position of it was much higher than compared to working on a farm or in a factory.

Textile mills: working in Textile Mills is one of the worst places for a child to be, let alone be there around the clock. This laborious job causes children in the Victorian Era to have bad physical growth. Standing in an enclosed heated atmosphere for hours of not moving around is like telling a child to stand outside all day when its 110 degrees outside.

Child slavery in mines was very dangerous. In the mines, children were told to break walls open and search for any valuable objects. The walkway in a mine is very narrow and short, making it perfect for children to drag carts of coal through. A five year old dragging something that weights more than himself is an extremely difficult task, especially for a child that was underfed and weak. It was usual to see children accidentally slip. These events were common and fatal.

Chimney sweeping: Before mines, chimney sweeping was the most difficult and most dangerous job there was. Children were apprenticed and taught how to get inside a chimney and clean out all the soot and creosote. Young children were used for this because of the small opening. It was quite often that children would get burnt, fall, or suffocate from the debris. 

Thursday 15 March 2012

Saint Patrick’s Day and the Irish Famine

Go ahead: Have a Guinness, wear a bit of green, and put on the Chieftains, but let's honor the Irish starving peasants by  commemorating Ireland's Holocaust and learning the truth about it. Students need to know the economic and social forces that starved and uprooted over a million Irish -- and that are starving and uprooting people today.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, the saint's religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. At present, for St.Patrick's Day, North Americans, Irish and Non-Irish go out to pub and drink as much as humanly possible and have a jolly good time.

"Wear green on St. Patrick's Day or get pinched" Irish folk memory refers to the Famine dead as having "mouths stained green" - because there last meal was often grass.

Sadly, today's high school textbooks continue to largely ignore the famine, despite the fact that it was responsible for unimaginable suffering and the deaths of more than a million Irish peasants, and that it triggered the greatest wave of Irish immigration in U.S. history. Nor do textbooks make any attempt to help students link famines past and present.

Yet there is no shortage of material that can bring these dramatic events to life in the classroom.  Sinead O'Connor's haunting rendition of "Skibbereen" includes the verse:

... Oh it's well I do remember, that bleak
December day,
The landlord and the sheriff came, to drive
Us all away
They set my roof on fire, with their cursed
English spleen
And that's another reason why I left old

Friday 9 March 2012


FATHER SHAY CULLEN founder of the People's Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistanace  Foundation (PREDA)

Father Shay Cullen, nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize and other Human Rights Awards, is a Missionary priest from Ireland and a member of the Missionary Society of St. Columban and has worked protecting women and children and human rights in the Philippines since 1969.

Born in Dublin, 27 March 1943, educated at Presentation College, Glasthule, Co. Dublin. He completed his college education at St. Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland and was ordained in April 1969. Sooner later he was assigned to parishes in Zambales and Olongapo City, Subic Bay that year.

His mission for justice and peace is open to people of all faiths. It is based on taking a stand for human rights and protecting the dignity of every person, in particular exploited women and children.

Father Shay Cullen established Preda Foundation in Olongapo city, the Philippines in 1974 to promote human rights, justice and peace. Believing that poverty, violence and child abuse are barriers to peace and give rise to extremism. He strives to eliminate child abuse and promote respect for children's rights. He works for peace by striving to change the unjust economic political and social structures and attitudes that allow such abuse. 

The twelve Preda projects ( are to educate for peace, free children from brothels and jails and give them a chance to recover in therapeutic homes and be reintegrated and have a happier life free from jail, brothels, abusers, traffickers, violence and abuse. His team has worked to bring the abusers to justice and has succeeded in the Philippines and in Germany to get convictions. He is a leading world-wide campaigner against trafficking and child and woman abuse. His Preda foundation operates protective therapeutic recovery shelters for the victims.

Thursday 8 March 2012

International Women's Day - What Can Bring Equality to Women and Men Alike?

International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women for solidarity and to participate in society on an equal footing with men.

In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" marched on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.  

The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, when the impoverished started to associate to fight for their rights and promotion. Women were sensitive to life; they opposed wars, hunger, exploitation and child slavery. Their statements called for international solidarity.

PhD in history Dr. Mª del Mar Araus says: “The woman has gone down in the history of workers’ movement as the mother of solidarity; without their resilience, endurance and struggle, there would have been no workers’ movement.”

Following is a brief chronology of the most important events:

On 8 March 1857, women working in clothing and textile factories (called 'garment workers') in New York City, in the United States, staged a protest. They were fighting against inhumane working conditions and low wages. The police attacked the protestors and dispersed them. Two years later, again in March, these women formed their first labour union to try and protect themselves and gain some basic rights in the workplace.

On 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child exploitation. They adopted the slogan "Bread and Roses", with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life. In May, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday in February for the observance of National Women's Day.

Helen Keller (1880–968) and Anne Sullivan (1866–1936)

The story of Helen Keller is the story of a child who, at the age of 18 months, was suddenly shut off from the world, but who, against overwhelming odds, waged a slow, hard, but successful battle to reenter that same world. The inarticulate little deaf and blind girl grew into a highly intelligent and sensitive woman who wrote, spoke, and labored incessantly for the betterment of others.

Helen Adams Keller was born, physically whole and healthy, in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880. The illness that struck the infant Helen Keller and left her deaf and blind was diagnosed as brain fever at the time; perhaps it was scarlet fever. Popular belief had it that the disease left its victim an idiot. And as Helen Keller grew from infancy into childhood, wild, unruly, and with little real understanding of the world around her, this belief was seemingly confirmed.

Helen Keller's real life began on a March day in 1887 when she was a few months short of seven years old. On that day, which Miss Keller was always to call "The most important day I can remember in my life," Anne Mansfield Sullivan came to Tuscumbia to be her teacher. Miss Sullivan, a 20-year-old graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind, who had regained useful sight through a series of operations, had come to the Kellers through the sympathetic interest of Alexander Graham Bell. From that fateful day, the two--teacher and pupil--were inseparable until the death of the former in 1936.  

How Miss Sullivan turned the near savage child into a responsible human being and succeeded in awakening her marvelous mind is familiar to millions, most notably through William Gibson's play and film, The Miracle Worker, Miss Keller's autobiography of her early years, The Story of My Life, and Joseph Lash's Helen and Teacher.

Miss Sullivan began her task with a doll the children at Perkins had made for her to take to Helen. By spelling "d-o-l-l" into the child's hand, she hoped to teach her to connect objects with letters. Helen quickly learned to make the letters correctly, but did not know she was spelling a word, or that words existed. In the days that followed she learned to spell a great many more words in this uncomprehending way.