Big dreams for the future

My heartfelt thanks to IKEA Foundation for having such a wonderful IWitness Programme for the IKEA co-workers to witness how the Good Cause campaigns contribute to providing opportunities for children.

My sincere thanks also to IKEA Singapore Alexandra store management team for the opportunity given to me. I am honoured and most grateful to be part of this IWitness trip to the Philippines to visit Save the Children and the KASALI project.

KASALI in Filipino means “included” and stands for “Kabataan Aralin sa Lahat Ibahagi” or “Education for All Children”. The project has been running since 2014. The focus of the project is to ensure a quality and inclusive pre- and elementary school education for children with disabilities in Metro Manila.

I am proud, as an IKEA co-worker, to have witnessed how the IWitness programme has benefited so many children and families, how appreciative the beneficiaries are, and the enthusiasm and energy of wanting to give more support and contribute in their own way. WOW…togetherness!

During this five-day trip, I felt really touched, fulfilled. The love from the children expressed with a BIG HUG is definitely unforgettable!

We must never discriminate against anyone who is challenged with a disability, especially children. It saddened me to see how the exclusion of children with disabilities starts in the first days of life with their birth going unregistered, and continuing when they grow up without access to basic services, let alone education.

My heart sank when I saw one father sobbing about his own experience on day 2 of the programme, at a session led by local village leaders. He has so many regrets for not being aware of how he could help his son get into school. He kept crying, but he was encouraged by the promise that he will share his knowledge with others, and be a volunteer to support the community moving forward.

And YES, as Ingvar Kamprad wrote in The Testament of a Furniture Dealer, “Most things still remain to be done. A glorious future.”

Day 1: We visited Ricardo P. Cruz Sr. Elementary School in Taguig City. It was amazing to see the warmth and hospitality from the children, teachers and parents. Also, the great performance by the children in raising awareness on non-discrimination with their peers.

We also understood how the Save the Children project team is working closely with partner schools, communities, local government, families and children to create a unified school-community approach.

Day 2: We did a home visit to get to know Yasmin Talisic’s family. She has three children (Angelica Mae, aged 10, Mark, aged nine, and John Rex, aged four).

Her husband Rolando Hernandez works night shifts as an electrician and maintenance worker. Yasmin is grateful and appreciates the KASALI-Save the Children programme, which means that her children can go to school, especially Mark. He did not like to go to school previously, but now he is so eager to go to his special school. We were touched by his enthusiasm and energy. He loves to go school…wow! Thumbs up for him.

Each of the children’s dreams was equally impressive. Angelica wants to be a teacher; both Mark and John Rex want to be policemen. I am sure they can do it!

That afternoon, we had a session on awareness-raising on disability and parent education, led by the local village leaders at South Signal Village Barangay Hall. Parents were very participative, enthusiastic and open-minded. They shared their experience with everyone.

Day 3: A wonderful day in the community-based inclusive development centre. In the morning, we set up rooms in Paranaque Elementary School Central for different activities: a mass intake check-up for children, child-friendly space for playing, and government health services orientation for parents of children with disabilities.

In the afternoon, we were at the community-based inclusive development sites of the “barangay” (village) to see the facilities and observe the processes of the local government, consultants and therapists who specialise in rehabilitation and auxiliary health services for children with disabilities.

Day 4: We went to the Family Fun Day for National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week at Taguig City. What an amazing day to witness how people from all walks of life come and support this event, even though the weather was not favourable! We had a fun fair with games, as well as music and art activities for children and their families. Parents and children went around and tried various creative or service-related activities.

This wrapped up our once-in-a-lifetime experience!


    Claudia Liow