Children with disabilities should never be forgotten

Before coming on the trip in the Philippines, Manila, I had no expectations of what was to come. I have always been interested in children and their welfare, so my motivation for this trip was to see for myself what these children go through. After the trip, I would say that my love for children stays on! Although the children with special needs are different in the eyes of the public, they can in fact be as warm, as loving, and as innocent as any other child that I know back in Singapore…We just need to have the heart to accept them and their disability. My experience in the city showed me that there is so much that the government can do for their people!

When we arrived at the elementary school, the children smiled with so much warmth that one could not help but feel love for them. It was eye-opening to listen first-hand to what the parents went through on a day-to-day basis all these years. I strongly believe that children with disabilities should never be seen as a hindrance but should be included and accepted into society. Education is a right, not a privilege!

A lady guard from the school shared with us that, “Children here in R.P. CRUZ Elementary School show more affection and compassion as compared to the children who do not have learning disabilities.”

I feel that perhaps it is precisely because of these children’s differences that made them more giving. To me, the children did not seem to have any learning disabilities at all. Their innocence is so precious, it really outshone everything else.

IKEA’s involvement

We also were given a chance to experience a parent education and awareness-raising session. It was incredibly emotional when parents started to share about their personal struggles with their own children.

One parent, Charlin Tendenilla, shared about her 12-year-old daughter, Rodalyn, who has an intellectual disability. Prior to accepting help from this programme, Rodalyn was not able to perform any tasks on her own, even tasks such as walking and eating. Charlin had little to no resources to help her child, and she could only rely on the internet for very basic information.

Charlin also mentioned about the times where she would have to carry her 12-year-old daughter to the hospital for check-ups, on a bus, where she felt discriminated against, just because her daughter is different. Eyes were on her during the long two-and-a-half hour ride. Imagine her discomfort…

It is heart-warming to hear how the IKEA Foundation (and this programme) has benefited families such as Charlin’s. She shared that after four months of therapy, Rodalyn can perform the tasks she was not able to do, and more. She is now able to shower herself too! That is so encouraging to hear! What really held weight in my heart was the amount of hope and strength that she held tightly onto despite her circumstances. How much left can one hold on to when going through extreme hardship, especially one with a special child? Her tenacity and love for her children is extremely inspiring.

Today, she remains very positive as she shares her experience. She shared her love for her two children, and her only support system consisting of her relatives and sisters who have been with her through the roughest times. The level of bond that they have is beyond words! To be able to experience kindness from these people as they welcomed us is so humbling; there is indeed power coming from love.

What I believe

This experience was an inspiring one, and I think anyone who has actually been in their shoes would also think that these children with disabilities should never be forgotten. They have the rights to live, to play, to learn, and to be seen like anyone of us, and to develop their talents and skills. One little boy I met has an incredible skill of creating 2D characters into 3D using clay! None of us could do that!

Michelle Mendes, one of the community heads in the Taguig City, shared, “Open our minds, open our hearts!” I think it is time for society to have the courage to do that.

On the final day of the trip before we left, to celebrate the 40th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation week, we had a carnival. It was a very simple and intimate setting; akin to a family fun day. The volunteers and the team had different roles to fulfil while the children and families came together to enjoy the event, despite it being rainy all day in Taguig City. Their smiles and laughter lit up the community hall and our hearts. Every one of us gave our best to contribute to creating a better life for the many in our own way!

I truly feel that there is a lot of love in this country. And people, if we open our hearts enough. I have learnt that people do not give up easily, and this gives one strength. They believe and they hold on to that belief no matter what comes.

The day of the carnival was a special day for me, filled with feelings and emotions running in my veins. This is one of the best trips that I’ve ever had with IKEA. Thank you, Save the Children, thank you IKEA Foundation, thank you all! It has been a great pleasure!

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