By Tengku Putra, Nesh Mutokarappan & Azlin Hamdan
It’s the 40th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation week in the Philippines and it’s also the monsoon rain season in Manila. It was raining throughout our visit to this beautiful island of Makati. Lucky us, Saturday (Day 3) wasn’t bad at all. It was partially cloudy, with sunshine early in the morning. We were relieved to have a little break from the rain as we set off to visit Paranaque Elementary School, as arranged by a local community in partnership with Save the Children.
When we set off that morning, we thought we would just be observing and watching the day’s programme. To our surprise and delight, we soon found out that we would be participating in the day’s events. We were briefed by Kim (Save the Children Project Officer) that the rooms of Paranaque Elementary School would be set up for simultaneous activities: mass intake check-up of children, child-friendly space for playing, and a government health services orientation for parents of children with disabilities. They needed our help in setting up the room for these activities.
We were super excited to set up the three rooms in a row, which were assigned for these activities. Parents and children arrived a few minutes after we set up. We took the opportunity to engage and interact with the children and parents in both the play area and check-up area. We learnt about the kids’ conditions, and the programmes designed for their overall wellness and optimum development.
The children were so expressive with their uninhibited hugs, cuddles and kisses towards us. It really touched us very deeply.
During playtime with the children, I noticed a twelve-year-old boy called JP who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He sat alone with his Play-Doh set at his table. I tried to strike a conversation with him. Instead of answering, he let his artistic talents do the talking! We showed him a picture of a cartoon and superhero character on one of our phones. JP memorised the picture and deftly moulded it with the clay in front our eyes. His mother says that he regularly does this and showed us his collections that he made a day before. We were stunned by his masterpieces—there is so much detail work in all the models that he has created. What a gifted and talented child he is! We were truly blown away!
Later in the afternoon, we went to the community-based inclusive development sites of Barangay, right after the programme of simultaneous activities at Paranaque Elementary School ended.
Here we learned more about the programme designed to help the children with disabilities. The therapists said most children with disabilities can be helped through the therapeutic use of everyday activities to reach their optimal development. We learnt that early intervention is needed, as soon as possible after a child receives a diagnosis. The therapy helps to improve a child’s motor skills, cognitive and sensory processing, communication and play skills.
KASALI’s collaboration with local communities really helps the parents who can’t afford to pay for these services, to learn, develop, recover and improve the skills needed for their child’s everyday life.
KASALI (Kabataang Aralin Sa Lahat Ay Ibahagi) means “Education for all children” and it also means “included”. It lives up to these values and proves that children with disabilities have equal rights to dream like any other child. Through this experience, we are proud to say that IKEA is working towards our vision to create a better everyday life for the many people.
A big thank you to IKEA, the IKEA Foundation and to our partner Save the Children for this once-in-a-lifetime journey. Tack!