MANILA – Life in Panglao, an island off the southwestern tip of Bohol province, has relatively been simple. But this has not stopped young people there from dreaming of achieving life’s endless possibilities.
Even persons with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs) are inspired to continue dreaming and go beyond stereotypes with the help of a Japanese-run home that caters to special education (SPED) learners.
Babita House is a two-storey dormitory located in the town of Dauis, a 4th income class municipality in Panglao Island.
Here, young PWIDs – those who encounter developmental limitations in terms of intellectual functioning or learning practical skills – learn math, reading, writing, sign language, and livelihood activities. The institution was set up by Japanese volunteer teacher Akiko Sugiyama.
She was sent to Bohol through the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Sugiyama completed her volunteer work in 2015 but she has since returned to the Central Visayas province to establish the center for graduates of SPED institutions there.
“This is my personal project. I really wanted to help young people with disabilities lead productive lives,” said Sugiyama.
A teacher in Yokohama and Kyoto, Sugiyama was inspired by the PWD centers in Japan. She has adopted these models in Babita House to help PWDs in Bohol learn skills so they can become financially independent.
Among the crafts they teach SPED graduates is creating toy tricycles initally out of matchboxes. A cultural symbol, the tricycle is the most common form of transportation when going out of Panglao Island to the city center.
Now students there create the toy tricycles by assembling chipboards designed by a fabrication laboratory in the province where Shiro Takaki, another Japanese volunteer, works.
The toys are now sold as souvenir items and the proceeds are given to the students as their allowance. Some go to Babita House’s funds.
Organizations in Japan also send donations to the center every now and then. Sugiyama said they sometimes host study tours for Japanese visitors to help them learn more about PWDs and the support they need.
The Philippines is one of the signatories in the United Nations' 2015 Incheon Declaration that seeks to achieve inclusive and equitable education for all" by 2030. But the path to inclusion and zero discrimination for PWDs remain a struggle.
This is a challenge Sugiyama wants to continue working on as she stays in Bohol.
“Boholanos are kind people. Life here is slow, but for volunteers like me, it makes us happy to see that people with disabilities are able to enjoy life without discrimination," she said. – Rappler.com