Children with special needs get treat-A A +A
Monday, November 15, 2010
CHRISTIAN Paron prayed it wouldn’t rain on Saturday.
His mother had made a deal with him: if it rained, he would stay at home; if it didn’t, he would join the Children’s Festival.
The heavens answered his prayer.
On a bright Saturday morning, Paron, 6, eagerly went to Barili proper, riding on his wheelchair.
Paron, a hydrocephalus patient, was among the 500 children from 36 barangays who attended the two-day Children’s Festival in Barili, Cebu.
The activity, organized by the Dolores Aboitiz Children’s Fund (DACF) of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI), offers an opportunity for children to learn, meet friends and show their talents.
It started in 2007 as a charity event for children in child-focused institutions in Metro Cebu. This year, it was held in four towns—San Francisco, Camotes Island; Pilar, Camotes Island; Oslob; and Barili—catering to 2,000 children.
“Bringing it to the municipalities outside Metro Cebu, we hope to address the clamor of the partner organizations since there are no similar events organized for the less fortunate children offering them opportunities to enjoy, learn and experience fully what it means to be a child,” said Anabelle Fajardo, DACF deputy executive director.
Anton Dignadice, RAFI humanitarian relations services executive director, said the program is designed to “celebrate the child in each and every one of us.”
The activity—themed “Maa-yong Pamatasan, Bahandi sa Kabataan”—featured four learning institutions, which were aimed at educating children on topics relevant to them like character building.
Participants learned the importance of culture and heritage in the Hataw Kabataan station. In the Kabataan para sa Kalikasan at Kalusugan station, children were taught about the value of preserving nature and caring for one’s health.
Children were encouraged to become leaders and good citizens in the Kabataan Para sa Bayan station, while they learned good values in the Kabataan at Kagandahang-asal station.
Some joined contests, which included essay writing, poster-making, dancing, singing, declamation and extemporaneous speaking.
Imelda Basalo, municipal social welfare development officer in Barili, said street children and children with disabilities joined the festive event.
“Through this activity, they are able to socialize with other children and realize that their condition is not a hindrance to participate in activities like this,” she said.
After the Children’s Festival, the town looks forward to holding a puppet show that will center on helping children avoid sexual abuse, added Basalo.
Barili Mayor Teresito Mari-ñas said they “welcomed the program with open hearts,”
because they saw it as an opportunity to promote the well-being of children.
“Rafi has a good track record in promoting children’s welfare. They’ve given the town several projects,” he said.
He added seeing the children as they enjoy games and learn at the same time inspired him to continue his advocacy for children’s welfare.
Retchel Sasing, DACF program officer, said they chose Barili to host the activity because of the town’s “receptivity” and good performance in different fields of governance.
“The town showed good coordination. The mayor showed hands-on support for the activity,” she said.
Barili is the third best town in the province in terms of livability, said Constantine Samson of Our Cebu program, a joint project by the Provincial Government and RAFI that evaluates and helps towns become effective in governance and delivery of services.
“This activity helps children grow as responsible, effective and god-fearing citizens.
Most successful adults have happy childhood memories while most criminals have unhappy childhood memories,” Mariñas said.
“The children are the country’s treasure.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 15, 2010.