OFFICIALS of the Australian Embassy has turned over a 20-seater dragon boat and other sports equipment to the Philippine Accessible Disability Services (Pads) during their visit in Mandaue City on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Hae Kyong Yu led the turnover of around a million Australian dollars worth of equipment and projects to the Pads Adaptive Dragonboat Racing Team near Pajara Park in Barangay Umapad, Mandaue City.

Yu said the Australian Embassy is very proud in supporting Pads’ initiative, which is all about helping persons with disabilities (PWDs) being able to engage in adaptive sports.

She noted that this can make PWDs find themselves or the meaning in their lives through teamwork and mentorship as well as guidance.

The ambassador also emphasized that the dragon boat team has the potential to win national and international championships, which could inspire other children and people who have disabilities like them.

“The Australian Embassy is really committed to continue to support this project,” she said, adding that their engagement has been long-standing since 2017.

While she had no idea about how the decision was made at that time, Yu said the Australian Embassy has been looking for projects with highest impact showing the importance of inclusiveness in the society so that everyone can achieve and actively participate in a society and excel in what they are really passionate about.

Yu, who visited Cebu for the first time, said this is quite unique for Cebu Province but stressed they have supported many programs across the Philippines.

She revealed that Australia’s aid programs to the Philippines is around 85 million Australian dollars per year and it is their country’s fifth largest development program.

John Paul Maunes, Pads founder, expressed gratitude towards the support of the Australian Embassy, saying that such equipment will be a big help for the dragon boat team who is excited for the training.

Maunes revealed that they are currently working with the local government of Sogod town in northern Cebu as they plan to organize a series of dragon boat events in 2023.

He said this will be used for their grassroots development program for PWDs and youth in Cebu, particularly in Mandaue City.

Maunes said they want their program, which is not just limited to dragonboat, to be accessible and free to everyone who wants to join, adding that this is part of everyone’s growth.

“We want to emphasize and have the government realize how important community-based rehabilitation is,” he said, as he revealed that Pads was founded in 2005.