Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by Best Buddies Philippines and was produced by BrandRap, the sales and marketing arm of Rappler. No member of the news and editorial team participated in the production of this piece.
Once again, we’re reflecting on what transpired during the past year, with the hopes of picking up valuable lessons to tide us over to the next. So, how was your 2021? Was it better than last year? Sakto lang? However it was, hoping that you and your loved ones have fairly coped with our unpredictable situation.
Non-profit orgs weren’t spared as well. Causes were put to the test as the pandemic complicated the mounting of physical activities and other outreach missions. Nevertheless, for Best Buddies PH (BBP), the local arm of a global volunteer movement that fosters opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), the members took this on as a challenge to be really there for a community they cared about.
They leaned on their own “best buddies,” comprising different companies and partner organizations, in turning an uncertain year into one of their most fruitful ones. These milestones below show us how we can still continue “embracing all abilities,” even just virtually.
Fun and food for January
Software company Nexus Technologies partnered with BBP for a series of fun virtual events, including a session in creating healthy snacks, pizza-making and basic Italian lessons, and a Sign Language 101 class – complete with delicious cookie snacks!
Eight BBP ambassadors have also been unveiled after a 4-day Virtual Ambassador Training. In these trainings, the Buddies are taught the meaning of self-advocacy, what it means to represent BBP, and are inspired to hone their leadership skills.
The Buddies were also inspired to move through the launch of Wellness Wednesdays, a monthly fitness activity with Coach Pepper and BFIT Active Kids PH.
The March to inclusion and self-care
The month of March was all about awareness. For World Down Syndrome Day, BBP collaborated with elite photographer Sara Black, the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, A Child’s D.R.E.A.M., and SM Cares for a virtual exhibit of 21 subjects with Trisomy 21. In association with Best Buddies Malaysia and Oasis Place, mental health webinars were also conducted separately for the Buddies and their parents, to help them manage emotions during the pandemic.
BBP kicked off a series of crafting events with SM Cares, including sessions such as learning the art of small talk with Best Buddies Benilde and a paint-by-numbers activity.
Wellness and friendships for July
For the entire month of July, Atma Prema Wellbeing Group was BBP’s partner in conducting sessions on self-esteem, courage, and character-building for the Buddies. Meanwhile, in partnership with 13 orgs, a video of different kids speaking different languages was also released. It translated the universal message of the International Day of Friendship into BBP’s inclusive call for everyone to “Be a buddy, and make a friend.”
Buwan ng Wika celebrations for August
August was all about Pinoy pride for BBP. They teamed up with the DLSU Archers for UNICEF group to devote its Saturday Series to introducing the Buddies to the beauty of Filipino culture – from food to art. Support poured in from brands and personalities such as Mega Prime, Chefmom Rosebud Benitez, and Vico’s Autism Gallery for the beneficiaries from Handicapped Center Lourdes.
September to remember
Eleven new ambassadors were inducted! Additionally, one of the Buddies, Kiel Lagmay, was named as a Best Buddies Global Ambassador – the first outside the US.
Kiel saw this opportunity as a way to further give back to fellow IDDs – to be a voice for them.
“I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 with no words spoken, but because God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, God is now using me to be the voice for my fellow persons on the spectrum,” Kiel said.
Bakin’ in October
The Maya Kitchen teamed up with BBP to host two fun baking activities for their Saturday Series. They made creamy carrot-pineapple cake and fantastic fudgy brownies!
In a cheery mood for November and December
More exciting activities helped kick off BBP’s holiday festivities: a tie-dying activity with Rainbow Art PH, a Christmas countdown with Javi Bakes and the BBP interns, and perhaps, the most festive of them all – the #BBPHolidayCraftChallenge, a 12-day social media challenge where the Buddies created crafts each day and posted these on social media.
Mari, one of the new Buddies, won the challenge because of his combined determination, ingenuity, and support from his family.
“Mari’s hands are sometimes fidgety and his fine motor skills are not that good so he had to repeat some of them ‘til he got it right. But when we know a task is easy for him, we encourage him to create another one or a different one, so he can have his own version or design,” his mother Miren said.
Another awaited event last December was a virtual online exhibit featuring photographs of the Buddies and supporters by The Headshot Clinic – in cooperation with TheseAbledPH – to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IWD).
For BBP, these virtual activities and celebrations prove that with the right brand “buddies” to support the cause, they will always be able to continue spreading the word on inclusivity and empowering more Buddies to reach their full potential.
At the same time, the experience was made even more rewarding for the members.
“They’re so passionate about what they want to do,” said Mau Leuterio, De La Salle Santiago Zobel faculty advisor, referring to the student members. The school’s own BBP chapter went from faculty-led to becoming student-driven as the kids slowly saw the importance of the cause and the connections they fostered.
Current chapter president Faith Dagoro shared how the Buddy matches translated into actual friendships. Citing an example, she said: “In the past, I was able to meet a buddy who was great at making paintings. At that time, I was getting into the hobby of painting as well, so I made a painting and gave it to him [when] we met. It was nice to have a friend who had the same interest as I did.”
What started out as a simple way to help out evolved into strong, authentic bonds that they will carry with them for the years to come. Buddies for life.