Storytelling sessions held for children with special needs

Storytelling sessions held for children with special needs
Beneficiaries of the event include children with intellectual disabilities and hearing impairment, aged 3 to 36 years old

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – In celebration of National Children’s Book Day on Tuesday, July 18, volunteers had a chance to serve children with special needs through a storytelling seesion.

Volunteers from the Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV) participated in storytelling sessions organized by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Philippines (RHMC), and Adarna Publishing House. These sessions were simultaneously conducted in in this city and in Makati City.

The Baguio leg of the event was conducted in partnership with the A Child’s D.R.E.A.M. Foundation Incorporated, Baguio City’s first pediatric therapy center for exceptional children. (READ: Forum on autism opens opportunities for help and encouragement)

Beneficiaries of the event include children with intellectual disabilities and hearing impairment, aged 3 to 36 years old. They came from the foundation, and the Benguet SPED Center in Wangal, La Trinidad.

Volunteers from CISV, from 14 to 15 years old, joined the special kids for their Local Impact Day, where volunteers were encouraged to get involved in the local community. The CISV volunteers come from 9 different countries, namely Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Norway, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

What it takes to volunteer

Working with special children is a tough job. To be a volunteer, one must possess genuine care and passion to serve children with exceptional needs.

“I think…it’s a heart of service, understanding, and compassion. I think it’s the attitude that we’re here for them, not what’s in it for me? But what can we do to help,” said Anne Marie Dimalanta, administrator and education specialist of A Child’s D.R.E.A.M.

INSPIRED. Campers from CISV listen attentively to a storyteller during National Children's Book Day Celebration in Baguio City. Photo by Cielo Marie Esmeria/Rappler

“If you’re a SPED teacher, you must have, a big heart….You have to have understanding and patience most of the time. And as a part of teaching, you have to have passion, and love these kinds of children,” said Violeta Santos from Benguet SPED Center.

The stories and what they tell

The stories selected, with the theme “Keeping Families Close,” reflected the battles of the parents with special kids, and aimed to inspire the parents to continue their fight.

A professional storyteller from Adarna Publishing House performed “Papel de Liha (Sandpaper)” by Corazon Remigio. “Papel de Liha” is a story of a mom whose hands are comparable to sandpaper because of the hard work she does around the house. The child, however, disagrees because he believes that his mom’s hands work wonders around the kitchen and when he is sick, unlike rough sandpaper that hurts the skin when rubbed against it.

The storyteller said Adarna Publishing House chose the story in keeping with the theme. In the story, a mother’s care for her family is highlighted.

Ronald McDonald also told a story entitled, “Bilog na itlog {The Round Egg)” by Al Santos. The story puts emphasis on being unique, and reminded the kids that there is nothing wrong with being special.

The storytelling session initially aimed to empower the children and their parents through literature, but the volunteers shared that they, too, were inspired.

“I feel that I learned a lot from them, and I hope they learned from us, too,” said a CISV volunteer.

The volunteer shared her experience of interacting with a child with hearing impairment, and the difficulty of communicating. However, she shared that even without words, they were still able to “communicate and have fun.”

“[We had] a chance to understand how they communicate, and to communicate back to them also, so we built a friendship,” said another volunteer.

More attention for special children

The country currently has many awareness campaigns regarding persons with disabilities. (READ: FAST FACTS: What persons with disability are entitled to)

Pursuant to Proclamation No. 361, s. 2000, the country observes the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week every third week of July. The country also designates every third week of January as Autism Conscious Week, and the second week of February as the National Intellectual Disability Week (Retarded Children’s Week). The country also has a Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

“So far, as time goes by, we notice that government agencies are now recognizing these programs for special children. We are involved in the Palarong Pambansa, we are also involved in our municipality during the celebration of National Disability Week, so we are happy that we are now recognized in the society,” Santos said.

However, Senate Bill No. 468 or the proposed Special Education Act was only filed last year and is currently pending in Congress.

“We still need a lot of help [from the government]. We need more budget for them. Like we have kids who are in SPED but who don’t go to everyday because of scheduling and they are the ones who need to be in school everyday but they are not in school everyday,” shared Dimalanta.  (READ: A long way to go for special education)

“We’re not really giving any importance….And that’s the really sad thing about it, because when we talked about it [in camp] that, ‘Hey, we’re going to a special needs foundation,’ and they [foreign campers] were asking, ‘Why is there a need for you Filipinos to have a center? Why do you not incorporate it in schools?,” said Krishna Rilveria-Abubo, Camp Director for Camp Umali in CISV Baguio. (READ: Local governments urged to prioritize programs for PWDs)

Meanwhile, the event held at the Nemesio Yabut Elementary School in Makati featured storytelling sessions and games for children with exceptional needs from Nemesio Yabut Elementary School, Pembo Elementary School, Hen. Pio del Pilar Elementary School, Francisco Benitez Elementary School, and Palanan Elementary School.

“Literacy empowers us to be a part of the empathy generation, through stories, we learn to value each other’s perspectives, we learn how to be in each other’s shoes, in essence, we learn how to love one another for our differences,”  explained Francis M. Dimalanta, Board of Trustee Member of PPS and RMHC. – With reports from Hannah Mallorca/ 

University of the Philippines – Baguio students Alexa Yadao and Cielo Esmeria are Rappler interns. Hannah Mallorca, a student from De La Salle University, is also a Rappler intern.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.