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MANILA, Philippines – Early in December 2023, Daniel Buberis arrived at Gawad Kalinga Paradise Heights in Christmas fashion – wearing a Santa hat and bringing a bag filled with gifts for the children attending school at the foundation.
It has been a few months since his last visit, but the children eagerly waited for the man they remember to be behind all the sports equipment they’ve been playing with since pre-pandemic.
And true enough, Buberis continued to bless the humble school with basketballs and volleyballs, apart from the school supplies the students use daily.
Buberis, a former Tennis Australia strength and conditioning coach, is one of the directors of Project 6 Foundation. The Australian organization uses sports to support the development of underprivileged children in disadvantaged communities, particularly in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.
Having helped top Australian sports stars Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis reach their best potential fitness-wise, Buberis’ passion for sports and physical activity extends beyond the elite level.
Buberis was abandoned as a baby in an orphanage in Project 6, Quezon City, and was eventually adopted by Australian parents Peter and Judy in 1981.
Buberis then grew up with sports, playing Australian football and cricket with his dad.
“Until sadly, my adoptive mother died when I was 13 years old. And then I started to struggle with my identity, and sports found a way for me to be able to interact, be occupied, make me feel good, socialize and to learn more skills,” shared Buberis, who pursued playing high school football.
After graduating from a business course, he eventually took up a master’s degree in exercise science to make sports a career. As a strength and conditioning coach, he has worked and trained youth teams, international teams, elite and professional athletes.
His return to the Philippines was brought about by a conversation with his son, Rommel, who asked to see his baby photos, which he did not have. Together with his wife Kylie, the family visited the orphanage he came from for the first time to reconnect with his past.
In his journey of search back in the Philippines, he came to realize a greater purpose in his identity struggles in the past.
“I didn’t set out to set up a foundation, but it’s never been about myself in terms of who I am and how I came to this situation of being adopted,” shared Buberis.
“There’s a part of me that feels I have an obligation to make sure that I do not lose sight of where I came from, but also ensure that the children that are less fortunate have the benefits of someone reaching out to them and giving them perhaps an opportunity in life.”
Since 2018, Buberis has personally visited communities like Manila’s Smokey Mountain and Quezon City’s Project 6 – the district which the foundation is named after – and empowered local coaches to hold sports clinics and develop physical education programs. The goal is to address the country’s problem of physical inactivity among children and adolescents.
In 2022, the problem still exists as a nationwide published study confirmed that majority of children and adolescents in the Philippines do not meet the recommended amount of physical activity for health despite Filipino athletes taking the international stage and the government’s efforts to stage competitions such as the Palarong Pambansa.
“One of the challenges is being able to resource the lower-end of the economic scale by providing the necessary infrastructure and equipment as well as the education that goes along in terms of upskilling the coaches and teachers. So for me, that’s where I see opportunity as well as a challenge,” said Buberis.
Project 6 Foundation has been providing sports equipment, coaching and school supplies since 2018 to fulfill its vision of improving the welfare of children in its partner communities.
Buberis has been raising funds in both Australia and Philippines through donations and staging tennis fitness clinics, thanks to his coaching experience.
Jane dela Cruz, the director of Mithing Pangarap Educational Foundation which is based in Paradise Heights, said that Buberis’ contributions have inspired the children to love sports.
One of the students won second place in a table tennis tournament and some kids have joined football competitions in their own public schools.
“Nababalik ang kinagisnan ng mga bata sa sports sa halip na gumagamit lang sila ng cellphone, so kahit papano gumagalaw ang katawan nila at nagagamit ang mga dino-nate ng mga materials and equipment,” said Dela Cruz.
(The kids are getting back to enjoying sports instead of just using their cellphones, so in a way, they are able to move their bodies and use the materials and equipment that were donated.)
Project 6, which has formed partnerships with other communities, hopes to continue the work it has started and expand to other sectors that need the influence of sports and physical activity.
“My aim is to support at least around 50 schools and orphanages over the next five to 10 years through the provision of providing equipment, school stationery, medical supplies, food, clothing, whatever is necessary to grow and engage, and hopefully, remain active and healthy,” said Buberis. – Rappler.com