Today, I had the privilege to visit and see for myself the only shelter for Filipinos with intellectual disability that is run by the national government. A shelter where they can stay for free, and hope for the best care that they can get. Although still not an optimum care, it sure is better than being abandoned.
Yes, abandoned. Elsie Gatches Village in Alabang houses more than 600 persons with intellectual disability, ranging from three years old to around 60. Most of them, if not all, don’t receive visitors anymore, even on Christmas. EGV is all they have. Of course, EGV can only do so much, given the limited personnel running the place, especially teachers (there are only three, yes THREE, teaching the kids to a minimum of writing their name). However, given the very limited resources, not all learn.
They classify the clients according to how they are socially something(I forgot what they are called). Some are profound, those that can read and write. The social worker who showed us around (I’m really very bad at remembering names) said that there are about four children who finished high school under the public school system. Thinking about it now, a very good follow up question would be “where are they now? What do they do? Are they able to live independent lives?” Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking that straight at the time because of the mixed emotions I was having.
Another category is the trainable. The lowest level is the untrainable. I’m really having a hard time believing that there are persons that cannot be trained, or even develop in any domain over the course of time and repetition. Okay, let’s say that there are persons there with multiple disabilities, but with perseverance and patience, I still believe that they can progress, no matter how minute that would be. Maybe the reason why they cannot progress, or why they cannot be trained, is because everyone believes they cannot be trained, cannot progress.
Our EDSP 122 class is supposed to make materials for beginning writing. On the way home, I thought, no matter how good the materials we’re going to make, if there’s nobody who would assist the students in the mastery of the skill the material is targeting, then the materials would remain as display. It would accumulate dust (just like the books in the donated library), thus not really helping these people.
In one of our exercises in class, Teacher Susan asked us what angers us most. I wrote down abused children, and those who are deprived of proper education. This is what I encountered in EGV. They don’t have access to education because of their disability, and there are few teachers who would want to, or would have the heart, to teach them, especially if earning a living for one’s family occupies the top priority. It’s just unfair. It wasn’t their fault they were born with a disability. How come they’re so short of love? Maybe, it is better to ask, do they realize this shortage? Maybe, for them, the world is just so simple that they don’t realize (or don’t care) that they have been abandoned.
At this very moment, I remember Georges from the French film “The Eight Day.” He had down syndrome and truly, he saw the world in a more simple way, than we “normal” human beings. He simplified the life of Harry, and in the long run, making him happy.
As of now, I don’t know what I can contribute. I know I want to help out, to contribute to progress. Also, know I have to build up my career, to take it one step at a time, until maybe, I would be able to work in either UNESCO or UNICEF. It’s a budding dream, and I don’t know if I’m meant to be in these agencies. I’m praying that I would learn to let go of all these concerns and dreams, because I believe that in the act of letting all these go, I am also holding on to the One who can make all things happen.