Sunday, December 27, 2015

Discovering a Haven for the Differently Abled

Discover the unique and unusual—this has always been my mantra whenever I travel. I go to great lengths to explore lesser known destinations to satisfy my desire for new experiences. The thrill and excitement I get from exploring the not-so-ordinary things in life makes the hassles and hazards of the trip worth it all.

Haven of hope for persons with disabilities


Sometimes, however, one doesn’t have to go too far to stumble upon something unusual. Sometimes it could be staring you in the face. Somewhere out there, in a not so distant location, there’s something fascinating just waiting to be discovered that could change the way one looks at life.

DJF provides hope to paraplegics all over the country

Novelist Marcel Proust aptly put it when he wrote: “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” That’s exactly what happened to me recently when I embarked on an unusual yet interesting sojourn to an uncommon destination—Davao  Jubilee Foundation (DJF) in Davao City. 

Organized almost thirty years ago, DJF is a non-stock, non-profit organization offering physical rehabilitation services to amputees and other people with disabilities, particularly those from armed conflict areas in Mindanao. Together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), it has established a state-of-the-art prosthetic and orthotic workshop that is fully equipped to produce lightweight artificial legs and braces made of polypropylene. 

DJF also provides free ear screenings to their patients

DJF is probably the only institution of its kind in the country that’s supported by the ICRC, a neutral and impartial global humanitarian organization that assists and protects victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. ICRC has been sending patients from war-torn areas to the Foundation for over a decade now.

Aside from this, DJF also provides services for the prevention of hearing impairment and rehabilitation of hearing disabilities in partnership with the Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM). The foundation conducts ear screenings and provides interventions and referrals for hearing impaired patients.

I’ve been hearing about DJF but it was only recently that I got to know more about its significant contributions in promoting the welfare and protection of the differently abled, people who have limited and/or impaired capabilities to see, hear and walk—a largely overlooked segment of the population which the United Nations refer to as “persons with  disabilities” or PWDs. 

In its 2006 Convention, the UN defined PWDs as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” PWDs constitute roughly 10 percent of the world’s population, with about 80 percent of them living in developing countries.

DJF's prosthetic and orthotic workshop

I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are PWDs that is why I was interested to visit DJF and see for myself what exactly the Foundation is doing to alleviate their plight. Through this, I wanted to help make life better and easier for some people I know who are in dire need assistance from the Foundation. 

What made my sojourn to DJF an extra special one was the chance to catch up on things with its Operations Manager—Cheryl Arellano or Che, as we fondly call her—who   happens to be a dear friend from way, way back. Whenever we meet in parties and other gatherings, she always made it a point to remind me to pay the Foundation a visit and write something about it in my blog.

Che, who happens to be a PWD herself, had been egging me and our college buddies to pay her a visit but time constraints and conflicts in our schedules kept us from going there until recently.  When that day came, I was exhilarated to see her as we listened to her briefing about the Foundation.

A couple of years ago, DJF, with the support of ICRC opened its state-of-the-art prosthetic and orthotic workshop that is fully equipped to produce lightweight artificial legs and braces made of polypropylene, instead of fiberglass. With this, amputees can now have access to durable and affordable prostheses manufactured at the Foundation.

Polypropylene, according to Che, is relatively cheap, ductile, recyclable, and has a long storage life. She added that the technology that DJF employs makes it possible for them to tailor-fit the prostheses and make these more responsive and adaptive to the individual needs of their patients.

The ICRC has been providing DJF with support, enabling it to enhance its prosthetic services, which are one of the main needs of people physically disabled by injuries resulting from armed conflict. DJF has a gait training area where patients could practice using their new prostheses.

Short as the visit  to DJF was, I learned a lot from my conversation with Che, not to mention, the quick facility tour she gave me. Indeed, the differently abled—the paraplegic, the sightless, the speechless, the hearing impaired—are just like us. They have their own dreams, hopes and aspirations. With the support of individuals like you and me as well as institutions like DJF, we can help them get back their life and find their respective niches in the mainstream of society. :-D