June 28, 2017
For young adults who finished high school, there's no end to life's possibilities. They can go to universities, take up a course, engage in sports, or simply live the life they wanted.
But the case is different for young adults who are intellectually handicapped or disabled.
They are usually shut out of that quintessential high school experience unless they are already content to just stay at home.
A Japanese volunteer in Dauis, Bohol is trying to change that. Akiko Sugiyama who was dispatched in Bohol under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Program of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has set her sights to bring more meaning to the lives of young adults with intellectual disabilities in Bohol.
Sugiyama, a teacher in Yokohama and Kyoto, Japan, completed her volunteer work under JICA for Tagbilaran City Central School SPED Center in 2015 and has returned in Bohol to put up a support center for youth with disabilities who graduated from the SPED Center.
"This is my personal project. I really wanted to help young people with disabilities lead productive lives," said Sugiyama.
Called the Babita House, a two-storey dormitory and a native house where youth with disabilities learn math, sign languages, reading, writing, and recently a livelihood activity making miniature toy tricycles.
Inspired by the many centers for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Japan, Sugiyama said the activities in Babita House could help young PWDs in Bohol become more productive and earn something for themselves.
The toy matchboxes, handmade by intellectually handicapped youth in Babita House, are modeled after Bohol's popular motor tricycle, a cultural symbol.
Initially, only one student can make the toy tricycle using matchboxes, but now more students are able to make them using chipboards. With help from another Japanese volunteer Shiro Takaki assigned at a design fabrication laboratory in Bohol, the materials for the toys are laser cut and the young people from Babita House glue them together, paint them, and build them. Now sold as souvenir items, sales are given as allowance to the young people making them and also as support to the center.
"The center also receives donations from people in Japan and every now and then we host study tours for Japanese visitors who want to learn more about PWDs and how they can be supported," added Sugiyama.
"Boholanos are kind people. Life here is slow, but for volunteers like me, it makes us happy to see that people with disabilities are able to enjoy life without discrimination," Sugiyama shared.
In reality, disabled young people face challenges to do things that normal kids do. But, the Babita House project shows that significant change can happen when these youth are given equal opportunities in life too.
Former Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer Akiko Sugiyama has returned to Bohol to continue her work with PWDs
The Babita House is a two-storey dormitory and a native house where young PWDS learn math, sign languages, reading, writing, and engage in livelihood activities
PWDs from Babita House produce toy tricycles out of matchboxes as part of their income generating activities