04/18/2014, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Central Luzon: making learning fun in summer camp for 150 "special" children

Organised every year by the GUIDE association and its chief and founder Gerry Duwin Dela Zerna, the event this year is set for 25 April to 4 May. The NGO works with children with disabilities, like Down syndrome or other physical and learning disorders. Dedicated, the activist has turned down offers from abroad worth thousands of dollars in order to take care of Filipino children.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - From 25 April to 4 May, about 150 "special children" from different parts of the Philippines will come together in Orion, Bataan province (Central Luzon) for a summer camp that includes fun, games and learning.

The goal of this particular event is to give children with disabilities an opportunity to develop basic abilities and skills that will enable them, as they grow up, to exercise greater independence and take care of themselves.

For Gerry Duwin Dela Zerna, president and founder of Guided and Unified Interaction for the Development of Children, Inc. (GUIDE, Inc.), the camp will be "a big playground" where the kids will be able to "roam around" and do activities that will allow them to learn, experience things and plainly enjoy life.

"Special" children living with disabilities like Down syndrome or other special physical, mental or emotional will take part in the ten-day workshop during which they will learn good manners, proper table conduct, how to wash and take a bath on their own." For organisers, the aim is to raise their awareness and sense of independence.

These kids "are capable of autonomy," said Dela Zerna, a Catholic, "and parents do inspire them to do basic things on their own by encouraging them to emulate their actions."

However, special kids generally look for a sign of approval from their parents before carrying out a particular act in public, which indicates dependence on parents, something that GUIDE wants to discourage in favour of self-confidence and self-reliance. That is why parents will not accompany the 150 participants.

Instead, the children will take part in a number of activities, including quiz games, story-telling, play-acting, kid Olympics, and folk dancing. Such activities are geared towards motivating the "special" children and developing their potential and creativity, as well as build up their self-esteem and sociability.

Gerry Duwin Dela Zerna's vision, passion and dedication for disabled children is the driving force behind the project. In recognition of his work, he was selected by Yahoo! Southeast Asia as one of the "seven modern day Pinoy (Filipino) heroes" of 2012.

This year, he also received Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Award, which goes to people who illustrate themselves in the social or volunteer field.

In his professional life, Mr Dela Zerna also turned down an offer to tutor the son of the king of Saudi Arabia for a US$ 2,000 monthly pay. He also declined an offer to be the principal in a New York school for US$ 12, 000 per month in order to remain with "his" children.

Each year the GUIDE group organises the ten-day summer camp. Over the years, it has attracted more than 2,000 children with a variety of challenges.

The association helps, among other, children with Down syndrome, children with physical and mental disabilities, as well as street kids.

 

 

 

 

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