Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views • Issue no. 13 April-May 2002

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Philippine Organization of Disabled Persons Evolves into Comprehensive National Service Provider
By Venus M. Ilagan (bbc701@surfshop.net.ph)

During the last 10 years, KAMPI or DPI-Philippines has evolved to become a disability service provider - a far cry from its former role of just a plain and simple advocacy organization of mostly un-empowered grassroots people with disabilities in the Philippines.

With the determination and goodwill of its leaders, KAMPI - a federation of 240 grassroots organizations of disabled persons in the Philippines, managed to mobilize substantial amounts of funds from overseas and local donors the last 10 years, which enabled the Federation to implement projects that complemented and augmented whatever services were made available by the Philippine government to address the myriad needs of Filipinos with Disabilities.

Below are some of the more significant undertakings of DPI-Philippines the last 10 years:

1. Breaking Barriers for Children Project. In the early 1990's, there were over 5,000 so-called day care centers for pre-school non-disabled children spread all over the Philippines. There was nothing that catered to the needs of children and young adults with disabilities. Leaders of KAMPI or DPI-Philippines have been advocating for services for disabled young people for years - government was consistent in overlooking this population. In 1995, then president of KAMPI, Venus Ilagan, tried her luck in accessing funds for a small pilot project that will provide rehabilitation services to children with disabilities - the most vulnerable of disabled persons in the Philippines.

The Danish Society of Polio and Accident Victims (PTU) positively responded to the request for financial support. By accessing funds from the Danish International Development Agency, KAMPI and PTU started implementing the Breaking Barriers for Children Project (BBC). Five (5) regional Stimulation and Therapeutic Activity Centers (STAC) were established in succession in strategic regions of the Philippines. The STACenters provide free comprehensive rehabilitation services to children with disabilities aged 0-14 years of age. The services include free physical therapy, occupational therapy, pre-school training, school placement for disabled children, skills trainings for their parents, and medical assistance through referrals to hospitals and other health facilities, where these services were needed.

The initial 3 years of partnership between KAMPI and PTU has been quite successful that it was extended to another 4 more years (1998 - 2003). We are now on the 3rd year of our current phase of the project. As we continue to reap success, PTU has agreed to a proposal for another 5-year extension of the partnership (2003-2008).

BBC currently serves 6,394 children with disabilities (as of March 2002), 732 of whom are now in school after showing significant improvement in their mobility and functions as a result of their rehabilitation. Due to increasing demand for its services, 60 more community-based centers were added to our initial 5 pilot centers.

Recognizing the feasibility and importance of these facilities, local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines have entered into a memorandum of agreement with KAMPI for the LGUs to absorb and fully subsidize the operation of the STACenters after two years (the time within which KAMPI can fund the facilities) to ensure their sustainability. Simply said: we initiate the effort, government takes over and assumes the responsibility afterwards.

As of December 2001, 26 of our 60 centers have been fully absorbed by government and are continuing to provide services to poor children with disabilities. We expect to be able to turnover all 6o community-based centers and the 5 main (regional) centers by March 2003. This will enable us to expand in other areas of the country and serve more children in need of our services.

This partnership between KAMPI and PTU clearly demonstrates how PWDs from a developed country like Denmark can concretely and significantly assist their peers in a developing country in building better lives for the disabled.

The Philippine government which used to be skeptical about the sustainability of this effort has eventually recognized Filipinos with disabilities not just as mere users but also as providers of services.

Not just an organization of disabled persons We are happy and proud of the fact that KAMPI is not just an organization of disabled persons. We are providers of various disability services and an employer of 56 allied medical professionals (physical/occupational therapists, rehabilitation doctors, social workers and special education teachers) who provide the professional expertise which we, the disabled do not have at the moment. We are happy with our partnership with our professional-employees. We conceptualize and we own the project, they implement it for us!

2. Livelihood Projects. With the success of the BBC, grassroots leaders of disabled persons were encouraged to work closer with their local government units to mobilize resources for their own livelihood activities.

Funds were made available for skills trainings of entrepreneurs with disabilities. After the trainings, the government provided seed capital to enable the trained PWDs start their income generating activities.

To date, KAMPI's grassroots organizations established and operate 5 wheelchair production centers, 3 school chair manufacturing shops, several canteens or food vending facilities, rice retailing shops and many others - owned, managed and fully operated by persons with disabilities and their organizations.

The wheelchair and school chair manufacturing centers generate an increasing amount of job orders from government schools, hospitals and other institutions. Workers (with disabilities) who are involved in these undertakings earn decent incomes to support families instead of being mere burdens to their communities. Again, government is realizing that there is wisdom in helping disabled persons help themselves and they're learning from us.

3. Developing the leadership potentials of women with disabilities. KAMPI is proud of its being one of the few national assemblies of DPI in the region, which over the years, has distinguished itself of having women as its top leaders. In a study conducted two years ago by Mr. Akiie Ninomiya of Japan, he found out that more than 40 percent of the leaders in the grassroots organizations that comprise KAMPI as a national federation, are women.

Since its creation in 1990, KAMPI has consistently demonstrated willingness to allow its women-members to grow, realize their potentials and assume leadership positions. Women were elected to office in the national, regional, provincial and grassroots levels.

This "open-mindedness" and appreciation for women's leadership has enabled the Philippines to produce the first ever woman-chairperson of DPI Asia-Pacific in the person of Venus Ilagan.

To further pursue its efforts for women empowerment, KAMPI has linked up with the Abilis Foundation of Finland which has provided funds that enabled DPI Philippines to undertake initiatives for the empowerment of women leaders with disabilities. As a result of this effort, the Differently-Abled Women's Network (DAWN)-Philippines was born and is now taking the lead in developing the potentials of young women with disabilities.

4. Training of Teachers on Special Needs Education. As the number of children rehabilitated in the STACenters increased over the years and they needed to be enrolled in regular schools afterwards (there are few special schools in the Philippines), KAMPI realized the need to assist government in mobilizing resources for the training of regular teachers on special needs education to increase their capacity to accept disabled children in their classes.

With funding support from Denmark, KAMPI has signed a memorandum of agreement with the government to assist in the training of so-called "receiving teachers" to enable them to accept children with disabilities in their classes. KAMPI commissioned a pool of special education specialists who developed a training module on special needs education used in the training of teachers. To date, the project has catered to 400 teachers as of March 2002 and continues to benefit teachers in need of skills to teach learners with disabilities.

KAMPI piloted the project which, after showing proofs of success, is now gradually being assumed by government. With this interest of government in the program, KAMPI will be most happy to bow out of the scene to embark in other pilot disability efforts that may later be adopted and up-scaled by the government itself for the greater benefit of more persons with disabilities.

5. A 6,000-member strong national organization of parents of children with disabilities. Parents of children with disabilities being served by our STACenters have bonded themselves together to organize the National STAC Parents Association of the Philippines, Incorporated. This group of parents, trained by our projects to be strong advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities in general, have become very important allies of KAMPI in mobilizing support from the local government units to ensure sustainability of KAMPI's various efforts. The parents association has been relatively successful in mobilizing resources not only for children's projects but also for adult persons with disabilities. They have evolved into a potent pressure group that reminds our political leaders that the sector of disabled persons is one sector which can deliver votes during election time thus, making politicians think twice before turning a deaf ear to our requests for logistical and funding support for the sustainability of our efforts for disabled persons.

KAMPI has several other initiatives which I may not be able to include in this mail. However, if you need additional information, you can contact my office in Manila.

We will always be thankful of the support of our colleagues from Denmark, Japan, Finland - our major partners in our initiatives - and the Philippine government, which over the years, has gradually recognized our capacity to assist in providing services to persons with disabilities. We are most happy of the government's openness to linking up with KAMPI in the delivery of services to disabled persons in need of these. While it may take many more years before Filipinos with disabilities can finally enjoy the kind of support they rightfully deserve from their government in view of current economic and political difficulties- we are pleased of the fact that DPI-Philippines has taken a pro-active role in showing government that if given the support, disabled persons can be the most effective catalysts for their own development as equal citizens of their country. We did our share of the effort and now we are slowly but surely reaping the dividends.

Executive Director, KAMPI
And Chairperson,
Disabled Peoples' International
Asia-Pacific Region

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