Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Yakap: Embracing Our Differences -- a Must-See Film Advocating for People with Special Needs and Their Families

It can be hard to imagine how life is with a family member who has special needs -- until, perhaps, you spend some time to take a peek into our daily lives and see how we exactly face the challenges of parenting a special child.

our special needs family (minus our firstborn who was at the office) 
But why would you need to do that, you ask? The thing is, a lot of people still find it hard to accept others who are differently-abled and are resistant about including persons with special needs into the mainstream population. 

A compassionate society -- this is where the vision and mission of the Center for Possibilities Foundation (CPF) revolves. The organization was formed 10 years ago by Dolores Cheng, whose son Andreas (now 22) was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay when he was three years old. "There were no support groups for his particular type of disability. I didn't know where to go, who to see, where to find what I needed to know," she recalls. 

Dolores with participants of a football game organized by the CFP
"I wanted to understand what it meant to raise a child with special needs. So I thought that maybe if I formed a group of my own, I would be able to ring a call to other people who might be in the same boat and need some help." CFP members come from different backgrounds, different types of families and family lives. "It represents how the world is," Dolores describes.

Since its establishment, CFP has gotten involved in teaching skills and promoting inclusion in underserved sectors through support groups, literature, film showing, and orientation. They have also published books about persons with special needs and organized athletic events that allow special kids to shine.   

the film's logo
This September, CFP launches its biggest project to date: a film produced by Dolores and directed by Danny Anonuevo. Entitled YAKAP (or Embrace, in English), the film provides audiences a glimpse into a day in the lives of Evangeline "Gelli" Aventajado, a four-year-old with Down Syndrome; Aaron Joshua "AJ" De Quiroz, an eight-year-old with Epilepsy, Autism, and Global Developmental Delay; and Kevin Avelino, a 45-year-old with Global Developmental Delay. 

All three stories are narrated mostly from the points of view of the parents and by Kevin who, admirably, is very independent and has a job working with fellow individuals who also have special needs. "Nothing was scripted. Everything that you will see is natural and unplanned," says Dolores.

Gelli and her parents
More than a film, Yakap presents profiles of true courage -- of sons and a daughter whose disabilities are the only reality they have ever known, and who live their lives the only way they know how, in spite of curious stares, pointing fingers, and hidden smiles -- and of parents and family members who may have grown up thinking normal was everything but ended up learning that different can be the new normal.

According to Dolores, "In line with CFP's vision, we wish for all children with disability to be embraced into the mainstream of our lives and to be treated the way we treat each other -- with compassion, respect, dignity, and acceptance."

AJ and his mom
As a mother to a son with Cerebral Palsy who cannot talk nor walk, I can totally relate to my fellow parents' hopes and fears for their children. It's hard not to wonder (and worry) what will become of our child when his dad and I are already gone. But, like other special needs parents, we do our best to keep the faith that God will continue to be there for James as He has always been since our son was born. We also find ways to give him a comfortable and happy life despite our many limitations.

CFP hopes to bring the film to different places and generate more awareness that there is a need to respect the potential and promise of persons with special needs. They are volunteering to do special screenings in schools and to tie up with community organizations. 

Kevin teaching another young man who also has special needs
Aside from advocating for a compassionate society, CFP is also on a quest to build and operate Special Education (SPED) Centers for indigent communities where there are children with special needs who are undiagnosed and untreated. As of this writing, a SPED Center is already open in Sagada while another in Norzagaray, Bulacan is expected to start operating later this year. Sometime in 2017, the group also aims to open two more centers in Tacloban and Sorsogon.

The Centers are brick and mortar structures with tables, surrounded with stimulating materials, equipment, and learning tools that are used to teach kids the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Enrollment is free to help alleviate the cost of taking care of special children from families. Each SPED Center will be operated by a teacher trained in the SPED division of Reach International School. The Centers will also include parent support groups.

one of CFP's parent support group meetings
"In many parts of the country, especially in remote areas, there is no government center dedicated to the identification, recognition, much less support and treatment for persons with special needs," explains Dolores. "Many special children are physically mature but have cognitive and behavioral challenges so it is imperative that we create centers of learning that can teach them some skills with which they can live with some form of independence and dignity."

To arrange for a special screening of Yakap and to know more about how you can help in the establishment of the SPED Centers, please log on to or call (02)723.1242 or (0918)888.1759.   

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