At the 12th Philippine Special Olympics, Emilda Soriano won a gold medal, two silver medals and a bronze medal in track and field. Her national triumph qualifies her for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
The Philippine games represented the first time Emilda was away from her parents. The Special Olympics were held at Pangasinan in the north of the Philippines, many kilometers away from where Emilda lives in Iloilo, in the southern part of the country.
Emilda had a high fever on the day of the competition. Reynaldo, Emilda’s father, says,
“I cried so hard thinking about how she was doing. I got worried because I knew she would still compete despite the fever. I was so sad we couldn’t be with her.”
Despite her high fever, Emilda did compete and win the 100-meter dash.
“She was very happy. Well, she’s always happy after running at the track. Winning or losing doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t even matter whether she was in a competition or not. She just loves to run,” says her coach, Gen Mahinay.
Months before the competition, the chances of Emilda joining the national event were very bleak. Her parents could not afford to buy her new shoes, a uniform and vitamins. They had no money to pay for the psychological and medical tests necessary before competing. They couldn’t even afford the transportation fare to go to the local sports complex for practice. For Emilda and her mother to go to practice twice a day – once in the morning and once in the afternoon – they need close to $1.25 a day. That’s a huge amount for parents who sometimes can’t afford to feed their two daughters. So Emilda and Vilma walk four kilometers every day to the sports complex. Reynaldo earns $6.25 a week as a tombstone maker. Vilma tries to augment this by washing clothes, but she can’t work every day because she can never let Emilda out of her sight. “She is a teenager now, and living in this neighborhood is dangerous, especially for someone who is mentally challenged.” The family lives in a crowded squatter community beside the public cemetery. Half-naked drunken men litter the streets every hour of the day. For 10 long years, Reynaldo and Vilma hoped for Emilda to get well. When she was 2 years old, Emilda had a convulsion from high fever. She was unconscious for six days. After she woke up she never responded to people in a normal way.
Vilma enrolled her precious daughter in a regular kindergarten only to be disappointed that Emilda could not grasp the basic concepts that a child her age should easily understand. Vilma held on. She worked hard washing clothes and used the family’s little money to keep sending their daughter to kindergarten for 5 years. Emilda never recovered. Still today, Emilda cannot recognize letters, colors, or numbers; she can’t sing, dance, or memorize Scriptures. Although she can talk and communicate, she can’t stay focused on a conversation long and loses a sense of what she’s saying after a few sentences. But she can run. “My problem was she couldn’t run in a straight line,” Coach Gen explains. “But she practices so hard every time. I tied her foot to the end of the lane so she could see where to go and somehow that worked.” In several of the local competitions in Iloilo, Emilda lost some races because she would crisscross from lane to lane, although she sometimes did cross the finish line first. A few weeks before the Special Olympics in Pangasinan, Joseph Alba, the director of Salem Student Center, called Vilma to tell her the good news. Emilda would compete at a national level. The student center bought her new shoes, a uniform, plane tickets and paid for the psychological and medical tests. “We will support Emilda all the way. We are very proud of her achievements.” Although the student center and the church can shoulder Emilda’s local and national competition expenses, it’s beyond their ability to help her compete internationally. The government cannot financially support athletes competing in the Special Olympics and so help must come from elsewhere. Emilda lost her chance to compete in one international competition because her family did not have the money. Nobody backed her up. Today, Emilda is one of the best-known students at the Integrated School for Exceptional Children of Iloilo City. She got into this school because of Compassion, and it is here that she was introduced to running.
Reynaldo and Vilma make sure to save the $27 for her annual tuition fee, and Emilda continues to train at the sports complex every day with her mother.
“I would give everything for my daughter. Now that she is enjoying life as an athlete, I try not to worry about her future when she would be by herself once we leave this life. Hers is a very bleak future.”
Because of financial lack, Reynaldo and Vilma may never see their special child’s triumphant moments on the track. If indeed she became the first Compassion-sponsored child to win an Olympic medal someday, they may just have to settle with hearing stories about it.
“We’re just hoping that someday the competitions would take place here in Iloilo where we only have to walk four kilometers to see our daughter compete.”
Editor’s note: This story was originally written in 2009. Compassion Philippines now requests your help to send Emilda to Greece to compete in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games this June.
Courtesy of Compassion International: http://blog.compassion.com/the-making-of-a-special-olympics-champion/#ixzz1Fb1FDYyp
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By: Angelo G. Garcia
To represent the Asia Pacific region as ambassador in the Special Olympics 2013 World Winter Games
For the first time, a teenager with Down syndrome was chosen as an ambassador for the Asia Pacific Region to the World Special Olympics in January 2013. Brina Kei Maxino, 15, along with two other "special" ambassadors will represent the region in the special sporting event that will be held in South Korea.
Her penchant for telling stories, natural charm, and energetic disposition became the key factors way she was chosen by the Special Olympics Philippines as the region's representative. As an ambassador, she will participate in seminars and the awareness on persons with special needs.
These World Special Olympics is a sporting event for athletes with mental disabilities such as Down syndrome, and autism, among others.Apart from the Filipino athletes with special needs who will compete in the games, Brina is another person to be proud of.
May 2011 Metro Manila, Philippines
Training the Trainor moderator Amran Siregar awarding the certificate National Football Coach to Joselito Angeles of CALABARZON.
Last May 14-15, 2011, SO Philippines organized and conducted a seminar on Basic Football (5-A-SIDE) rules and procedures together with the necessary First Aid application for injuries during a football competition event.
The Seminar was attended by 14 football coaches from 13 sub-programs of SOP. It was conducted by Mr. Amran Siregar who flew in from Jakarta, Indonesia to conduct the 2 day seminar.
The topics that were covered included athlete preparation and training, football rules (5-A-SIDE) and first aid application, together with an orientation on Special Olympics.
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Spirit, Winter 2007; Vol. 12 Number 3 p17
Kaye Chastine Samson
Special Olympics Philippines head coach Kaye Samson, 27, laughed as she confessed that as a teenager, when she saw the Rain Man, she was fascinated by the portrayal of the character with intellectual diasability, and she knew then that it was her calling. "Working with people with intellectual disabilities became my mission and I was passionate about it." She followed through with it and became a special education teacher.
She got involved with Special Olympics four years ago and became a powerhouse for the organization. As head coach of the country's first World Games badminton team, she had to learn the sport and with characteristic determination set about to teach herself and her four-member team everything they needed to know. To get proficient, they trained everyday for nine months, from 6-9 a.m. before school started. Samson had to get up even earlier to prepare and bring breakfast and snacks for the team.
She related that one of her players was so poor that on a Monday during practice, she stopped in the middle of the session because her stomach hurt. The young woman had not eaten since the team's breakfast the Friday before. "This player was so thrilled to be on the team, she never missed one practice, even when she was tired, sick or hungry." Samson marveled.
Although Samson never mastered any one sport, she had high hopes. "I dreamed of being in the Olympics when I was a small girl," she said. Her love of sports has been fully realized in Special Olympics. "For me, Special Olympics is God's gift, and it's a much better blessing to be able to help others reach their dreams," she remarked. Her badminton team did realize their dreams at the 2007 World Summer Games by winning gold, silver and bronze medals in singles and mixed doubles.
Samson says emphatically Special Olympics makes a difference in the lives of the athletes. "It teaches them discipling and confidence." She said parents were surprised that their children jumped out of bed before dawn without help to ensure they got themselves to practice on time. "I constantly visit schools and urge them to have their students join Special Olympics."
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Twenty Five years ago, if someone even suggested that I could be the father of a special child, I would have considered that statement as a joke made in bad taste, or I might have even felt insulted. But today, like the millions of parents who care and love their special child, I have come to realize that although life may be a little harder for me as a father of a special child, the rewards are greater.
I do not claim that having a special child means that I am a super father or that I am different from the fathers of normal children.
I feel the same disappointments, the same joys and the same everyday anxieties that all fathers who care for their children, normal or special, would feel. Yet I feel different from other fathers with normal children because I have become more aware of the simple activities of life that normal persons easily take for granted.
Activities such as washing our hands, or saying a few words to complete a phase; activities such as telling time or remembering dates and places; Activities such as following very simple instructions or merely concentrating on a funny television program. I have come to realize that aside from being present, a parent must share the activities with his special child. Parents with a special child must have the patience to repeat mundane actions everyday to ensure that the child learns how to change his clothes, learns how to use a plate together with a spoon, fork, and glass every time he takes his meals, and learns how to use soap and water to keep his body clean and healthy. In short, to teach the child the most basic activities in order to survive. For some of us parents who are more fortunate, our special child might learn how to read and write, participate in selected sports events, and even acquire basic skills necessary to perform a work task. Some special children even learn how to develop their special talent such as playing a musical instrument or performing artistic activities such as folk dancing or watercolor painting.
With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to proceed to my topic this afternoon: Parent Empowerment.
Translated into daily human activities, parent empowerment means the ability of a father and a mother to accept that their child will grow up disabled, different or unique from normal children.
Parent empowerment means that a father and / or a mother must accept their child for what he IS and what they will later become; a perpetual child inside an adult’s body.
Unless a miracle happens sometime in the child’s lifetime, a parent has to accept that the child will forever remain intellectually or mentally simple in his activities, no matter what normal physical changes occur in his body. Up to this date, no medical cure has yet been discovered to replace or correct brain disfunctions.
Parent empowerment means that parents with a special child must be dynamic. They must be prepared to sacrifice their pride, their time and their dreams in exchange for the HOPE that their child can live as normal a life as possible. Many parents with a special child will never experience the satisfaction of a graduation ceremony, the joy and excitement of a wedding day, and the fun of preparing a birthday party for a grandchild, yet, all the effort and pain of having a special child is rewarded ten-Fold with that unquantifiable hug or kiss extended by a child to his father or mother or by that endearing phrase that can melt any hardened heart “Daddy. I love you!”
No one in this world can love your child as much as you can, just as nobody will love you as much as your child will, as long as your child feels and knows that you, as his parent, accepts him for what he is, your very own flesh and blood.
Parent empowerment may sound so complicated, so full of idealism and artistry, yet in everyday language my friends, it means LOVE, sacrifice, hard work and total commitment without any reservations or thought of material reward or glory.
Parent empowerment is the strength to ignore the traditional concept of society that mentally challenged children are the product of the sins of mis-behaving adults or the beliefs of ignorant superstitions.
Parent Empowerment is the determination to give the best to your child by seeking answers to problems that appear so overpowering that we parents sometimes forget that other parents or experts may have the solutions, and the answers are there, if only our pride would stop paralyzing our ability to behave more rationally than emotionally.
Parent Empowerment is the total commitment to accept each of our children as different and unique from our self and from their other brothers or sisters just as we unquestioningly accept the reality that some persons are brighter than others, some are prettier than others or that physical disability is no different from mental disability as far as living normal lives is concerned. Would you find a blind person or a deaf – mute uglier, funnier, or scarier than a person with a learning disability? Why then the reason to feel ashamed of your special child?
Lastly, and I believe this definition to be the most important of all, Parent empowerment is the wisdom, to accept that our special child comes from God and we, as parents, are only guardians of God’s gift. All of us are here today because God has a reason and a purpose for each one of us to be present and alive right now. For this fact alone, no parent is qualified or justified to question God’s wisdom and reject his gift.
Let me close my talk with a word of caution: a man and / or a woman who knowingly rejects their own flesh and blood because their offspring happens to be different is likewise proclaiming to the world what great fools they truly are, because only fools believe that they alone are perfect, and the rest of us earthlings are human.
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Ng, now 21 years old, first became involved with sports at an early age, having trained in athletics and swimming. In addition to her athletic training, she also enjoys keeping up with the latest fashion trends — shopping is a favorite pastime. Ng also possesses a beautiful singing voice.
Currently attending the vocational workshop at Teacher-Mom Special School, she makes the time to practice her bowling techniques and improve her scores. She compliments this with regular gym workouts. Her coach Cristy Gacuma describes Roxanne as "determined and focused in her game, with a very disarming smile in practice and during competition."
Ng is very happy to be a part of the Special Olympics movement, which has always meant a great deal to h er and enriched her life.
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it was a nerve-wracking experience for us (her family) when she competed at the Special Olympics Philippines National Games for the first time in 2004 because she faced competitors accompanied by official coaches and friends/townmates (as cheer leaders) while she only had me (her mother) as coach and cheer leader (her father had to be at work and her brother could not skip school).
But Lia did us proud as she won her first gold medal, which she brought to school to encourage her classmates, who are also children with special needs, to participate in Special Olympics events.
Lia began training, and in 2006 it paid off when she accepted the challenge of competing with a new partner in the 2006 National Games. We went home with voices hoarse from cheering, but with great pride and joy because Lia won three more gold medals in badminton and the privilege of representing Special Olympics Philippines in the World Summer Games in Shanghai, China.
In October 2007, Lia left for China with the Special Olympics Philippines delegation. With much anxiety, we saw her off with the team. It was the first time she had been away from us for more than one day. A week later, I took leave from work and went to Shanghai to play the role of fan and cheerleader.
It was my first experience at a Special Olympics World Games, and I didn't know what to expect. When I saw Lia after a week of missing and worrying about her, I found that I had no reason to worry after all. She was enjoying herself tremendously, having met new friends. She told me about her experiences with the volunteers and athletes from other countries and the places she had been. I felt good for her.
When it was time for her matches, my anxiety level went a notch higher. Lia had specifically asked me not to shout my cheers as this might cause her to lose focus, so I clapped my hands until they turned red so she would know I was there for her. Win or lose, I embraced her and gave her words of endearment and encouragement.
The long walk and train rides to Baoshan (the province in Shanghai where the badminton event was held) and my red palms were worth it because Lia won two medals - a silver medal in Mixed Doubles and a bronze medal in Women's Singles.
Lia's accomplishment did not go unnoticed. Her father and brother, who had stayed in the Philippines, called every night to find out how she had done and kept all our friends informed. Every relative and friend knew of Lia's medals even before we got back to the Philippines.
Her school posted pictures of her on the bulletin board and gave her a bouquet during a school-wide program. I made a scrapbook of her experiences in China which we proudly showed to relatives. Her brother, a varsity badminton player in one of the universities here, proudly shares his sister's accomplishment with his friends and classmates. He never misses the opportunity to show them Lia's medals and scrapbook!
Lia's shining moment has made her a better person, ready to take on new challenges and face her future with greater confidence. As her family, we are proud and happy for Lia. We believe that with God's blessings and our support, Lia can prepare for her future as a self-sufficient and productive person.
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