Nick has cerebral palsy. I met him and his very supportive family in July 2006 when he participated in the running clinic that Foundation University organized, in partnership with the Metro Dumaguete Roadrunners Club (MDRC). Nick was brought along with other children of similar status by the GPRehab, an organization serving the needs of children with disabilities (CWDs).
Nick’s first race was some 300-meters at the Rizal Blvd. Then he progressed to running the 3K. Now, he is a permanent fixture in all races; his most recent was the Kasaligan Run held Oct. 16 in honor of the late Mayor Agustin Perdices.
When Nick approaches the finish line, giving everything he has got, as if his very life depended on crossing the line, he always attracts the admiration of the spectators, and is greeted with applause.
After the race last Sunday, he noticed me at the sideline, and without any bidding from his family, he approached me to make mano po. I guess it’s his way of showing his appreciation for the role I played in providing him and other CWDs with the opportunity to participate in play and physical activity.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the charter that is most-signed by member-states. Adopted in 1989, it spells out the basic human rights to which every child, everywhere, is entitled. The CRC sets out in a number of articles, the rights of all children and young people up to age 18.
Art. 31 prescribes: “State Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. (“State Parties” refer to all the states and countries that are signatories of the convention). “State Parties shall respect and promote the right of the children to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”
Art. 23 of the CRC likewise states: “A mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community. This includes additional care and assistance where appropriate, free of charge whenever possible. Interestingly, even children of minorities or of indigenous people must have the right “to enjoy their own culture, and to practice their own religion and language.”
The United Kingdom has come up with a Charter for Children’s Play containing eight statements describing children’s right to play in detail under the headings: 1) children have the right to play, 2) every child needs time and space to play, 3) adults should let children play, 4) children should be able to play freely in their local areas, 5) children value and benefit from staffed play provisions, 6) children’s play is enriched by play workers, 7) children need time and space to play in school, and 8) children sometimes need extra support to enjoy their right to play.
In response to the mandate of the CRC, FU founded the Institute of Youth Sports for Peace (IYSPeace) on July 7, 2007. The Institute’s main program, Children & Youth @ Play is envisioned to provide opportunity for children and youth, regardless of social status and talent, to participate in sports. For the past four years, children and youth in Negros Oriental compete in organized competitions in futsal, football, basketball, volleyball, and running. Next year, athletics will be included in the program.
To provide a physical symbol of the CY@P, a three-story building is under construction at the FU north campus. Once finished, the facility will be used exclusively by children and youth engaged in sports, play, recreation and leisure activities. Research work focused on child growth and development, and the impact of sporting activities on the formation of young people will also be an integral component of the program. The IYSPeace will be a haven to test the validity of the vision and mission of the prescriptions of the UN-CRC.
Last Oct. 25, Analou Suan, GPRehab director, invited representatives from the academe and other NGOs who have the potential to provide services to CWDs. The meeting was hosted by St. Paul University. Among those who attended were: Dr. Josefina Paltingca, SPED in-charge of West City Elementary School; Dr. Lynn L. Olegario, director of the SU Institute of Rehabilitative Sciences; Isabelita Diaz, a social worker; Dr. Caridad Maadil, dean of St. Paul University College of Arts & Education; Nida Wu, SPED faculty of SPUD.
The meeting aimed to explore the possibility of consolidating the support and assistance that various institutions provide to CWDs. FU was specifically assigned to fulfill the mission, vision, and values relevant to Art. 31 of the UN-CRC, now translated into a world-wide movement Children Have the Right to Play.
The group committed to support and provide assistance to CWDs in Negros Oriental, and to achieve the vision and mission of the right to play movement: “To create a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play.”