What I Learnt While I Volunteered for a Camp for Children with Special Needs

picPedya Kamp is a 10-day summer camp that God’s Special Children, Inc. organizes annually in different localities outside Manila, Philippines. The camp, founded in 1991 by Dr. Art Libao with other doctors of Makati Medical Center, serves people who are mentally retarded, physically handicapped, autistic, orphans, abandoned and street children. For 23 years following  its establishment, Pedya Kamps were held in Lucena, Batangas, Roxas City, Palawan, Bacolod, Iloilo, General Santos, Cagayan de Ordo, La Union, etc. The next one will be in Sarangani, Mindanao from April 22 to May 1 of the year. To become a volunteer, you must pass the screening and complete the ten-week training that will teach the essentials in handling children with special needs. All expenses are shouldered by the institution to fully accommodate the participating volunteers and campers.

I first discovered Pedya Kamp during one of the conversations I had with my sister. Hannah is a student taking up the course of Special Education. She knows that like her, I too love volunteering in different activities that involve interaction with children. Both of us believe that children should be nourished, fostered and loved. It has become a good hobby of us to enjoy their company in different community immersions we volunteer in.

What’s special about Pedya Kamp is its popular connotation of being a free “travel and learn” experience. Different youth volunteers around Metro Manila travel to far-flung provinces in the Philippines to experience a full 10-day camp together with the special children. Activities include provincial tour, festivities, mascarades, swimming, theater play, sports, cheering and a lot more. There are also the Sunday Mass and the Bisitang Bahay where family residents of the province foster the campers for a day. During the entire camp, bonding and having fun are sued as means for the children to feel and realize that they are worthy to be loved and cared for.

To be surrounded by this kind of environment is an upliftment to a human person. I can feel the intense level of compassion we, Filipinos, have for our countrymen. It is simply inspiring to know that there are still a lot of youth who wholeheartedly reach out to the people with special needs. The spirit of pagtutulungan (helping each other) is highly exemplified through receiving and giving of love by the volunteers and the campers.

In Pedya Kamp, one will surely experience what it is to become one family in solidarity. Just like what the World Youth Alliance upholds, children with special needs of today have the same equal human dignity just like everyone of us. It is important that we give them an environment where they are respected for who they are and celebrated for what they can do. They should be fostered in culture where there is appreciation for life. In Pedya Kamp, all these become possible. It is truly a life-changing event one should experience in his lifetime.

“Some people think that those of us who volunteer to take care of these children are busy teaching them things about life.  On the contrary, when we spend time with our little angels in Pedya Kamp, we are busy learning from them” – Honey Sacro Libao, Pedya Kamper

By Angelica Destajo, a regional intern at World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific.