Danish Organisation is Breaking Barriers for Diabled Children

With great success PTU has for more than ten years helped disabled children in the Philippines to a better life. With DKK 16. million granted from Danida, PTU is now expanding the programme “Breaking Barriers for Children” to .include diabled young adults between the age of 15 and 24.

“For a long time we have realised, that there is some kind of vacuum for children who finish treatment in one of our centres, if they are not offered other opportunities,” says Philip Rendtorff, manager of PTU.
    Together with Vice Chairman Mogens Pedersen and Project Coordinator Henning Munk, he has been in the Philippines for about two weeks to visit some of their already existing treatment centres for children and to initiate the set up of four new treatment centres for young adult.
    During their stay in the Philipines they also participated in a conference arranged by PTU’s partner organisation in Baguio where PTU’s new project was presented together with an overview over the previous phases. Here the local government representatives had a chance to discuss how they could support a national initiativ about a general implementation of the project . The conference was attended by politicians from all over the Philippines. “We hope to promote the project so in the long run this could be a national initiative which can be spread out over the entire country,” he says.
At the already existing resource centres disabled children can today receive help with training and different treatment methods. “We take in children who are identified with a handicap. Together with a paediatrician and a physiotherapist we make a plan of action based on physical training and treatment and if needed special education,” Mogens Pedersen explain. The staff at the centres is well educated Philippinos who are employed by PTU. “We make sure we employ the right staff which can take care of children with all sorts of handicaps such as blind, deaf, and physically and intellectually disabled children,” says Henning Munk.
     “When the plan of action has been made we start the treatment, but only if the parents are willing to join in and make sure that the children will have the right follow up at home.” says Mogens Pedersen. The social workers at the centres help the parents to find materials and to write application for extra equipment and operations if needed.
    After the children have achieved their goals at the resource centres they can receive further training at the smaller satellite centres. The staff here is partly professionals and partly volunteers. “The satellite centres are spread out into the local areas typically in the poorer areas, because our target group is poor families,” says Henning Munk. “There are no resources from the authorities here. Those who have nothing get nothing. So all the help these children get come from the centres and the families.”
    After a period of two and a half year for the resource centres and one and a half year for the satellite centres, PTU will pull out and leave the management to the local authorities, who have committed themselves by contract to take over the project. So far this hand over has been very successful. “In about 85 per cent of the cases this is a success. That is quite a huge rate compared to other projects,” says Philip Rendtorff.

The Punishment of God
The issue of handicapped children is linked with taboos and shame in the Philippine culture. “If you have been such a bad person, that you get a handicapped child you don’t want anybody to know,” says Henning Munk. “We have experienced families hiding their handicapped children away in the slum where they live. Only by gossip we have been able to find these children and get them to our treatment centres,” he adds. This has previously been a huge challenge for PTU’s work. But the attitude seams to be changing. At least in the 120 areas where PTU is working.
    “We have many times experienced mothers with tears in their eyes, saying that they now they can finally communicate with their children, because they have learned sign language or found an other mean of communication. The moment there is communication the personality shows and the person is recognised as a real human being for the first time,” says Henning Munk. “Our aim is to get the handicapped children out in the light and offer them treatment. And to make society here realize that there is a problem with needs to be taken care of.”

Young adults
Although PTU has good experiences to draw from their work with children the challenge has been to find a model for young people. Most of what is done of work of this kind is done in western countries and the structure of a family here is completely different. People are Catholic and the father is head of the family. Young people don’t have much of a say in this, ” Mogens Pedersen explains. For PTU it is necessary to keep a balance. “We don’t want to interfere to much with this culture – it wouldn’t work because then they don’t want to participate at all,” he says.
    The aim of the “Independent Living Program” is to enable young people to take care of themselves “A lot of them cannot walk when they are coming but they are learning. We keep building on what they already can do in order to give hem a better quality of life,” Henning Munk explains. “If they have not gone to school we try to find a possibility for them in the school system”.
    PTU also want to make associations for the young adults so they can support each other and maybe by a common lobby effort achieve support from the local municipality for training and financial support.  “For those who do not succed well in the school system we can offer IT training and vocational training according to their abilities,” he says.

Apart from Danida the projects are also receiving support from the World Bank.  “There is a lot of attention to our programme here, and the World Bank has decided to support us with USS 200.000 for extra activities, ” says Henning Munk.
    According to Philip Rendtorff the success of  PTU’s programme is due to former experiences.  PTU runs a rehabilitation centre in Rødovre, which has a lot knowledge and insight in treatment methods. As an organisation for people who suffer from the consequences of polio and accidents, PTU promotes the interesrts of persons with disabilities to all relevant authorities in denmark. “PTU is a unique combination of a organisation and special hospital management which we can export to the Philippines,” says Philip Rendtorff. And by doing so Phillip Rendtorff feels that he is really making a difference to people.
    “It is nice to do things here, that really matters. Of cause we help people in Denmark as well, but here we are giving a chance to people who would never have had one otherwise,” he finishes.
    Apart from the Philippines PTU is also working on supporting an organisational capacity building project together with a local partner organisation of disabled in Vietnam.

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