A Home for Children with Special Needs

The Servants of Charity in the Philippines have been providing a home to indigent and abandoned children and young adults with intellectual disabilities. The Guanella community in Quezon City is also a place for discovering, cultivating, harnessing, and enjoying their talents and skills.

The Servants of Charity in the Philippines opened the doors of Guanella Home for Special Children in 2010. But as early as 1996, the congregation was already taking care of abandoned children and young adults with intellectual disabilities.

“In 1996, we started welcoming children who were practically abandoned. Some still had families, but they had been neglected because of poverty,” said Father Luigi De Giambattista, Servants of Charity (SC) superior delegate.

Nestled in the middle of flourishing villages in barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City, the congregation started providing shelter to 12 indigent and deserted children with special needs in 1996. The 12 children had been sheltered in what is now an office in the Guanella community, which was inaugurated by the late Cardinal Sin on December 12, 1993.

Currently, the Guanella Home for Special Children has 19 residents, mentioned Albert Ramos, the supervisor at the residence. The disabilities of the occupants include Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy. “Most of our residents have Down syndrome,” Ramos said, who has been with the residence for the past 19 years.

Children with Down syndrome “have limited intellectual capacity,” De Giambattista said. “But they can learn and develop skills. They can be very friendly.”

The residents go to school every day, he added. They attend special education (SPED) classes. Others go to the livelihood classes. Both the SPED and livelihood classes are taught inside the Guanella community in barangay Pasong Tamo.

The residents who had finished the SPED go to the livelihood class, where they train in making doormats, dishwashing soap and other handicrafts.  “No one is just sitting down and waiting to be fed, or to be helped in his own personal hygiene,” De Giambattista added, noting that the residents are trained in personal hygiene, especially those who are physically able.

De Giambattista stressed that intellectual disability is different from mental illness. “Mental illness requires medicine – he explained -. Intellectual disability requires care and stimulation to develop their potential and become independent in their daily activities.”

The congregation had not only been founded to provide shelter to persons with special needs but also to help them uncover their abilities and cultivate them. “Our founder, Saint Luigi Guanella did not only want to take them in and give them a shelter for their protection,” De Giambattista said. “In his mind, every person has his own capacities. Even if limited, we need to aim at developing these capacities.”

The Guanellians have programs for developing the skills of children with intellectual disabilities. They assess what one can and can’t do. “Based on these assessments, we go to designing activities,” De Giambattista explained.

The residents also see the outside world and meet other people. “Every month, there are activities outside Guanella Home for Special Children,” Bro. Bruno, a Congolese member of the Servants of Charity, said. “We visit parishes. In the parishes, there are activities that involve children with special needs.”

“We encourage our residents to interact with people from outside,” De Giambattista said. “Our mission is not only to take care of persons with intellectual disability but also to create a welcoming community in the parish and the barangays so that the prejudice against mentally challenged children will be reduced little by little through their interaction with other people.” (Oliver Samson)

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