Gerry Dela Zerna: Teaching hope to special children

Do you think this finalist deserves to be the Pitong Pinoy "People's Choice" awardee?

Vote at Yahoo! PH Pitong Pinoy

"Learned helplessness" or the belief that they have no control over their situation always threatens to plague disadvantaged, disabled or special Filipino children, psychologist and college professor Gerry Duwin Dela Zerna said.

But he has vowed to do what he can help them unlearn it.

"Since I was exposed to the difficulties faced by street children and children with special needs as a college student, I have been actively involved in charity work," Dela Zerna, now 52 years old, told Yahoo! Southeast Asia in a phone interview.

Dela Zerna joined the United Nations Children's Fund as a volunteer in college and assisted in psycological assessments of physically, mentally or emotionally handicapped children.

When he graduated, he became a "street educator," holding classes for homeless children.

"I found the act of tending to neglected children more fulfilling compared to simply giving them money," Dela Zerna said.

When he took post-graduate courses on abnormal psychology, however, Dela Zerna became more interested in children with special needs. He now teaches abnormal psychology and special education in several universities.

"Every month, my classes would have outreach programs for special children aside from literacy programs for non-readers who are imprisoned," Dela Zerna said.

"Young people nowadays have a tendency to rebel against their parents or their families if their demands are not met. What I want to tell them is that they are still lucky," he added.

Dela Zerna in 1997 founded Guided and Unified Interaction for the Development of Children, Inc. (GUIDE, Inc.), a volunteer organization aimed a promoting the welfare of children and youth with special physical, mental or emotional needs--including orphaned, abandoned and street children.

The group annually conducts a 10-day summer camp for children.

Over 2,000 children have benefitted from the program which has been held in Batangas, Benguet, Ilocos Sur, Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro and Romblon, among others, Dela Zerna said.

"We search for a certain area in the coutnry with low awareness for children with disabilities, conduct awareness campaigns and take the children there for the camp," Dela Zerna said.

The group also provides free psychological assessments and therapy sessions for marginalized families in these areas, he added.

"Right now the priority of families is food for the table. But children should be able to play, travel and enjoy. We hope to be able to provide that if their families cannot," Dela Zerna said.

Asked how his group can afford such a program, Dela Zerna quipped: "It's manna from heaven."

He noted that he prefers fund-raising activities such as raffles, bingo or selling products made by beneficiaries over aid from international organizations.

"Not all of these organizations understand the needs of Filipino children. A Filipino should think for the Filipino. We do not shut our doors for funding but when we see that vested interests are being served, we beg off," Dela Zerna said.

Dela Zerna is not losing hope that there will be more state funds for programs targetting children with special needs, but he is not pinning his hopes on government either.

"Our leaders lack political will because they are of the impression that persons with disability (PWDs) are not a strong voting force," Dela Zerna said.

This leads to "limited laws" on children with special needs and PWDs in general, he said, noting the need for policies that mandate support for special children as soon as they are diagnosed.

"Special children will not stay in school for the rest of their lives so we have to help them transition from school to work," Dela Zerna said.

Social skills should also be honed aside from economic skills, he added, highlighting the importance of "Filipino play."

"What we can do is make meaningful activities attractive for children. We must invite them to be better individuals," he said.

Read about the other Pitong Pinoy finalists here.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Nonviolent disciplining of kids pushed

    Child rights advocates called on senators to pass and strongly endorse a law that will institutionalize positive and nonviolent methods of disciplining children.The Child Rights Network (CRN), Plan International Philippines (PIP), Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPCD), and Lihok Pilipinas Foundation led the call for the enactment of the Positive Discipline Bill.Several Quezon City Council members led by Majority Floor Leader Jesus Manuel Suntay, Victor Ferrer …

  • Method to their madness

    [caption id="attachment_256768" align="alignright" width="212"] Illustration by Rod Cañalita[/caption] EMMANUEL PORTUGAL Country Manager for the Philippines, VMware I look after the garden. I’d like to think that I have a green thumb—no plants have died so far! The ones I like now that I planted a few months ago is the Blue Iris. Like the town in the movie, my Blue Iris shows up in the morning and only appears for one day. …

  • JGFP Summer Tour on today

    The summer tour for local junior golfers kicks off with the holding of the ICTSI-JGFP Baguio Junior Open today and tomorrow at the treacherous Baguio Country Club course in Baguio.Sixty players aged 6 to 17 years old are entered in the 36-hole tourney serving as the opening leg of the summer circuit organized by the Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines with the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. Foundation as main sponsor. ... …

  • PH now market ready to absorb infra bonds

    The Philippine market is now ready to absorb infrastructure bonds that will be issued by private companies amid a growing pipeline of infra-related projects under the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. President Benigno Aquino III last week said the government is still committed to spend more on the country’s infrastructure, with 16 PPP projects currently on the pipeline and nine that have already been awarded. Over the years, some of the country’s biggest infrastructure …

  • Filipinos are saving more – BSP survey

    More Filipinos have the extra cash to save for that proverbial rainy day, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Philippines (BSP). Based on a quarterly survey on consumer confidence, domestic households with savings have the means to increase family reserves and to bring up the amount to historical highs. The central bank said improved family income, a generally positive outlook on the economy, inflation and foreign exchange rates encouraged saving behavior during the first three months of 2015. …

  • AXA Philippines growing alongside its parent firm

    Philippine AXA Life Insurance Corp. is growing side by side with its parent firm, global insurance firm AXA, after posting significant growth in its total premium income amid an increasing market share in the country. A statement showed that in the Philippines, multi-billion firm AXA Group saw P18.35 billion in total premium income. The local entity of AXA, AXA Philippines is a joint venture between AXA Group and the Metrobank Group. In 2014, it saw an increase in market share to 11.6 …

  • End to traffic jam in sight? Japan to lend P4B to PHL for road projects

    The Japanese government will be providing some P4 billion to the Philippines for road projects aimed at decongesting monstrous jams in Metro Manila.Noriaki Niwa, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said the loan will cover major interchanges to address traffic congestion in Metro Manila, including flyovers, and road links.Among them are the interchanges on EDSA-Roosevelt/Congressional, EDSA-West/North, and C-5-Green Meadows and North/Mindanao Avenue. ... …

  • US won’t provide flexibility for countries interested in TPP

    Washington D.C.—The US government will not provide any flexibility for potential member countries, like the Philippines, in their bid to become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a senior official said. Economic and Business Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary William E. Craft, Jr., said all restrictions stated under the TPP trade deal will be maintained and have to be met by the current and future member countries. Earlier, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options