People with disabilities, especially young adults, often find it difficult to establish life-long friendships. But a group called Best Buddies aims to change that by creating opportunities for one-on-one friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Each young adult with disability is paired with someone with the same interest for the whole year. Together they participate in events and other shared activities to create long lasting friendships.
To help the Best Buddies program, SM opened its doors recently to around 25 pairs of “best buddies” under the project for a round of bowling at SM City North Edsa.
Angelina Onrubia, Director of Best Buddies Philippines, said the bowling activity is a most welcome event that makes their program more valuable and meaningful. “We are extremely delighted that SM Cares and SM Bowling hosted us for this event. Participants look forward to these activities because of the sense of belongingness and inclusion that they get from this,” Onrubia said.
Christian Juan Suarez, Division Manager of SM Bowling Center, said they have been always open to such projects because it is consistent with SM’s advocacy of being a mall for all.
“This kind of activity is always welcome to SM because it’s part of our advocacy of being a mall for all. We want people to feel at home and welcome at SM regardless of their condition and stature,” Suarez said.
Onrubia also said they have enlisted six pairs to the Best Buddies program, which started early this year in Manila, with more individuals expressing their willingness to sign up.
One such pair is Clarence Cruz, a 21-year call center personnel with a developmental disability. He is paired with 22-year old Andria Dimaculangan who is a fourth-year college student taking up special education.
Dimaculangan said her friendship with Cruz has opened up a lot of realizations for her on people with disabilities. “I used to think, it would be hard to interact with them but as I soon found out that, it is fun and inspiring because they know how to enjoy life and they are genuine people who would accept you for who you are. There’s no judgment,” she said.
She said she makes it a point to regularly communicate with Cruz and takes him to lunch or dinner from time to time. “I learn something new every time. And I would encourage everyone to take part in this program because this would give them a sense of fulfillment and gratitude,” she pointed out.
Onrubia said they have been getting positive feedbacks from parents of PWDs who are taking part in the program. “It gives them so much joy to be able to introduce what friendship means to their children. And it has given their children a whole new way of dealing with people and having fun along the way,” she said.