February 2016

Unicef launches children’s books in Filipino, English

@inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 04:14 AM February 23rd, 2016

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has launched a series of storybooks for children in Filipino and English.

In ceremonies held on Friday at SM North Edsa, Unicef introduced the Children’s First! Storybooks, a collection of six books that promote reading to inspire children’s imagination.

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Actress Anne Curtis, Unicef’s celebrity advocate, graced the launch as she is also the author of “Anita The Duckling Diva,” one of the six books.

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Unicef Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander said the storybooks, written in Filipino and English for children 3 years and above, talk about different topics such as overcoming shyness, cultivating friendships and reaching for one’s dreams.

The book launch was in partnership with SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Supermalls.

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Apart from teaching important lessons to children, the books also contain child-friendly versions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as Internet safety reminders for young people.

Slywander said proceeds from the sale of the books would benefit Unicef’s programs for children in the Philippines and around the world.

‘Happy Walk’ small event no longer, draws record number of attendees

By: Maricar B. Brizuela Philippine Daily Inquirer
FATIMA, a 2-year-old baby with Down Syndrome, was among the over 3,000 participants in this year’s “Happy Walk” aimed at promoting “acceptance and inclusivity for people” with the genetic condition.

Carried by her aunt, Joy Espiritu, Fatima interacted with other children with Down Syndrome and persons with disabilities (PWDs) as they gathered at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City on Sunday morning.

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“I wanted to bring her to this event so she can mingle with other people with Down Syndrome,” Espiritu said, adding that she and her niece came all the way from Tarlac province.

A licensed occupational therapist, Espiritu said she was teaching Fatima how to walk, stand and even communicate with her family.

Now on its 14th year, Happy Walk set a new record for attendance with more than 3,000 participants on Sunday compared to between 1,000 and 2,000 in previous years.

Sunday was also the first time that the United States Embassy in the Philippines took part. Ambassador Philip Goldberg lauded the event for “[bringing] public recognition to a community that is getting more self-confident, to highlight the problems and issues in a way that will benefit many many people.”

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Growing public acceptance

“I think that public acceptance of kids with Down Syndrome and other PWDs is a very important feature of every democracy and that is what today is all about and we are very happy to participate,” Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Inc. (DSAPI) president Elmer Lapena said.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support [for] our advocacy because we were expecting only 1,500 people but more than 3,000 people showed up. We are just very happy and honored by all the love being given to us and our children,” he added.

The annual Happy Walk is the project of DSAPI in partnership with SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Supermalls. It is conducted every February to coincide with the celebration of National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month.

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The chromosomal condition is commonly linked with intellectual disability, a weak muscle tone in infancy and a certain facial characteristic.

Lapena said that there was no known cause or cure for this condition with one person with Down Syndrome born in the country every four hours.

He added that Down Syndrome has become a “common genetic disorder” which affects one in every 800 Filipino children.

“This is why it is vital that their inclusion in Philippine society is achieved,” Lapena said.

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From Roxas to Skydome

Launched in 2002, Happy Walk back then was described as “a small gathering” on Roxas Boulevard that later on was transferred to the SM North Edsa Skydome.

But organizers said that the numbers became bigger last year with the 1,200-seater Skydome unable to accommodate all the participants.

SM Prime Holdings President Hans Sy, meanwhile, said that advancing the cause of PWDs has become one of their advocacies with SM earning the tag of most PWD-friendly mall due to its amenities for people with special needs.

SM’s Happy Walk draws biggest crowd in 14 years

By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 22, 2016 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The annual Down Syndrome awareness event of SM Supermalls set a new record yesterday.

Over 2,000 people joined this year’s Happy Walk for Down Syndrome in its new home at the SMX Mall of Asia – a significant increase from the 1,200 who attended last year. It was the biggest crowd in the event’s 14-year history.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support to our advocacy because we were expecting only 1,500 people, but more than 2,000 people showed up. We are just very happy and honored by all the love being given to us and our children,” said Elmer Lapena, president of Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines (DSAPI).

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The event became more special with the attendance of a delegation from the US embassy, led by Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who attended the event for the first time.

Goldberg said the US government has always advocated for the acceptance and inclusivity of people with disabilities (PWDs) in the communities and society.

Goldberg also participated in the walk around Mall of Asia with SM president Hans Sy and officials of the DSAPI.

“We are very happy to be part of this very important event. We thank SM malls for sponsoring this event and we are happy to participate because what is does is to bring public recognition to a community that is getting more self-confident, to highlight the problems and issues in a way that will benefit many, many people,” Goldberg said.

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“I think the public acceptance with kids with Down Syndrome and other people with disabilities is a very important feature of every democracy and that is what today is all about and we very happy to participate,” he added.

Coinciding with the National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month celebration, Happy Walk has become a bigger event. From just a small gathering on Roxas Boulevard in 2002, the event transferred to the Skydome at the SM North Edsa.

When the gathering proved to be too big for the 1,200-seater Skydome, Sy and SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Supermalls, offered them the much bigger SMX at the Mall of Asia.

Lapena said SM has always been instrumental in the successful holding of Happy Walk.

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“We could not thank Mr. Hans Sy and the whole SM enough for their never-ending support. We could never be this successful without their help and this is another milestone for us because of their support,” Lapena said.

Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21, is a condition in which an extra genetic material called chromosome 21 causes delays in the mental and physical development of a child.

There is no known cause or cure but Lapena said 80 percent of babies with the condition are born to mothers aged 35 years and below. The risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome increases as women get older.

Health data show that one person with Down Syndrome is born in the Philippines every four hours.

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Lapena said contrary to popular belief, Down Syndrome is a common genetic disorder that affects one in every 800 Filipino children. This is the reason why it is vital that their inclusion in Philippine society is achieved.

Advancing the causes of PWDs is one of the advocacies of SM Cares. Through the years, SM Cares has instituted key programs to address the needs of PWDs which earned it the reputation of being the most PWD-friendly mall in the country.

All SM malls have dedicated areas for parking and disembarking for PWDs, special restrooms, ramps, Braille signages, designated areas for PWDs in theaters and dining rooms as well as utilities within accessible height like pay phones and wash room sinks.

Mall security guards and personnel are also trained to respond to the unique needs of PWDs.

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