July 2016

SM Leads Efforts for PWDs and Senior Citizens in Disaster Resiliency

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Retail giant SM Supermalls is leading efforts to empower People with Disabilities (PWDs) and Senior Citizens by giving them a voice in discussions involving disaster response and management.

More than one thousand PWDs and senior citizens trooped to the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia last Wednesday, July 20, to be part of the second Disaster Resilience Conference for PWDs and Senior Citizens organized by the SM Cares Program on Persons with Disabilities, in partnership with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the SMX Convention Center. The conference was also held in support of United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

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The event was the second time SM sponsored the Disaster Resiliency Conference for PWDs and senior citizens in order to provide adequate information about the reality of potential earthquake/disaster scenario happening in Metro Manila and make them better prepared and resilient during times of emergencies.

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Disaster experts had revealed that should a major earthquake occur in Metro Manila, 35,000 will die instantly and 175,000 will be injured. Majority of the casualties will be PWDs and the elderly because of their physical condition.

Annie Garcia, President of SM Supermalls, in her speech during the conference, said since it has been recognized that PWDs and senior citizens are the most disadvantage due to their limitations on mobility and awareness so that it is necessary that they are taught all the information on how to survive calamity.

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Annie Garcia, President of SM Supermalls

“PWDs and our Senior Citizens have proven time and again their own courage in overcoming the odds. Their own bravery in facing life’s hurdles. They are our paragons of perseverance and willpower. In today’s conference, we want to nurture that strength and determination by equipping them with the right information and know-how to enable them to face the natural disasters that hit our country year after year,” she said.

During the conference, more than 1,000 PWDs and senior citizens were taught basic survival tips during times of emergencies. Their caregivers are also given some pointers on how to assist their wards during disasters.

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Forum speakers, Dr. Clarita Carlos, University of the Philippines Professor and Disaster Management expert, Emerson Carlos, Chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority and Ted Esguerra, Operational Medicine Instructor of the International Disaster Response Network, discussed how people can prepare themselves in the face of possible earthquake including standard protocols for the community. UN Country Representative to the Philippines, Mr. Ola Almgren, was present during the event, to deliver his message of support for the initiative.”

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Dr. Clarita Carlos, University of the Philippines Professor and Disaster Management expert

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Emerson Carlos, MMDA Chairman

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Ted Esguerra, Operational Medicine Instructor of the International Disaster Response Network

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Mr. Ola Almgren, UN Country Representative to the Philippines

During the conference, PWDs and the elderly pushed for a national ID system to enable the government determine their exact numbers for more appropriate and sufficient delivery of services, including better disaster response and management.

Clarita Carlos said there is a need to finally put up a National ID system so that all Filipinos will be properly documented. “In a national ID system, once a baby is born, he is given a number and all his or her details in placed in that single number. The government will be able to know immediately if he is eligible to vote, what his status and once he or she becomes a senior citizen,” Carlos said.

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She said it is about time the government seriously considers and implements the system because of the conflicting numbers of PWDs and senior citizens available in many government organizations vis-à-vis international groups and non-government organizations.

“Take for example the number of senior citizens based on record provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The PSA estimates the number of elderly to 5.4 million but the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) puts the number of 7 million. We at the UP puts the number at 5.6 million. There is a big difference,” Carlos stated.

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Noli Agcaoili, of PWD group AKAP Pinoy, stated the same is true with the numbers being given to PWDs. He said the PSA places the number of PWDs in the country to 1.5 million but the United Nations estimates it to be between 12 to 15 percent of the population or 12 to 15 million Filipinos.

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Noli Agcaoili, AKAP Pinoy

Carlos said knowing the exact number of people with PWDs and senior citizens is crucial to the delivery of services to these particular sectors. “We need to provide a unified and exact number because government response will depend on how many are involved. It cannot be more or inadequate especially in times of disasters and emergencies,” Carlos stated.

 

Thousands of Children Celebrate Book Reading Day in 68 SM Malls

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Thousands of grade school children across the Philippines took part celebrating the National Children’s Book Reading Day held simultaneously on July 19 in 58 SM Supermalls in the country’s major urban centers.

The event was also conducted in 3 SMDC Mall developments such as the Light, Green, and M-Place, plus seven of the SM Malls in China, as part of the celebration by the SM Cares Program on Children and Youth, in partnership locally with Vibal Publishing, National Book Store, UNICEF and the Department of Education.

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The celebration coincided with the UNICEF launch of its ‘Children First! Storybooks’—a six-book collection written in Filipino and English for children three years old and above on such topics as overcoming shyness, nurturing friendships, and reaching for one’s dreams. The stories “are presented in colorful illustrations to fire up children’s sense of curiosity and wonder,” explained UNICEF corporate officer Dennis Cruz.

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In kindling children’s imagination, parents need not “deprive their young of that opportunity for excitement, the human bond, that lively human interaction, the experience and that irreplaceable memory—all that comes with the joy of reading. It is really that experience of reading, to cultivate that interest to learn at an early age, that we wish to share with everyone,” cited Royston Cabunag, Director of the SM Cares Program on Children and Youth.

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In providing the venue for the global fete, Cabunag noted that nearly half of the four million customers that flock to SM Supermalls daily are children: “We believe that learning is not restricted inside the four corners of a classroom, as we care for each and every child that enters our mall by promoting their rights, prioritizing their safety, and enhancing their learning experience in a child-friendly environment.”

The Book Reading Day also featured a read-along of three children’s books with parents and their children as participants.

UNICEF Ambassador and showbiz celebrity Gary Valenciano graced the celebration and helped out distribute to children participants freebie storybooks from UNICEF and Vibal Publishing plus a school pack from National Book Store.

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“Reading to children is a very powerful way to make a real, lasting connection between a child and a parent. When we make reading fun and enjoyable early for our children, we will most likely set them on their way to love reading for the rest of their lives,” stressed the UNICEF officer.

SM Partners with UNICEF to Empower Children with Disabilities

In furtherance of its advocacy to uphold the rights and welfare of children, SM has partnered once more with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to empower children with disabilities (CWDs) through a photo exhibit and a stage a play on the said advocacy.

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The photo exhibit entitled “See What I Can Do”, held in collaboration with Camera Club of the Philippines, was formally launched Monday (July 18, 2016) at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall and opened by Vice President Leni Robredo, UNICEF Deputy Representative Julia Rees and SM Supermalls President Annie Garcia.

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The exhibit featured photographs of CWDs and the outstanding achievements they have done despite their condition. The exhibit will be on display at SM MOA until July 23. It will also be shown in SM City Clark from July 18 to 28, SM City Cebu from August 13 to 19 and SM City Davao from August 22 to 29.

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After the opening of the photo exhibit, the play, entitled “Sandosenang Sapatos”, was staged also at the Music Hall of SM MOA. The musical play, staged by Tanghalang Pilipino, is based on Dr. Luis Gatmaitan’s Palanca Award-winning children’s book of the same title. It tackles the love between the father and his daughter who was born without legs.

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The play will again be shown for free at the MOA on July 23 (11am and 4 pm) and SM City Clark on July 24 (11am and 4 pm).

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Garcia said the objective of the campaign, which coincides with the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week, is to help raise awareness and create an inclusive environment wherein CWDs’ abilities are highlighted instead of their disabilities.

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“It is said that children with disabilities are oftentimes misunderstood in society, facing discrimination at times. With society’s lack of understanding, these children and their parents find it hard to realize their full rights and potentials,” Garcia said.

She added, “That needs to change, and now. We, at SM, extend a helping hand to reach out to them in the most affectionate means we can muster to bring fun, laughter, a bit of gladness to touch their hearts.”

Garcia further stated that the play is just one of the collaborative projects SM has with UNICEF, being partners since 2008. “This event even becomes more special because it also touches on an advocacy close to our hearts – the rights of children. And we are very honored to be partners once again with the United Children’s Fund for this momentous event,” she stated.

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Other notable partnership projects of SM and UNICEF include the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Project wherein a portion of the sale of SM’s bottled water goes to the organization’s efforts to provide clean drinking water to various provinces in the country. To date, it has already helped more than 113,000 school children across the country.

Various PWD partner groups such as the Autism Society Philippines, Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, AKAP Pinoy, and National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) also attended the event.