Children with special needs are increasingly gaining attention from government and other groups, but psychologist and college professor Gerry Dela Zerna is hoping for more sustainable efforts.
"Special children or those with disabilities will not be in school forever," Dela Zerna told Yahoo! Southeast Asia in an interview after the Pitong Pinoy recognition ceremony.
Dela Zerna was one of seven modern-day Filipino heroes chosen by Yahoo! Philippines from emailed nominations for advocating the rights and welfare of special children.
Dela Zerna lauded ramped up efforts aimed toward better public services for special children and persons with disability (PWD).
He particularly cited the revival of a bill seeking to establish a separate Special Education Bureau, which he said will secure funds for special facilities and training of teachers.
"Napakalayo na ng sitwasyon natin ngayon kumpara sa 20 o 30 years ago (We come a long way from where we were 20 to 30 years ago)," Dela Zerna said.
"Parents, for instance, now know their children's rights and who to approach or where to run for help," Dela Zerna said.
So Dela Zerna, along with other volunteers, launched the Guided and Unified Interaction for the Development of Children, Inc.
"The help we provide is not necessarily in the form of cash," he stressed.
He cited as an example an "early Christmas project" to be launched in November which will take special children to the Manila Zoo.
"It aims to teach children the value of caring for others, including all living creatures, while also promoting animal rights," Dela Zerna said.
It will also help spread highly needed awareness on special children, he said.
"As more people recognize PWDs as contributors to development, they are also more likely to get government support," Dela Zerna said.
Dela Zerna added that he is content in working from the ground up.
"I want to work with people who have genuine concern for people with special needs," he said.