Life is constantly celebrated at the Chosen Children Village in Silang, Cavite—a community where kids with special needs shine
“It takes a village to raise a child,” says an ancient African proverb. These words stand true for the kids at the Chosen Children Village in Silang, Cavite. Indeed, with all of them diagnosed having special needs, it does take a village of caregivers, teachers, physical and occupational therapists to ensure that the kids are well taken care of.
“We instill within each child that life here is different,” says Lita Fullerton, founder and executive director of the Chosen Children Village Foundation (CCVF). “They are somebody here, even if they are born with special needs. Other institutions prioritize these kids last because they cannot speak up. Here, we mandate that they have to be first.”
It was exactly this mindset that led Fullerton to open CCVF in 1988. She was working for an adoption home under the Lutheran Church, and while it was a beautiful and well-maintained home for children, she could not live with one of the conditions imposed upon by the board of trustees. “If a child came to me and I saw that he/she is of special needs, I was to return him/her to government,” says Fullerton. “I couldn’t stomach that. I couldn’t part from those kids. I would visit them in Elsie Gaches, a government-run institution in Alabang, and most of them died of dehydration and malnutrition. I didn’t think I was doing justice to these children, so I resigned and opened my home for kids with special needs.”
CCVF started its operations as Chosen Children at a rented house in Las Piñas. It eventually grew into Chosen Children Village when Fullerton traveled to Korea and saw a similar community for mentally challenged kids. “If Korea can do it, I didn’t see why the Philippines couldn’t,” shares Fullerton. “With the help of our private and corporate donors, we were able to purchase this parcel of land in Silang, Cavite. We started with two houses, and since then we’ve grown into a small village with a school, a chapel, rehabilitation facilities and a nutrition center where the kids can learn, roam around and play.”
Happy and Productive
While most government-run homes play up the “Awa factor” by portraying kids as pitiful and depressed creatures, such is not the case in Chosen Children Village. Kawawa is the last word that comes to mind when describing the kids here. Happy, joyful, productive are more like it, because despite being diagnosed with conditions as mild as global developmental delay (GDD) and mental retardation to as serious as cerebral palsy and autism, the children here thrive.
A teenager that caught our interest was Miguel, a child with autism who had just been punished for playing with electricity. It’s not all about praising the children, says Fullerton. “When they do something bad, we’re on top of them. They know they’re gonna hear from us. Now this boy, Miguel, he could’ve been a killer—in the sense that he was angry to the world. He’s autistic, he’s on medication and he’s got mental issues, but slowly, we catered to him. We gave him importance. It’s still a battle, we’re very watchful over him…but he’s productive! He’s happy with what he’s doing! And that’s all we want him—all of them—to be.”
Dave, a cheerful 15-year-old boy, is part of the Independent Living program. When Metro visited the village, the kitchen staff was teaching him how to make pizza for our lunch. Also a gifted poet, he contributes to the CCVF newsletter and recently published a poem for Fullerton and her husband, Ron. He writes, “You lighten our hearts / You lighten our world / You wipe our tears and make us smile/ You make us glow and you make our wings bright.”
Visiting the Chosen Children Village will warm anybody’s jaded heart. Indeed, it is good to know that there are still people like the Fullertons and the CCVF core team who really go out of their way to help mentally challenged kids live a full life. Life doesn’t end when a child is mentally challenged—it may be a little harder, but not hopeless. Never that.
The Chosen Children Village Foundation, Inc. is located at Km. 48, Emilio Aguinaldo Highway, Lalaan II, Silang, Cavite. Open everyday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (046) 414-2667/2669 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website at www.chosenchildrenvillage.org.
This article was published in the May 2010 issue of Metro Magazine.