Judy Gacita never involves herself in community affairs. She usually stays at home, tending to the needs of her family. She describes herself as “mahiyain” or timid because of how other people view her and her visual impairment. Her normal routine includes homemaking and tending to her child’s needs. Judy never thought that one day she would be involved in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, an issue very close to her heart.
In 2015, the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) and Arbeiter Samariter Bundt (ASB) have launched the first phase of an initiative that seeks to empower and engage duty-bearers and persons with disabilities. The initiative has focused on two barangays from the municipalities of Lawaan and Balangiga, respectively.
A reserved Judy shares that she is hesitant to talk to others because others might judge her. According to her, Manay Norly Codero (President of SDAPOL) and CDP have encouraged her to participate in the community-based disaster risk reduction and management (CBDRRM) trainings.
For Judy, the trainings have made her realize her role in ensuring the safety of her family and community. “Na-train po kami sa barangay na gumawa ng early warning system at nandoon kami noong nag-drill, ang natutunan namin ay hindi lang sa amin kundi pati sa pamilya namin. Kami alam na namin kung saan kami pupunta pag may kalamidad (we were trained to make an early warning system, and we participated in the drill. We were able to share what we have learned to our families. We knew when and where to evacuate.),” Judy gladly narrates.
Since then, she has become involved in the project activities and takes pride in her contribution especially during the project’s second phase. During the reorganization of the Special and Differently-abled Persons of Lawaan (SDAPOL), the 31-year old resident of Poblacion 10 has been elected as the secretary. For Judy, she has realized that it is never too late to speak out. “Nagkaroon ako ng tiwala sa sarili ko (I have gained trust and self-confidence),” said Judy.
Judy credits her new found vision to her colleagues in SDAPOL whose passion to improve their conditions resonates among the group. “Kung kaya nila, kaya ko rin (if my fellow persons with disability can do it, I can do it too),” she says with conviction; hence, she thinks that a lot is yet to be achieved, especially on the issues of children with disabilities.
A teary-eyed Judy shares that her daughter is a victim of bullying because of her visual impairment. “Nawalan hiya kumpiyansa (she is losing confidence because she is subject to insults of her classmates),” she narrates.
“Nasiring hiya nga nabu-bully hiya kay may ada hiya diperensya hin mata. Pero nasiring ko ha iya nga ayaw magpamatii ha nasisiring, pabay-I la hira kay diri nira kaya it imong kaya, igpakita mo la (she is bullied because of her disability but I always remind her not to mind them because they cannot do what she can do),” she proudly shares that her daughter is consistently at the top 10 of the class. She views that her continuous involvement in the project motivated her to teach her daughter to face the stigma given to persons with disabilities like them.
Judy sees that empowerment of persons with disabilities begins with one’s self. “Ipadayon mo la, ig sugad la iton nga magin nga hit kalugaringon nga ikaw mismo hit imo kalugaringon tagan mo hin kalugaringon hit pagtapud, diri iguubos mo pat-I kalugaringon, asid di ka igubos (Just continue improving yourself. Do not let others bringyou down),” she resolutely concludes.