Children who live with physical, sensory, intellectual or mental health disability are among the most stigmatized and marginalized of all of the world’s children. For three lucky young men, though, this is not their reality thanks to centers like Elsie Gaches Village, an organization which provides care and rehabilitation to children and young people with special needs. Jack, Totoy and Henry are residents from Elsie Gaches Village and what is particularly special about them is that they have been coming to Stairway Foundation every year for the past 20 years!
Generously sponsored by Bea Zobel, young people from Elsie Gaches Village come to Stairway Foundation for their annual outing. Two groups consisting of 20 people each spend a week in Stairway enjoying the natural surroundings and participating in the wide variety of creative activities planned for them. Stairway peer motivators facilitate the various workshops.
Jack, the eldest of the group, loves to talk and has many nice things-gifts from friends and private sponsors. He wears a silver ring, a bracelet, a watch, and he carries at all times: a cell phone and a camera. “Life is good in Elsie Gaches,” says Jack. “The people are nice and there are many activities and sports for us. We’re happy there.”
Totoy is a quiet one. He’s an athlete. He enjoys soccer and basketball and is very proud to share that he has participated in three Special Olympics in the United States, China and Japan. Henry is very sweet and amiable. He loves to give compliments and is very helpful. He is always smiling and enjoys cooking.
Ask what they like most about Stairway and immediately their faces light up with bright smiles. They like everything about it: the nature, the sea, the tranquility, the activities, the staff and the children, “…and especially the tukos!” interjects Jack. He is fascinated by the geckos and the loud “tuko” sounds they make. Jack took lots of images of the geckos and has even made one out of clay.
Tomorrow the first batch of young people will head back to Elsie Gaches, but unlike the others in the group–Jack, Totoy and Henry will get to stay on for another week. They will stay behind to receive the second batch of young people. It will be a first for most of them to leave the concrete jungle and to travel across the sea. And what better way of introducing these new faces to Stairway than with three very special young men, who are still smiling after all of these years.