In most developing communities, the access for children with learning disorders or special needs to quality education is sadly lacking. Since our founding, Asia America Initiative has placed an emphasis on education equity for all children in our beneficiary communities. The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is one of the most impoverished and underserved territories in the world. AAI and the province of Sulu’s Department of Education, with a 98 percent Muslim population and a poverty rate of well over 50 percent, has developed a model education program for children with special needs.
At the present in a climate of martial law, a fierce war on drugs by the government and the arrival of members of the ISIS terror organization seeking to recruit children as young as 11 and 12 years old, our compassionate and dedicated education programs serve as a deterrent to violence and extremist ideologies. We have found in more than a decade of providing holistic educational and health programs into communities often considered too dangerous to improve that success is possible.
At the Nursing Section of the Sulu Department of Education, Head Nurse Hja Shareen Lakibul says, “The reason for our success is because even with so many people who have suffered and are in need, the programs we are creating have fundamentally changed their attitudes about what is possible. These programs – such as inclusion of children with special needs – have made the entire community think differently toward overcoming their fear of failure. A new attitude of joy and contentment has taken root, no matter how much they have suffered in the past.”