By Roy Mabasa
Filipinos with disabilities found an ally in the latest batch of youthful volunteers under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Program who will be working for the welfare and education of PWDs.
In a move to strengthen cooperation to support vulnerable sectors in the Philippines, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) dispatched the 173rd batch of volunteers in local communities to work on livelihood programs and special education advocacy.
According to statistics provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), about 1.443 million or 1.57 percent of the Philippine population had disabilities.
A government study, however, noted that employing this segment of the population still needs improvement.
The Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) had earlier sought JICA’s assistance following the need for greater inclusion of Filipino PWDs.
JICA Senior Representative Aya Kano noted that the dispatch of JICA volunteers to support various development areas is an important component of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to its partner countries like the Philippines.
“Japanese volunteers help strengthen our bilateral relations, while also sharing Japanese expertise in areas like inclusion of PWDs through education and employment,” Kano said.
JICA said the new group of Japanese volunteers will be working in various elementary schools in Iloilo and Leyte for transition classes and in an LGU for livelihood activities of PWDs.
Meanwhile, some volunteers will support faculty development and farming projects in selected state universities.
Since its inception in the 1960s, some 1,669 Japanese volunteers have been dispatched to the Philippines to support agriculture, health, education, and social welfare among others.
In its infancy years, Japanese volunteers arrived in the Philippines to support livestock development and since then, the program has expanded to include other development areas such as community development, design and education, and capacity building.
As a result of their efforts, Japanese volunteers were awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016 for “helping create social good in the region.”
JICA is the executing agency of Japanese ODA, which handles technical cooperation, loans and investment, and grant aid, as well as cooperation volunteers and disaster relief programs.
The Japanese funding agency is the world’s largest bilateral aid agency with its volume of cooperation amounting to about US$ 19.57 billion for Fiscal Year 2017 and a worldwide network of about 100 overseas offices, including the Philippines.