What would be the first thing you would paint if you had no arms or legs? Hands and feet, of course! That is what 18-year-old artist, Joan, did upon painting her very first picture. She has now progressed to be an amazing artist, holding her paint brush much like a skilled violinist...right between her chin and shoulder. All of this was made possible for her by Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc.
Marites Burce is an official representative of the Philippines to the London Paralympics in three different disciplines, including the javelin, discus and shot-put. She is classified as a wheelchair user athlete with minimal muscle strength in the torso. Not only does she deserve a medal in London but should receive a gold for her efforts at Tahanang Walang Hagdanan where she teaches her PWD (person with disability) students and loves it. She is now competing at the London XIV Paralympics.
For several years now, LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) used the services of Tahanang Walang Hagdanan for assembling wheelchairs they distribute to PWDs. Elder Steven Hadlock, the senior missionary for LDS Charities over wheelchair placement, said, "We are so fortunate to be able to acquire products from THW. We buy every wheelchair they can make and then give them away to those in need here in the Philippines." He further added, "The workers there are so friendly and happy, it makes us feel good to see physically challenged people become self-reliant as they work to provide products for others in need."
TWH is a non-stock, non-profit and non-government organization that aims to uplift the lives of the orthopedically handicapped persons. The center is located in Cainta Rizal which is about 15 kms. east of Manila. It has five workshops and six dormitories for trainees who come from far provinces. It is a rehabilitation and skills training center with sheltered workshops where the people with physical challenges are trained to be productive and self-reliant members of society.
In 1965, Sister Paula Valeriana Baerts, a Catholic nun from Belgium, came to the Philippines to work in the Philippine Orthopedic Center. While serving in the hospital, she noticed the great need the differently-abled had in finding work and becoming self reliant. She was determined to help them improve their status in life and become people of worth to their communities.
Seeing the plight of those with physical challenges, who were often abandoned by their families, Sr. Valeriana, with the help of the civic-minded citizens of the Philippines, began building workshops patterned after the Cheshire Homes she had seen in the United Kingdom. Within a span of five years, ten half-way houses had been established. In 1965, Sinagtala for Boys was the first to be built followed by the Sinagtala for Girls in 1968, and now many workshops have been established.
Sr. Valeriana attended a World Rehabilitation Congress in Sydney in 1972 where she was introduced to Lionel Watts, founder of the "House with No Steps" in Australia. This center's purpose was to provide vocational training for the differently-abled. Sr. Valeriana was able to pursuade Mr. Watts to visit the Philippines and assess the needs of PWDs. .
Following his visit, project proposals were sent to different funding agencies and finally the Belgian Government heeded the call to build a center. It funded 75% of the building construction. The Archdiocese of Manila leased a 4.2 hectare lot to the group in Cainta and on February 21,1973, Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc. was established. In 2011, Sr.Valeriana was the recipient of the Apolinario Mabini Presidential Award for her contribution to Pinoy PWDs.
Among trades learned and services offered at TWH are: wheelchairs and other mobility aids, wood products-- including educational toys for children and furniture--packaging pharmaceuticals, sewing and production of a wide variety of eco products, metal items, souvenirs, and handmade paper items.
On February 14, 2013, THW will celebrate its 40th year anniversary.