Filipino Deaf rights advocate inspired at Rehab Institute of ChicagoBy Brian Canever, Center for Sport, Peace, & Society September 14, 2016
One of the top rehabilitation and medical research facilities in the United States, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is located in the urban sprawl of downtown Chicago. Founded in 1953, the RIC’s spirit of innovation and trailblazing in the fields of rehabilitation medicine, biomedical engineering, neuroscience, and adapted sports is embedded deep in the DNA of its staff.
Two of these distinguished team members, Derek Daniels and Stephanie Kanter, participated as mentors in the inaugural GSMP: Sport for Community program. Derek, RIC’s sports and fitness manager, and Stephanie worked closely with John Paul “JP” Maunes, founder of Philippine Accessible Deaf Services (PADS). Stephanie and Derek spent three weeks with JP, detailing how their organization worked from the ground up to create successful adapted sports and rehabilitation programs that he can replicate in his own context in the Philippines.
Aside from its physical therapy and rehabilitation services, RIC offers almost a dozen recreational and competitive sports programs—wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, archery, sled hockey, softball, sailing, boccia, and others—in its own center and through local partners that serve people with disabilities. Through the plan he created with his mentors, JP expects to launch a similar center in Cebu that will serve as a resource for sharing knowledge and skills, developing best practices, and coordinating partnerships between different stakeholders in the promotion of disability sport.
“At RIC, we’re creating something much bigger than ourselves,” said Stephanie, business support manager for RIC. “I see sport as advocacy and activism; an activity that challenges the idea of what people with disabilities can do on a daily basis. That is why the opportunity to serve as a mentor on this program is really humbling and exciting. Because it uses sport in a diplomacy framework for change. And I believe that JP can be the farmer for the same seeds of change in the Philippines that we’re striving for in the U.S.”
A trained nurse who dedicated his life to deaf rights advocacy in 2005, JP was greatly impacted by the relationship he formed with Derek and Stephanie. Working with a disadvantaged community at the grassroots level, where securing funding and partnership is a regular challenge, JP was inspired by RIC’s story. He greatly valued the time his mentors took to detail how he can strategically build toward his own center by introducing sports activities and offering free and affordable programs through schools and community organizations. With that base, sustainability and facilities will follow.
“I really appreciate the amount of time and effort that Derek and Stephanie took to raise me up to a level where I can empower myself,” JP said. “This experience has widened my perspective about how I see things and can get change done when I return home. And I feel reassured to know RIC also had humble beginnings. If they can do it, so can I.”
In a context where poverty and abuse of the Deaf is rampant, JP is on a mission to unleash sports potential to create a better world. His work began as a teenager when his best friend introduced him to the Deaf community and gave him a portal into their world. Since then, JP learned sign language and has made it his mission to give the Deaf in Cebu every chance to thrive and achieve success and empowerment.
“Sport is as an equalizer. Everyone gets to participate. Everyone gets to excel. Everyone gets to make new friends and compete,” JP said. “I cannot find a better platform to learn about how society works, provide equal opportunities, and work together to bridge gaps in communities that are disengaged and disconnected by what society dictates them to be.”
View more photos and quotes from the Center’s visit to RIC to see JP, Stepanie, and Derek on Facebook (link)