Meet the Match

An Advocate for Disability Rights in the Philippines

John Paul Maunes, or “JP” for short, lived the typical life of a boy. Growing up with one brother and one sister in an urban section of Cebu in the Philippines, he was always outside playing sports—specifically, football, which he still holds close to his heart (JP is a member of the Azkals national football team fan club in Cebu).

But, he was diagnosed with a minor brain condition that forced doctors to keep him from the football field. For a year, he focused on simply recovering. In that time, he began volunteering to occupy his time. Through his volunteer work, JP met his best friend, Peter Paul, who played basketball with him and later introduced him to the deaf community. Sadly, Peter Paul died in an accident when he was 17 years old.

“His death was really hard for me because he was my best friend,” JP says. “It’s hard for a young guy to lose a very important person. But, I promised myself that I would continue the advocacy work, letting hearing people understand and create better platforms for the involvement of deaf people and persons with disabilities.”

By 21, JP started Gualandi Volunteer Service Programme (now known as Philippine Accessible Deaf Services, Inc. or “PADS”). In the past decade, PADS has become one of the most successful deaf services organizations in the country, accomplishing a number of important goals for the deaf community, including integrating sign language interpretation into national news broadcasts, mobilizing hundreds of local and international volunteers, and launching the award-winning Break the Silence campaign to advocate for deaf victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. In 2013, JP and his organization helped to mobilize NGOs and volunteers following Super Typhoon Yolanda in a humanitarian response that has served approximately 15,000 people with disabilities to date.

JP, who is also a registered nurse, regularly receives interview requests from local and national media for his role as principal advocate for the deaf community. This attention led to his selection as a 2015 Ashoka Fellow. But, he still knows there is more for him to learn in order to reach even more people with disabilities throughout the Philippines.

“Disability advocacy in the Philippines is new and there are few laws,” JP says. “It is difficult to network without the right background. I’ve received good exposure and have been able to gain skills and confidence to expand my work, but we still need a better strategy and more collective effort to be inclusive of people with disabilities.”

Derek Daniels at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) was a vital source of knowledge and experience for JP. In his role at the RIC, Derek collaborates with local and regional adaptive sports clubs and partners to provide some of the best adaptive sports programming in the United States. While they work with a pool of Paralympians in Chicago, Derek and his team’s work starts from the ground up and is made possible through creative fundraising strategies. They were able to assist JP in developing marketing and fundraising strategies for PAD programs, as well as provided him with best practices in the field of disability sport, healthcare, and rehabilitation. Through this mentorship, JP gained the tools required to build the key relationships with community businesses and local government that can allow him to multiply his work throughout the Philippines.

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