The sprawling facility located in Alabang, Muntinlupa serves as the only government institution that provides care and rehabilitation to abandoned, neglected, dependent, and foundling children as well as adults with special needs such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and other intellectual disabilities and neuro-developmental disorders.
On 03 February 1964, an American couple, Samuel and Elsie Gaches, donated to the Philippine government their 16-hectare-lot rest house to be used as shelter for the needy. From then on, the facility has evolved to become what it is today: a haven for mentally-challenged persons.
The residents of Elsie Gaches Village (EGV) are able to lead normal lives because of the nurturing environment the center provides through its various services and programs - namely social, health, educational, psychological, productivity, home life, recreational, developmental services and spiritual programs.
There are also paramedical, psychiatric, dietary, and occupational therapy. The center also conducts music and art therapy programs, skills training, and sports activities.
The social workers at EGV have compiled a wish list comprising of items badly needed at the center.
"We hope that kind-hearted individuals and groups could provide some of these items which we could no longer afford to buy because of budget constraints ," explained Amor, a social welfare officer. They also need clothes (t-shirts, shorts, sando, pajama), mats/blankets, towels, toiletries. She also mentioned the need for cleaning materials, kitchen utensils, medicines, office equipment, oxygen tanks, emergency lights, high-speed sewing machine, gardening tools, sound system, and sports equipment.
Aside from material things, the center is also appeal to public and private donors to sponsor outdoor activities of residents. They said that it would do the residents much good if they had occasional opportunities to go on camping and community trips. It would also be beneficial for them if they could attend educational trips and socialization activities.
They also need sponsors for sports training on bowling and gymnastics.
"Actually, mahaba po ang mga listahan ng mga pangangailangan namin dito sa center (Actually, we have a long list of things needed here at the center)," Amor added.
EGV's budget for 2016 is P36,561,525. Out of this amount, P29,728,701.21 has been obligated for the over-all operations of the center.
Issues and challenges
Because of the undeniable need for additional support, the social workers and house parents at the EGV double their effort to teach the residents become independent.
To date, the EGV has 14 cottages and a halfway house that provide shelter to 625 residents, more than its actual 470 bed capacity.
According to Amor, each cottage should only house 30 residents, but with the current number, 60 individuals now stay in all the cottages except for two.
Of the 625 residents, 284 are females and 341 are males.
"We also need at least P1 million for the construction of a new admission cottage," she explained.
When asked why a single cottage costs so much, she replied that the two-story structure should be made of sturdy -materials, such as cement, bricks, and stones.
The center is also understaffed with only six social workers directly handling the cases. The ideal ratio is one social worker for every 25 clients, but since EGV now has 625 residents, each social worker is handling 80 cases.
EGV currently has 119 house parents, with 44 receiving their salaries from private corporations. In the meantime, 36 are regular employees, 26 are MOA workers, nine are contractual, while four are job order.
"We badly need additional manpower to ensure that the residents' needs are met," Amor emphasized.
DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo appeals to corporations and generous individuals to donate or volunteer, just like what social media advocate Mocha Uson is doing at the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC) and GRACES, two of the Department's institutions for abandoned and neglected children, and older persons, respectively.
"Kailangan ng mga residente sa aming mga centers ng kalinga at pagmamahal, natutuwa sila kapag may bumibisita at kumakausap sa kanila, kaya't sana ay may mga magboluntir na indibidwal o mga grupo (The residents in our centers need loving care. They are happy whenever people visit and talk to them, so I hope there are individuals and groups who would care to volunteer)."
"Patuloy din ang pag-aaases sa mga centers upang matukoy ang mga kakulangan at masolusyunan ang mga ito (The assessment of centers is ongoing to determine what is lacking and provide solutions for these)," Sec. Taguiwalo emphasized.
The EGV staff are hoping that with the new administration, the problems which they are facing on a daily basis will be resolved soon.
Source: Philippine Information Agency