A Handyman's Story
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06 November 2017 A Handyman's Story

Written by: Marites Cleofe

As part of our #NationalVolunteerMonth2017 celebration this coming December, we are featuring the nine winning entries of our Volunteerism Story Writing Contest. This is the the winning entry from Region IV-B .

On June 2013, Arman Jay B. Dudas enrolled himself in a course he never liked. Being a teacher is not included in his plans because he cannot imagine himself being one. Yet, he still took up Bachelor of Elementary Education with Specialization in Special Education (BEED-SPED) even though it's out of his will. It is just a matter of having no other options at all since he is a city academic scholar and the courses being offered at the City College of Calapan is quite limited.

Three years later, he is on his senior year in college, and things were extremely different now. And yes, he didn' t change his course; he had changed his perspective.

Some roads are less travelled because they seemed to be strenuous and full of obstruction, but those are the ones which lead to beautiful destinations.

When I met Arman, my first impression of him was silent and serious, the studious type of guy, and a bit weird. Well, I once saw him talking with two students, making weird gestures and hand signals which, at first, I thought was hilarious. I was about to laugh only to feel ashamed when I learned that the two students are deaf and those hand gestures are called sign language. I regretted being too judgmental!

Well, aside from being one of the Best Leaders and NSTP Student of the Year awardees, he also exhibits good leadership skills in classroom activities as well as in the different organizations he was in.

As an active member of the Interpreters for the Deaf Engaged in Active Services (IDEAS), he also serves as interpreter for their deaf classmates during class discussions or meetings and assists them in communicating with other people who don't understand sign language.

It was hard doing sign language at first because it is quite confusing, but later on, I got used to it", he remarked. "Well, I had no choice but to learn how to do sign language. It is one of my course requirements afterall", he jokingly added.

He also became one of the volunteers during the SPED camp, an event which was sponsored by NORFIL Foundations, a non-government organization (which is a collaboration of Norwegian and Filipino sponsors), that provides funds and assistance to different programs for children with special needs. The said camp was participated in by more than a hundred children with special needs (CSN) from the different municipalities of Oriental Mindoro. He likewise took part on another SPED camp initiated by the City Social Welfare and Development Department for CSN held at Adriatico Memorial School where almost a hundred CSN from the city joined.

Arman confessed that during his first year as a student, he was doing things for compliance purposes only, a requirement for him to pass his subjects and maintain his scholarship. He wasn't fond of kids, and admitted that he had a hard time dealing with their outburst and naughtiness. He almost quit being a volunteer, if not only because he feared that it might affect his grades.

Yet things happened unexpectedly. It was April 18, 2015 when his younger brother, Mac-Mac succumbed to his illness at the age of 13, after being diagnosed with brain tumor in 2014. It was too painful for him to accept and had a hard time recovering from what happened. Gone was the energetic and happy guy; everyday he mourns for his death.

A month later, he met Jetuil, a 10-year old boy with mild autism spectrum, in another SPED camp held at San Teodoro. The boy loves to ride on his back, one thing that reminds him of Mac-Mac. He became attached with the boy, and there, a wonderful story of friendship begins. Every camp serves as their bonding where they shared wonderful moments together. Arman recalled the fun he and Jetuil had while doing the different activities like expressing through arts, playing and eating together and by sharing a simple conversation.

"For me, Jetuil, as well as the other children like him, is not a special child, but a child with special need - the need to be accepted and be loved for who and what they are. The way he laughs, I could see a glint of hope in his eyes though it was clouded with doubts; I could feel his courage over his fears, and confidence amidst his disabilities. And I wanted the people around him to see him, them, as gift from God, and not as a burden, not special but beyond ordinary", he shared while holding a photo of him and Jetuil.

"I was more than blessed to meet these kids and became a part of their life. They taught me one important thing that cannot be learned from reading books or memorizing theories and philosophies - the real essence of service. Iím not the one who inspired them; they are the ones to inspire me, to change my outlook in life. Furthermore, these activities were able to touch the emotional aspects of the parents of these kids, and were able to increase their understanding of their condition", he added.

Aside from gaining meaningful experiences and building better relationships with the kids and their parents, he now admire and respect these kids and their ability to prove themselves and stay optimistic amidst being judged by the people around them. He is also thankful that there are programs like these which serve as eye-opener to students like him and eventually to the society, that these children need social respect and acceptance. These likewise increase the society's awareness of CSN and from that, they were able to gain assistance not only from the local, but to national or even international organizations.

Arman is now a senior student, and the incumbent President of the Student Parliament. Despite his hectic schedules, and piled-up responsibilities, he still managed to be an active volunteer of IDEAS every SPED Camp. I asked him how he managed to do that. He just smiled and said, "I find ways because I love what I am doing. I see it now not as a requirement or a responsibility, but an opportunity to share a part of me with them, and at the same time, learn something from them."

He realized that he now wanted to become a teacher to continue touching the lives of these children because he believes that they should be given a chance to unleash their potentials and let them shine like the others. They just need a hand that will bridge their communication gap, a hand that will guide them and a heart that will understand.

Truly, his actions speak louder than his words, but his intentions speak the loudest. He is not a superhero, but he possesses a super power - conveying messages using his hands.

To Arman, together with the rest of the IDEAS family, my thumbs are proud to salute you!

Life is indeed ironic. Though he thought that teaching wasn't for him because it was exhausting and difficult, he still is finding his way to reach the destination of his dreams and be a fully pledged educator a year from now.

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