13 August 2019, Manila, Philippines – FWD 78° North Marathon female champion and triathlete Joyette Jopson led the children of Special Olympics Philippines to a day of fun and games during the FWD Young Athletes Play Day on July 10 at the FWD Business Hub in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
Joyette, an FWD Financial Wealth Officer, took the kids through her journey of bearing the Philippine flag in the FWD 78° North Marathon held on April 16, 2019. Recalling her experience to finish the marathon amidst the challenges, Joyette took the opportunity to inspire the children to achieve their biggest goals in life, regardless of the challenges.
Fearless Filipina overcoming all odds
“We must nurture these kids in a way that we do with any other kid. We need to make them understand that anything is possible if we guide them all the way through,” Joyette said. “Like Brina Maxino, one of Special Olympics’ Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers, she was able to get a stable job despite having Down Syndrome. If she can do it, then I believe that every child with intellectual disabilities can, too.”
Joyette conquered the 42-kilometer FWD 78° North Marathon in Longyearbyen, Svalbard—a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean on April 16, 2019. She became the first Filipina to ace the grueling marathon, overcoming all odds in exactly 4 hours, 10 minutes, and 59 seconds and placing placed first in the women’s category and third overall.
Unleashing the inner champion in every child
FWD Philippines collaborated with Special Olympics Philippines in holding the Young Athletes Play Day participated in by FWD Community Care volunteers and young children with developmental and intellectual disabilities from Elsie Gaches Village and Las Piñas Elementary Central School.
Although the children are all living with intellectual disabilities, the set of inclusive games and activities were designed to develop their motor, social, and cognitive skills. Special Olympics Young Athletes is a sport and play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities (ID), ages 2 to 7 years old. Young Athletes introduces basic sport skills, like running, kicking and throwing. Young Athletes offers families, teachers, caregivers, and people from the community the chance to share the joy of sports with all children.
“At FWD, we take to heart our brand promise for Filipinos to ‘Celebrate Living’ and through our partnership with Special Olympics Philippines, we are delighted to have activities such as the Young Athletes’ Play Day which aim to empower young children to live fulfilled lives,” said FWD Philippines Head of Marketing Roche Vandenberghe.
“More than a year to our partnership with FWD, we have already made significant difference to the lives of our athletes as we continue to build a unified generation where people with and without intellectual disabilities work together for a more inclusive society,” Special Olympics Philippines National Director Kaye Samson said. “We are grateful for FWD’s continued support to our young athletes as they discover new strengths and abilities through the power of sports.”
About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability1. Among these, more than 200 million have developmental problems2, making them one of the world’s biggest disability groups and one of the most underserved sections of the population. People with intellectual disability go through attitudinal, structural, and logistical barriers, from obtaining healthcare to landing a job.
Brina Maxino: pure inspiration
During the program, Special Olympics Philippines ambassador Brina Maxino, who was born with Down Syndrome, inspired the children and their families with a heartwarming speech. “When I was nine days old, a doctor told my parents that I might not live long because I had a hole in my heart and very poor muscle tone,” Brina said. At age 10, she was told by a psychologist that she had “borderline IQ,” with a slim chance of even finishing grade school.
“But I exceeded her expectations,” Brina added. “At 16 years old, I graduated from a regular high school as Class Valedictorian. At 20 years old, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in History.”
22-year-old Brina has obtained a bachelor’s degree in History and currently works as a Pre-School Assistant Teacher at Pean Integrated School of Parañaque. Through teaching, she gets to pass on everything that she learned about life to her kindergarten students.
Empowering people to live fulfilled lives
FWD's partnership with Special Olympics is part of the pan-Asian insurer's Community Care initiative, with its goal to “empower people to live fulfilled lives.” In 2018, FWD Group donated US$ 1.25 million across the markets where it operates: Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan. Through the partnership with the Special Olympics, FWD hopes to change how society perceives people with intellectual, learning, and developmental disabilities, and that despite their condition, they can make valuable contributions to society and should be given opportunities to do so.