Operation Smile PH, UPS provide children with cleft palate speech therapy gadgets
MINERVA BC NEWMAN
CEBU CITY – Operation Smile Philippines (OSP) continues to provide free reconstructive surgery, post-surgery speech therapy and related healthcare to children with cleft lip or palate and partners with the global logistics provider, The UPS Foundation, to provide internet-ready tablets and headsets to equip patients with the tools to undergo therapy online.
Operation Smile Philippines (OSP) Executive Director Emiliano Romano visited the Javier family, presenting daughter Sophia with the equipment she needs to help her in her teletherapy and virtual classes.
According to Romano, the pandemic created a lot of disruptions but it could not shut down the power of volunteerism – people overcoming challenges to give their time and services to aid those impacted the most.
He added that the pandemic has prevented the speech pathology volunteers from conducting the speech therapy in person. To get around the problem, they initiated an online speech therapy, or teletherapy program in July 2021 to continue their communication skills and self-confidence.
Many of them are scattered across the country and with more children gaining access to these speech therapy sessions online, it helped expand the OSP’s online therapy service known as Assessment and Clinical Care through Electronic Speech Services, or ACCESS.
Romano said, ACCESS comprises eight virtual sessions with one session per week for two months with each patient assigned to a volunteer speech therapist. Each session is conducted in the presence of the patient’s parent or guardian who is also given instructions on additional exercises the child can practice at home in between sessions.
Professor Fernando Alejandro Ligot, an OSP volunteer for 20 years said the speech therapy sessions can have transformative impact on the children as the goal is for them to be able to speak normally so that they can attend school and interact with other people without fear of being ridiculed.
Joanalyn Pingki-an, mother of Reeze Alaina, 9 and Grade 3 student at the Arsenio Lacson Elementary School, from Caloocan City thanked OSP and UPS for helping them from surgery to therapy.
Pingki-an added that Reeze is no longer shy to play because other children in school understand her better now. “Breathing exercises and all speech and reading exercises helped. Many thanks also to UPS for providing the tablet. This really helped in therapy, as well as with Reeze’s online classes,” the mother said.
“We work with various partners, including UPS Philippines, to bring that smile back to the children,” Ligot added.
UPS employees volunteered to support the patients and their parents during therapy as well as outside these sessions via teleconference calls. Each employee volunteer is assigned to a particular patient for the entire duration of the engagement.
“The partnership with UPS is a very significant and crucial collaboration because more kids are able to receive therapy, and therefore they have better opportunities to develop communication skills and become confident members of their communities and society,” Professor Ligot said.
UPS has committed 30-million volunteer hours by 2030 as part of its #UPSGivesBack global campaign. UPS Philippines participating in Operation Smile’s programs and other charities across the country is part of UPS’s Global Volunteer Month which takes place every year in April.
“Despite the pandemic, UPSers find ways to give back to the communities we serve by sharing our time and resources and connecting with people to build purposeful relationships and engagements,” Tessa Santos, UPS Community Involvement Committee (CIC) executive sponsor and operations manager said.
According to Santos, the UPS CIC is also organizing activities in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages Philippines, Project Pearls for the COVID-19 Hunger Relief Program and AIP Foundation for the Safety Delivered campaign which raises awareness of the importance of safe driving and child helmet use.
Santos added that many of these partnerships have been in place for years and UPS has completed numerous projects and is looking forward to continue new initiatives for many years to come.