These words of Sandrine’s parents are very relevant to her especially so that her job entails a lot of traveling even to high risk countries like Afghanistan and North Korea.
Sandrine specialises in inclusion education, disability, early grade reading, training teachers and trainers, and teaching and learning material development.
She enjoys having the opportunity to meet many different cultures and people and learn from them. For her, even if the topic, inclusive education, is always the same, it never happens in the same way. Sandrine thinks that priorities, resources, and habits are different; it is always different and never boring.
“I get to go to very remote areas in this world and when I realize I am being paid to discuss with these families who have a child with disabilities in the North of Ghana in the middle of nowhere, I feel I have the best job in the world,” Sandrine remarks. “Also I have the MAD disease – Make a Difference.”
She loves fashion. She likes the color red. She’s a photographer and a painter. And she’s the only blind teacher in Germany.
Silja lost her sight at age 12 and despite of people making her feel disabled, she now considers her blindness as part of her.
Getting a teaching certification was a challenge. It was also difficult to get a teaching job but with support of a blind association in Germany, she successfully managed to start doing what she loves, which is teaching. She’s been doing it for 30 years now and she says she enjoys it and finds teaching extremely special.
Stephen handles a Special Class in Kenya that teaches pre-vocational skills to kids with physical disabilities, ages 6 to 18. Some of the lessons are on basic agriculture, bead work, activities of daily living, and math and language, among others.
He started teaching kids with special needs in 1994 and he believes the experience built him up individually. He discovered that though his students are physically challenged, they have different talents and can be very smart.
Stephen stresses that disability is not inability. People with disabilities are abled differently and it’s a matter of adjusting their environment accordingly to suit their needs
A friend referred to me a call for application for a Creativity Workshop dubbed, “Toy Design and Inclusive Play.”
I know how creativity and the element of fun are instrumental in education and advocacy work so I thought the workshop would be very relevant to me especially so that I’m exploring how to further use creativity as a tool for my advocacy for the environment. Plus, this friend mentioned it’s one of the best workshops she has attended so you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I learned that I would be part of it.
After 20+ hours of travel time, including layover, I reached freezing Berlin which was the venue of the workshop. I was brave to just bring with me a thin piece of coat which thankfully helped me survive the cold. Aside from the temperature, a rice-eating Asian like me, and that sounds stereotypical but yeah, I had to get used to a lot of bread and cheese as the staple. I, surprisingly, adjusted quite well.
The event started with a symposium where we had resource speakers who talked about inclusion, fairness and sustainability, toy-free time, and education without prejudice, all in the context of toy design.
The participants were also given a chance to talk a bit about ourselves and the work that we do. I was inspired to hear the stories of every one. I thought we were a bunch of passionate and creative people and I was excited to see what games and toys we would create as an output of the workshop.
We had to visit different institutions that cater to people with special needs. I went to Helene Haeusler School, a special school with the main focus on mental development.
It was an impressive facility with small-size classes and sufficient teachers. The curriculum is child-based and is adapted to the learners. There’s a pool, a recreational hall, a kitchen (where students can learn how to cook), a sleeping room, and so much more.
Seeing all these made me realize how it’s miles apart compared to the Philippines but it also made me appreciate the little steps we are taking and the efforts we are putting as a nation into being more inclusive.
Everyone then started coming up with ideas and toy designs based on the respective visits that we had. It took us almost a week to work on our masterpieces and it was amazing to see all our creation come to life.
I paired up with Cinzia, a designer from Italy, and the collaboration made life easier for me. I was intimidated at the beginning considering that I didn’t have any design background but I was happy to be able to keep up. Cinzia and I built on each other’s ideas that resulted to two toys – “LeafBall” and “Koordi.”
“LeafBall” is a tactile toy that promotes communication skills, focus and group interaction. It’s like story dice but in place of the dice, figures to be used in the story are hidden in pockets of leaf-shaped fabric to be folded on each other to form a ball. The ball is passed, the leaf pealed, and a figure that will form part of a collective story will be revealed.
“Koordi” (coordination), on the other hand, is a collaborative game where players hold the strings and move the board together to slide wooden rings into slots, one after the other, to form words.
The UNESCO Creativity Workshop, organized by Fördern durch Spielmittel, was on its 18th installment and through the years has been spearheaded by Siegfried Zoels, who has done several initiatives related to people with disabilities.
A Dr. Seuss quote goes, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I’m definitely smiling now thinking about how I’ve learned a lot about disability or rather how it should be seen not as inability; I got to work with a brilliant group of creative people; and as a bonus, gained friends for keeps! It was one of the best workshops, indeed.