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The impact of disability can increase in low income countries where there may be fewer services and trained staff, and exclusive attitudes in society
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Rising Up from Adversity

Raul drawing a house hazard map as part of the family preparedness plan.

Raul Grefaldeo was 17-years-old when he experienced the event that would change his life.


When 26-year-old Raul Grefaldeo was young, he wanted to get into the military. His father was an ex-military man, so he was inspired to follow his father’s footsteps. Upon finishing his high school studies, he was able to do some military training but he did not finish due to some personal circumstances. Instead, when he was 17-years old, he worked as a private bodyguard for a municipal official in the municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province in the Philippines.
While traveling during one of his work duties, the vehicle he was riding suffered a flat wheel. The driver, wanting to finish the journey, opted to push through—to their detriment. The car flipped six times. Raul felt his muscles pull and bones break. He was rushed to a hospital and lost consciousness. The doctors were able to save his life; however, Raul lost his right arm.

Coming to terms

He found the experience extremely difficult. “It was hard to accept what happened,” he said.  “It was a challenge socializing with other people. I was ashamed.” While deemed as an equal peer member in the past, and even viewed in high regard by some given his tough image, Raul suddenly felt discrimination from others in his community; he experienced teasing and jeers from his fellows. What’s more, it had an impact on his job, “I could not operate the same way I used to physically.”

Raul suffered a slump. “It was one of the most difficult periods in my life”, he admitted. However, he knew he could not keep himself in the same position. “If I could not accept my condition, I would probably lose my mind,” he said. So when a bright opportunity arose, he immediately grabbed it. The municipality of Juban in Sorsogon, under a program by the Department of Labor and Employment, was offering a scholarship, a summer job with allowance.

Going through the summer job, he realized he had the capacity to accomplish things. “I could actually keep pace with other people,” he said proudly. After that, he was inspired to do more. He took a 1-month massage class and 2-month basic electronics class under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). While all this was happening, the municipal official once more extended the bodyguard position for him.

Building up again

Raul’s participation as the chairman of the persons with disability sector in their community was essential in the development of the community’s disaster risk reduction and management plan.
Things were looking up for Raul and soon, he was appointed by the community as the chairman for Barangay Tughan’s persons with disability sector. “I was one of the active persons with disabilities in the community that was why I was chosen,” he declared. However, he acknowledged that he was still trying to find his bearings. “I still have to gather a lot of information about the community and establish a system, a structure for persons with disabilities.”

He found it opportune, therefore, when the village chief told him that under a partnership project by CBM International and the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP), a 7-day Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and Management training-workshop would be conducted in their community, Barangay Tughan in the Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province. It would be the first training he had experienced of this kind and he knew it would be challenging. However, he said, “How would I be able to test my capacities if I am not challenged?”

It was indeed daunting as a 7-day training in the community can be quite taxing physically and mentally. Nonetheless, he found the experience to be quite rewarding. He shared that the hazard mapping and elements-at-risk activities were the most enlightening. “Since we are all part of a community, as a concerned citizen, I can now easily locate affected people and families, even persons with disabilities, especially those in the high-risk areas.”

Prepared for disasters

Since not everyone in the community are able to attend this kind of training, he believes that the 36 participants in their community and municipality who were able to attend should be models and have the initiative to share what they have learned. He said, “I took notes, pictures—documentation. These are important so I can impart my knowledge to others.”

Having experienced the severe effects of typhoon, flooding, and ashfall in their community, he is now more confident that their community can manage. “If a disaster strikes, even us persons with disabilities can help other persons with disabilities,” he declared.

In addition, he believes that the training has given him the much-needed springboard to fulfill his chairmanship position for persons with disabilities in the community. His next steps are to consolidate the information about persons with disabilities that were gathered during the workshop, and hopefully conduct re-echoing to other community members. What’s more, the workshop was able to give him not only the knowledge and skills in terms of disaster risk reduction and management, but also the affirmation that persons with disabilities are not weak, but can be capacitated and empowered.

Raul believes people can learn from his experience, especially those who had undergone the same experience: “It is difficult to be a person with disability through an accident. However, if you do not learn how to accept and cope with your condition, you will be on the losing end. You have to show people who discriminate against you that they are wrong. That you are strong and are capable of doing great things”.


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