Sara Ungson and Anj Onrubia, Best Buddies Philippines
Tell us about your history with Best Buddies?
Anj: I first came across Best Buddies in early 2013. I was watching TV and saw a feature on the Best Buddies Challenge. When I heard about the Best Buddies mission of friendship and inclusion, I knew instantly that I wanted to bring it to Manila. As a mother of a child with special needs, I know how heartbreaking it is to feel left out and excluded. I saw Best Buddies as a chance to change things around.
Manila is far from being an inclusive community and I wanted to spread this very important message and change our society’s views. So, I sent an email to the International Program and asked if I could start Best Buddies in Manila. Luckily, they replied to my email!
I met Sue Trone, Director of Asia and Oceania later in the year and attended the Asia Staff Forum in Singapore in Nov 2013. The more I learned about Best Buddies, the more I fell in love with what it stands for. We finally got things started in Manila and held our first official BB activity in Feb/March 2014. I can’t believe that one year has already passed! It’s been a really busy and exciting first year!
As the Director of Best Buddies, I wanted to lead by example. Here I was asking people to volunteer their time and become a buddy, so I wanted to show that, no matter how busy you are, you can find time to be a buddy. So I joined our Best Buddies Citizens group and met Sara at our Best Buddies Citizens Ice Cream party in Sept 2014. From the day I first met her and saw her sweet smile, I knew we were going to be great friends!
What does Best Buddies mean to you?
Anj: I can’t begin to explain what Best Buddies means to me. It’s so much more than an organization or a movement. As a mother of a child with special needs, Best Buddies symbolizes hope. I’ve met so many wonderful people – from the Best Buddies International Programs staff to Best Buddies volunteers here in Manila – who believe in the mission of Best Buddies. It has helped me learn to trust in the goodness and kindness of people. It fills my heart with so much hope for my son’s future – that he will be able to make friends and find many opportunities to grow and learn and be a valuable member of the community.
As a citizen buddy, Best Buddies is really about friendship. It’s about opening your heart and finding out that your life will never be the same again because someone has touched your life in a very special way.
Sara: I welcome Best Buddies as another beautiful opportunity to interact with “regular” members of society. To me, it is a means by which special people are recognized and accepted for what they are and can still become and to be loved as equal members society.
What’s your favorite thing about your buddy?
Anj: Sara and I are alike and yet very different in many ways. She’s the perfect buddy for me! I’m usually shy and quiet, so I love how outgoing and friendly she is. I also love how she’s fiercely independent and very spunky! In Manila, very few people with IDDs are employed and she’s one of them. She works at a nail salon and is very dedicated to her work. She’s also a champion bowler with Special Olympics! She’s thoughtful and sweet and always has little gifts for me. Sara’s awesome! I love everything about her!
Sara: I love my Ate Anj very much. I love her pleasant disposition and understanding and loving nature. I am very blessed to have her as my Best Buddy. I feel good seeing her happy whenever we are together.
What do you and your buddy like to do together?
Anj: We do a lot of fun things together! We always try to do different things, but our favorite activity is hanging out at the mall since we both love to shop and eat. Sara loves taking photos, so our outings are never complete unless we take a gazillion photos! We love creating collages of our photos and posting them on Facebook. We also both love crafts – she’s intent on teaching me how to make friendship bracelets!
Sara: I enjoy our times together visiting the bookstore at the mall, exchanging stories, eating together, her surprise visit to our home, going over my hobbies, making friendship bracelets together and singing and dancing together with other Buddies.
How has Best Buddies changed your life?
Anj: Best Buddies is a huge life-changing experience for me. When I attended the Best Buddies Leadership Conference last July (2014), I was overwhelmed by all the awesome people I met who believe and practice inclusion in the U.S. and in other countries around the world. It was such an eye-opening experience.
I loved learning about what other Best Buddies chapters all over the world were doing. I came home excited to do the same in Manila! Though Best Buddies is very new here, we’ve seen how our one-to-one friendships have made a difference in our volunteers. We’re inspired to continue changing lives one friendship at a time all over the Philippines! Please like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BestBuddiesPhilippinesManila
Sara: Best Buddies has added new colors to my life. It has made me become happier by having a new, caring friend, my buddy Ate Anj; meeting other new friends, and enjoying new experiences. I gained more self-confidence from opportunities for interaction where I can share my abilities and where I am also able to learn from my buddy and other members of Best Buddies.
Why do you think others should join Best Buddies?
Anj: In a world that’s becoming so busy and so impersonal, Best Buddies is a chance to make a genuine difference in someone’s life. It’s a chance to open your hearts and make incredible friends. Be prepared for a life-changing experience – it’ll transform you! Best Buddies is always in need of committed volunteers – please check out the website www.bestbuddies.org to find out how you can join Best Buddies in your state or country.
To get involved in the Philippines, visit www.bestbuddiesphilippines.com.
Sara: “Regular” people should join Best Buddies as senior buddies so they can contribute to humanity in their own way through further development of special people; to make them happier by being accepted and loved through their precious gift of time and learn from the experience and in the process, also become better persons themselves. On the other hand, special people should join BB to expand their horizons beyond family and school or work and in the process share themselves and their “worlds” and learn and grow more from the interactions and the caring received from their senior buddies.