As an extrovert, I do love being around others. However, because of unpleasant past experiences and as I face several challenges when it comes to being social, going out and actually socializing is pretty hard for me. Every year, I do set several “social challenges” for myself, but usually never get to keep them, except for going to fan conventions, which I do attend every year. However, I think that I will be able to get out of my comfort zone and actually be more social this year, and all of this thanks to attending the Best Buddies Manila March 2018 Dance Night last Saturday night, March 17, 2018, at the De La Salle Zobel School.
Best Buddies Manila (Philippines) is only one part of a bigger international organization called Best Buddies International.
Best Buddies International was founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver as a non-profit organization that fosters friendships and creates opportunities for those with intellectual and developmental disorders (IDD), such as autism, Down Syndrome, and cerebral palsy among others.
The organization hopes, through its different programs (friendship program, job programs, and leadership training programs), to be able to help those with IDDs become happy integrated members of society.
While Best Buddies International has been around for quite some time, Best Buddies Philippines has only been around since 2014, and its country director is Michelle Aventajado, who also has a wonderful blog of her own.
Interestingly enough, I actually discovered the existence of Best Buddies Manila after seeing it on her blog when I was searching for blogs in the Philippines that also talked about autism or having special needs, and as I was actively searching for groups in Manila I could join.
After having a coffee date with her and her husband, I was invited to attend the upcoming Best Buddies Dance Night to see what Best Buddies was all about.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect, and I went through all the motions of preparing myself literally and mentally for the event. However, when I got there, I was amazed at how welcoming and inclusive everyone was.
The Dance Night was the last activity of the Best Buddies De La Salle Zobel chapter, and was organized by two Grade 11 students from the school. It was attended by a mixture of parents, student volunteers, their buddies, and students from other partner schools as well. Aside from an open dance floor, there was also a DJ who played fun beats for everyone to dance to, and an impromptu open mic where anyone could perform from singing all the way to lip sync battles.
As the evening went on, I found myself having a lot of fun watching these kids dance their hearts out, and performing with the main goal of just having fun with their friends. This, and the fact that there was no pressure for me to go up and dance as well that same night, amazed me. In fact, I felt that this was probably one of the safest places I could be at, and that for the first time, it was alright to take things at my own pace depending on my own comfort level.
I also found it amazing that these teenagers had found a worthy but unusual cause to be advocates of, and that in this particular school chapter, they not only welcomed those with IDDs, but also welcomed those who felt like outsiders and outcasts as well. In fact, according to the teacher in charge of this particular school chapter, many of them improved while being part of the organization and became more self-confident and took more initiative within the group.
Teenage me would have probably found a lot of friends in and a second home in an organization like this, as they have no pretensions at all and it would have had definitely helped me with my social skills and my own self-confidence back then. Based on everything I saw and experienced that night, it was clear to see that there was no such thing as peer pressure here and that there was absolutely no need to “mask” or censor anything here. This was definitely a safe place where the number one rule was to be yourself and to have fun. This was a safe place where no one judged you for your dancing or singing abilities no matter what level you were at at those, and a place where you didn’t have to pretend that you were like everyone else in terms of what you wore and what you talked about.Now, although that time has passed, I know that attending these events and being a part of this now, will help me in the long run as well.
In the end, I had a lot of fun attending the event, and am elated to know that there are organizations like this that cater to those with IDDs in the Philippines, and especially in Manila. Organizations like these, I believe, are definitely needed by IDDs, no matter what age you are, as it will help you grow more, not only socially, but it will help you gain a lot of self-confidence as well.
I truly enjoyed my Best Buddies Dance Night experience and cannot wait to join more activities, programs and events in the future!
Image Source: The Asian Aspergirl, Official Best Buddies Manila Facebook Page & The Official Best Buddies International Facebook Page