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Little steps bring great rewards in helping the disabled

Spending 15 minutes a day on helping others

Father Luke Moortgat (center) and participants during the Catholic Congress on Blindness Father Luke Moortgat (center) and participants during the Catholic Congress on Blindness
  • John Francis Lagman, Manila
  • Philippines
  • February 8, 2012
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“We just have to do our little share and great things will happen.”

These are the words of 71-year-old Father Luke Moortgat, a foreign missionary who has spent half his life in the Philippines.

Five million Filipinos are physically handicapped, according to Catholic Handicapped Development, and Fr Moortgat organizes initiatives, events and meetings for people with disabilities all year round.

Every Saturday this February is dedicated to them, with a different challenge highlighted each week.

Last Saturday, February 4, was named Catholic Blind Day and about 100 people – many more than expected – attended a congress which tackled what individuals, society, church and the government can do to help the visually impaired.

The group looked at Fr Moortgat’s idea of the One Percent Movement, where volunteers spend one percent of their time, or an average of 15 minutes a day, on helping others.

Ways and means for establishing a database of blind people, creating jobs and utilizing the support of the Church were also discussed at the congress.

“The first need is vocational training,” Fr Moortgat said. “Not enough finish secondary education." More blind people should be in high school,or even elementary level, he said.

“The bishops agreed two years ago that every diocese and parish should have a commission on healthcare. The handicapped, the sick, the elderly and of course the dying should all be represented. We have been working for that, going around many dioceses and parishes,” he said.

His work in this area stretches back over decades. In 1993, by request of the late Cardinal Sin of Manila, he founded the Handicapped Center Lourdes. The center provides residential care for abandoned children, day care for children with multiple handicaps who live with their parents and a physical therapy area.

“We try to educate them as much as possible,” said Fr Moortgat. “Everything is free -­ food, health insurance and a hospitalization plan. We even have transport for the children to come to day care.”

“The problem is that the parents are not convinced enough of the value of teaching or training their children for anything. That takes time.”

 
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