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Human relationships – crucial for sustainable development.

We can have all the best ideas and all the big words for making the world a better place and being “change makers”, but what does this really look like and how do we nurture and sustain it when we see it? It all comes down to the power of human relationships. The knowledge we are not alone, the belief that what we are doing matters and makes a difference. The sharing of our stories and the understanding of our immense human potential, as well as our frailty and vulnerability and the celebration of both. Problem solving together and sharing ideas across contexts, building the knowledge that we are part of something worthwhile and that other people understand. Strong global communities are what will build sustainable change.

Last week after our Developmental Play conference in Manila we took the Founders of Deepti Special School in rural India, Dr Susan Mathew and Dr Mathew Varghese to spend time with Monaliza Guce, the Director and Founder of Kaleidoscope Therapy and Learning Center in the Batangas Province in the Philippines and to see her Center. We had all been together at the conference but this study visit took it to where the work really happens, it made it real. We spent time sharing with the parents; Susan and Mathew are parents of a differently abled child and the parents of Kaleidoscope were inspired by their passion and honest experiences of the challenges, and how it had made them set up their school; and the Kaleidoscope parents shared how their own experiences had made them want to ensure that therapy and schooling was made available to poor children in the provinces. Passion inspired and supported passion. Empathy and understanding were reinforced.

“I never thought I would share my story with a mother in a similar situation from India” one parent told me, “I want to go and visit her school in India”.

Relationships are forged, initiatives validated and thanks to technology can be shared across continents. We all got to “play” together too trying the tinikling, a Filipino national dance with bamboo poles -the children taught us and laughed as adults we became playful, got it wrong, had a go and best of all had a great laugh. Playing together and sharing experiences across cultures. Cementing relationships through shared experiences and the joyful ones too.

As I work and train at both Deepti Special School and Kaleidoscope I had seen how similar the challenges and joys are of pioneering such work and felt that this “South-South” connection needed to be made. That heart could speak to heart and that bringing together two groups who work daily in similar contexts could only deepen commitment and passion for development. Often the people working at the cliff-face, particularly in developing countries, do not have the resources to travel and share their experiences but this study visit made me realise how important it is for building sustainable projects for children who are differently abled or at risk. We need to nurture and support the human, caring capital that is so prevalent in these grass root communities and then the best possible development will grow and flourish.

The Developmental Play Community will continue to focus on building this capacity at the bottom of the pyramid and trying to support rural, under resourced projects that work with children at risk. To find out more and get involved with our work please visit us at or

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