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Rainbow Community wins award for helping disabled

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Published : 2014-04-01 20:51
Updated : 2014-04-02 11:21

The Rainbow Community, an organization helping people with special needs in Gwangju run by Irish priest Father Noel O’Neill, has won this year’s TJ Park Prize for philanthropy.

The Community Development and Philanthropy Prize was one of three awards given out last week by the POSCO TJ Park Foundation in memory of the company’s founder.

POSCO praised O’Neill when it announced that the Rainbow Community had won the award.

“He created a group home where the mentally challenged could live together in a facility without having to be isolated from society,” the company said on its blog. “This new model comes at a time when such social care is much needed.”
Father Noel O’Neill poses with staff and members of the Rainbow Community, an organization helping people with special needs, after receiving the TJ Park Community Development and Philanthropy Prize on March 26.

O’Neill set the community up in 1981 to help people with intellectual disabilities and help change perceptions of them.

“From the beginning our aim was to enhance the dignity and social image of people with special needs,” he said. “Rather than segregating them in large institutions away from society, we promoted services within the local community.”

The rainbow community looks after more than 600 people and has 130 permanent staff and about 1,000 volunteers.

Most of them live in general accommodation, but the Rainbow Community has about 16 group homes in the city, with four people with special needs in each home.

It also makes support visits to 130 sets of parents with special needs.

“Most of those living in the group homes were abandoned by their families and lived in large segregated institutions before being welcomed to the Rainbow Community. Some had lived in institutions for 20 years.”

The Rainbow Community operates six centers in various parts of the city under the name Emmaus.

One is a welfare center that provides social skills and training. Three other centers provide employment to people with special needs.

They are generally involved in light industries. One center makes cooking oil and tofu, while another is involved in dyeing, towel-making and pottery.

The third center produces toilet paper, candles and filing folders on an industrial estate. This year it won a contract to supply Incheon International Airport with toilet paper, according to O’Neill.

They also run a preschool and a day care center that provides training in social skills

On top of that, O’Neill said Emmaus helped about 130 disabled people become employed in the wider community and 20 more find part-time employment.

The TJ Park Prize comes with a monetary award of 200 million won ($188,000), which O’Neill said would go to meet the cost of a new service center that has just been completed.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)

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