The Heart at Play Foundation: Healing Through Dance

Repost from my Philippine Daily Inquirer Article:

“It takes a special kind of heart takes a special kind of heart, a renewed sense of purpose and hope, our innovative spirit and strong affirmation that no child should be left behind.”

Volunteering at THP is about becoming part of a family

Volunteering at THP is about becoming part of a family

It was three years ago when Dance specialist Ana Rivera, along with her daughters Therese and Patricia, founded The Heart at Play (THP) Foundation, which provides Dance Movement Therapy to special needs children and adults.

Ana obtained a degree in Special education and pioneered the unique Dance Movement Therapy program, which uses a scientific and very systematic step-by-step approach to helping these children. While Therese and Patricia have been dancing all throughout their life, and have even competed in international dance competitions.

With a desire to share the extreme feeling of joy they experience from dancing, Therese and Patricia have been encouraging their peers, fellow dancers and friends to volunteer and help out at THP, quickly turning THP into a youth movement. Students from ICA, Xavier, Ateneo and other high schools and universities have come to volunteer and be part of the THP family.

“As Filipino dancers we know in our hearts that every moment we spend on that stage, under the limelight and in front of a crowd, we lift it all up to Him. What better way of paying it forward than by sharing what we love the most, which is dance,” stated Therese in her Facebook post, inviting her dancer friends to volunteer at THP.

“Why can’t the special kids know how it feels, to lift their leg this high, it’s pretty heartbreaking,” stated Patricia Rivera as I asked her how she feels about the advocacy.


 When I was invited by my friend to volunteer for The Heart of Play foundation, I didn’t know what to expect. But I would soon find out that it’s not just about being a volunteer, but instead being a volunpeer as I saw friends and peers enthusiastically participating in the program. Even with the heat, and everyone sweating already, you could see that the volunpeers were still trying their best to help out these special children.

With my partner Gio

With my partner Gio

I honestly never knew dance could be so tiring. I was really challenged to find ways to help Gio be able to do the dance steps. I was forced to reflect and think about how I could communicate with him given the fact that he had a speaking disability. So whenever Gio and the other children would flash a smile, I couldn’t help but smile as well knowing that I’m able to at least bring a little joy in their lives.

After the dance session, the volunpeers along with their partners were given a chance to interact, get to know the mommies, and learn more about the story of their partners. It was a really eye-opening experience for me as I learned more about what my partner Gio did in his daily life and how they tried as much as possible to give him a normal life by assigning him household chores.

On to the Big Stage

On June 21, 2014, The Heart of Play Foundation will be organizing their first ever benefit concert, “Specially Me: Merging Two Worlds Through DANCE!” which will be held at the Henry Lee Erwin Theater at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Through this concert, the foundation really hopes to raise awareness about their cause and at the same time, give the special children a chance to express themselves by performing on the big stage.

It’s really heart breaking knowing that these kids will never be able to do the things we take for granted. Interacting with these kids, quickly made me realize how lucky I am. The experience of just volunteering at THP can be a really life changing one.

For more information on ways to volunteer or if you’re interested in attending or supporting the benefit concert, do check out their website, like their Facebook page or email them at



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