“Greatness is not what you become. It is what you overcome.”
The annual SPEED Disability Awareness Week (or SPEED Week) aims to promote awareness and acceptance for the special needs sector. Interdepartmental efforts have been put together to share to the Ateneo community that Persons With Special Needs (PWSNs) are not to be looked down upon, but are to be embraced and accepted. This year, SPEED Week had the theme, “Seeing Things From a Different Perspective”.
Multiple booths were set up in lieu with the celebration of this year’s SPEED Week with fun activities for Ateneans and Speple alike. The activity booth was an opportunity for Ateneans and PWSNs to interact with one other through arts and crafts sessions. Ateneans were also invited to leave messages on the freedom board and make simple friendship bracelets for the PWSNs for when they arrive. A fundraiser booth was also set up, featuring hot air balloon-shaped sugar cookies made by Chef Laudico Guevarra, which Ateneans happily munched on while going around the booths.
Work Space is another one of SPEED Week’s main activities where PWSNs had the chance to apply their work-related skills in the various booths around Ateneo such as the LS Bookstore, Gonzaga caf, JSEC stalls, and more. This also increased the exposure for the sector; showing Ateneans that they can, indeed, turn their disabilities into abilities.
Throughout the week, Speple have been encouraging Ateneans to pledge, through the Speak Out! Campaign, for a more inclusive society—one that is more accepting and understanding of the PWSNs. Last year, the Ateneo community pledged to stop the use of derogatory terms such as “retard,” “abno,” “otis”, and etc. For this year, 706 have pledged to be part of the movement to remove tolerance, accept our differences, and fight against the discrimination against PWSNs for a more inclusive society.
There was also a fundraising project, Spectrum, which featured merchandise such as drawstring bags, stickers, and statement shirts, which, originally, were beautiful artworks made by PWSNs from Euchristiana Center. Seeing Ateneans wear the shirts loud and proud is heartwarming, knowing that a simple statement on a shirt can raise awareness for the sector wherever they may go.
Another project that happened during SPEED Week were the Advocacy Talks. The first one entitled, “SPEED Week Advocacy Talk: Types of Special Needs” featured 3 different guests, each with an inspiring story of their own. One was Mr. Pong Tee, a father of a 16 year old diagnosed with AD/HD. He recounts how he has used his experience as a Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner in surviving his son. He mentions the 3 F’s he follows — freedom, fun and friend. With these, he lets his son grow and explore the world on his own, all while making sure that he is a father his son could always count on. One of the lines that struck me the most was, “My role is to empower and motivate.”
The second speaker, Ms. Clariz Caballero, a 25 year-old diagnosed with mosaic Down syndrome when she was born, showcased her with the use of props, and her mom as the customer. She currently works at Puzzles Café, where she was given an “Independent Worker Award”. A video presentation was also played, showcasing her trips to various countries and her hobbies, which include singing, dancing, baking, modeling, and many more.
Last but not the least was Mr. Carl Veluz, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age. He is now the Project Assistant in the Autism Philippines Society. Despite going through difficult hardships earlier in his life, he believes that he “may be different, but never less.” Mr. Carl also believes that “autism is his superpower.” He has proved this by winning multiple quiz bees and starting projects such as Gregarious Gifts. He is also planning to start a PWSN-friendly café in Dasmariñas called Project Advocafé. Along with this, he also helps his father in their business, and has also expressed interest in architecture, fashion, and fitness. He ends his presentation with a beautiful saying, “Greatness is not what you become. It is what you overcome.”
An afternoon culminating activity was done on Friday, October 14, which included a dance therapy session with The Heart at Play Foundation. It was open to non-SPEED members as well to increase further exposure of the PWSNs.
SPEED Week ended with a blast, with the much-awaited costume parade around the campus. The PWSNs and Speple all wore costumes with big smiles on their faces.
This year’s SPEED Disability Awareness Week was definitely a fun and cultivating activity for everyone. I definitely enjoyed, while at the same time educating and touching people’s lives with SPEED’s advocacy. My hope is that with our help, the special needs sector is empowered, and that we all embrace their potential to grow, and value their worth as people.
Written by Cathleen Sison
*SPEED Week, Spectrum, and Speak Out! happened from October 10-14, 2016 at the LS Promenade. The 1st Advocacy Talk was held last October 10, 2016, from 5:00-7:00 pm, in SEC C 201-A.
**The 2nd Advocacy Talk entitled “School Life of a PWSN” was held last October 12, 2016, from 5:00-7:00 pm in Leong Hall Auditorium. You can read more about it here.
***You may still pledge for a more inclusive society by clicking this link.