In this digital age it has been very easy to share thoughts and insights about so many things. Things that we believe in, things that we aspire to be, and even the changes that we want to see in the world. I for one would, sometimes, like and share videos, memes, and articles about things that I advocate for, like the empowerment of Persons with Disability. But more than knowing and sharing about it on social media we have the greater calling of acting upon it; “walk the talk” as they say.
We’ve seen viral videos about Persons with Disability working in places you didn’t expect them to. We’ve seen memes about how we’re supposed to treat them like they’re no different from us. But while it’s of course important that we share them on social media, and even talk about them with our loved ones, what is more crucial is that understanding and empathy is paired with action, helping provide opportunities for Persons with Disability to lead productive lives.
Southstar Drug (SSD) and Project Inclusion Network (PIN) have been working together in creating opportunities for Persons with Disability, and for the next few months, they’re adding another aspect to this partnership: harnessing the power of art.
For the past three years, SSD has been working with PIN in placing Persons with Disability in several of their branches. Most of them are now regular employees. To date, they have already employed 23 Persons with Disability within the company. According to Christine Tueres, the General Manager of South Star Drug, Inc, this is very much aligned with their company’s advocacy and over-all philosophy. “We care a little more” is a tagline that they have used, and it further strengthens their decision to extend assistance to people who need a little more special care and attention, not to mention inclusion.
While society has been a little more open and inclusive to Persons with Disability, there is still that perception that Persons with Disability cannot be fully functioning members of society. It is this stigma that has driven PIN to raise awareness and engage more companies like Southstar Drug to build a more inclusive and barrier-free Philippines. Grant Javier, PIN’s Executive Director, explains that helping improve access to work opportunities for Persons with Disability is part of our responsibility as citizens – to ensure that all members of society are included, and are provided with equal opportunities.
It is with this mindset that SSD and PIN explored more opportunities to engage with the Person with Disability community and to get SSD consumers involved as well. This year, they are launching the campaign, Drop the Prefix, to not just raise awareness about Persons with Disabilities but more importantly, to raise more funds to sponsor the training and development of Persons with Disability who have shown potential in arts.
For the coming Christmas season, Southstar Drug branches will be selling bags starting October 15 that have been designed by selected artists with disability that are part of Project Inclusion Network’s pool. The artworks will also be produced as desk and wall calendars as giveaways this Christmas. These uniquely designed bags are produced by Persons with Disability through Goodwill Industries of the Philippines, a civic organization whose main purpose is to provide “skill empowerment” to Persons with Disability so they will be able to reach their full potential as individuals and as contributing members of society. This is also in line with SSD’s mission, and so Goodwill is the perfect partner for this campaign.
It’s also important to know the stories of the artists with disability who designed these bags. These individuals have a common bond in their love for art and desire to create something that will be useful for people who would want to own their creations.
We have individuals like Maribeth, who is Deaf and extremely talented in painting. She started out just watching YouTube videos and copying the art she saw there. But now, after undergoing training and tutelage, she started painting her own original ideas and has even become her family’s breadwinner through her craft. For her bag design, she wanted to highlight the fight for equal rights of Filipino children with disabilities. This is her own way of helping her community and she believes that if people like her continue to train and practice their art, they too will be able to have a fulfilling career in the arts.
You also have someone like Joaquin, a Person with Autism who uses painting not just as part of his therapy but also to explore and hone his creativity. His mother Lala shares that because of his newly discovered love for art, he has become more patient and comfortable with his surroundings and at the same time, he has been creating art that tackles things like the environment and health and wellness. She emphasizes that through the support of family and community, people like her son can discover the talents that they want to share to the world.
Gavin de Guzman, the father of Juan Gabriel, also a Person with Autism, shares that when they discovered his love for art and charcoal painting, they let him explore and decide for himself what kind of art he wants to do. With guidance and support, he was even able to do things like animation, although currently he is more of a naturalist painter. Gavin shared that it is important that parents and teachers would also give them the chance to discover their preferences and hidden talents. He says that you’ll be amazed at what your children can actually do.
Art knows no boundaries and limitations and Persons with Disability involved in this cause have been discovering hidden depths and joy through painting, sketching, designing and other forms of art. The bags that have been created for this project will be available for sale at selected South Star Drugs stores nationwide, starting October 2019. Part of the proceeds will go to educational training and development of Persons with Disability scholars that SSDI and Project Inclusion Network are supporting to further improve their capacity to actively participate in our society.
With the Drop the Prefix campaign, Southstar Drug, Project Inclusion Network and Goodwill Industries have joined forces to help create a space for Persons with Disability to realize their potential, earn a living, and enhance their skills by providing them with educational opportunities. These organizations are partners and advocates in educating people in treating Persons with Disability with the respect, dignity, and care that they deserve.
Christine Tueres says that SSD strongly believes in creating opportunities to make Persons with Disability feel that they are part of society. “We believe that everyone should be valued and appreciate one’s uniqueness, capability and ability. With this project, we are able to help our society not just by delivering healthcare but also by providing love and care to everyone,” she shares.
The Drop the Prefix campaign is more than an advocacy, but it is a culture that we should all embrace. A culture of inclusion, understanding, compassion, and true equality.