MANILA, Philippines – Proud parents cheered on as their sons and daughters graduated from a hotel internship in Davao City on Friday, November 16. Everywhere, there were cameras clicking and joyous tears.
But it was not an ordinary graduation.
At least 7 students with Down syndrome successfully completed a 10-day training program on the basics of the hotel industry in late October, through a partnership between the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, Incorporated (DSAPI) Davao and Green Windows Hotel.
“Proud na proud ako at sobrang saya ko. Kung ano’ng achievement niya ay achievement na rin namin,” Joy Omar, mother of 27-year-old Benrafii, told Rappler. (I’m very proud and I’m so happy. His achievement is our achievement too.)
Known for their exceptional characteristic of being joyful, the students with Down syndrome became even more enthusiastic after their acceptance into the training program, according to their parents.
For Omar, the program is a great initiative that served as an avenue for her son and other trainees to showcase their abilities.
“Meron silang strengths, may mga kaya silang gawin. Kailangan lang natin silang i-support at bigyan ng pagkakataon na ipakita ‘yung mga kakayahan nila,” Omar said.
(They have strengths, there are things they can do. We just need to support them and give them the chance to show what they’ve got.)
This was echoed by Daina Borja, mother of 23-year-old Eloisa Jane, who shared how proud her daughter was whenever she was asked by their neighbors about her internship.
“Tinatanong namin kung ano’ng ginagawa nila, more pa sila na-e-encourage na gumawa ng mga bagay. Sa paglabas namin sa umaga, kapag tinatanong siya kung saan siya pupunta, proud siyang magsasabi na sa work niya,” Borja said.
(We would ask her what they’re doing, and it would encourage her to do more. Whenever we would go out in the morning and someone would ask where she was going, she was proud to say that she’s going to work.)
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder which is typically associated with physical and intellectual delays. (READ: Down syndrome and 10 things I’ve learned)
With the thriving hospitality industry in the city, Green Windows Hotel sales and marketing head Pio Sto Domingo said they realized that “development comes with inclusion.” This is why they partnered with DSAPI, a non-profit organization that supports families who have a child with Down syndrome.
“People with Down syndrome are welcoming and we felt the urge [to provide] opportunities for them to work by giving them trainings,” said Sto Domingo.
The trainees received certificates of completion and copies of their individual resumés for their job-hunting endeavors.
Being a member of DSAPI for 10 years, Omar said the opportunity given to her child was a dream come true.
The parents said that people with Down syndrome continue to face stigma. Their ultimate hope is to live in a world that fully accepts people with Down syndrome.
“Kapag dini-discriminate sila, kaming mga parents ‘yung pinakanasasaktan, pero hindi na lang namin ‘yun iniintindi masyado,” Borja said.
(Every time that they are discriminated against, we – the parents – are the ones who are hurt the most, but we just try to ignore it.)
The parents said they are now waiting for another training program which will be handled by another partner corporation of DSAPI.
Initiative captures hearts online
The photos of the trainees went viral online, with many commending the hotel for promoting an inclusive workplace.
As of this writing, the hotel’s post has gotten more than 13,000 reactions and over 11,000 shares.
Parents of other kids who have Down syndrome also commented, saying that they wish their kids would be given similar opportunities too.
According to Sto Domingo, they plan to continue the initiative and include other individuals with special needs. He also hopes that other establishments would champion diversity and inclusion. – Rappler.com