Lifting the ‘Down’

Persons with Down syndrome may be different from the majority but they are definitely equally valuable.

An old notion associated with persons with Down syndrome that they struggle learning and could not be employed is wholly unfounded.

Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. Chromosomes are small “packages” of genes in the body. They determine how a baby’s body forms and functions as it grows during pregnancy and after birth. Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is ‘trisomy.’ Down syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21. This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the baby.

Even though people with Down syndrome might act and look similar, each person has different abilities. People with Down syndrome usually have an IQ (a measure of intelligence) in the mildly-to-moderately low range and are slower to speak than other children.

Persons with Down syndrome can actually be taught and perform well along with peers.

Thanks to the people and organizations that give them a chance to show their skills.

Several companies have broke society’s old standing stereotype to train persons with Down syndrome as they fully understand that these individuals are not only employable but could also become wonderful assets to a workplace.

Don Antonio O. Floirendo, Sr. (AOF) Foundation, the CSR arm of the ANFLO Group of Companies, has opened its doors to persons with Down syndrome by giving them a chance to work as interns at some of Anflocor’s sister companies.

In partnership with the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Inc.- Davao (DSAPI-Davao), Anflocor’s AOF Foundation created a program named “Work Exposure for People with Down Syndrome”, which welcomes interns with down syndrome and exposed them to the office set up.

Currently, there are 13 interns with Down syndrome, wherein nine are working as interns at Anflocor and the others at its sister companies. And they are receiving honorarium for their service.

“This is a good exposure for them. Niagi ni sila ug screening pero dili ingon ana ka istrikto before namo gidawat. Gina-handle namo sila with care,” said Jheanne Lee S. Juyo, Human Resource and Management Development manager for Anflocor.

These individuals embody the saying “angels in the workplace” as they are making the workplace’s environment extraordinary.

“Meron tayong tinatawag na “angels in the workplace” kasi sometimes pupunta ka ng office, stress ka, may kinikimkim kang problema, meron kang makikitang bata na nagbibigay sa iyo ng saya,” said Norman L. Clemente, executive director for AOF Foundation.

Raihanah Acedo, corporate communications and creative services senior supervisor of Anflocor, described them as friendly, courteous, and shy but sociable.

Lanie P. Vergara, assistant coordinator for DSAPI-Davao, said because of the exposure at Anflocor, some of these interns learned how to mingle.

“After niya diri (Anflocor), uli siya sa ilang balay bantay sa ilahang tindahan, murag continuity sa ilahang natun-an dinhi sa Anflocor. Na busy sila tungod sa exposure. Maka-happy kay tungod sa Anflocor, ang community as a whole, kay makita sa ilahang ID, musakay ug jeep, hala Anflocor ang ilahang ID ug uniform, naa diay ingon ana? Lami kaayo ang ilang feeling. When they go to their community and neighborhood, asa diay na sila nagwork? Ma-open pud ang mind ug heart sa community because of the partnership,” Vergara said.

Clemente said they are looking at elevating the internship program into regular employment among persons with Down syndrome.

“Itong program na ito i-elevate pa natin. We are discussing coming out with a special program na employment para sa kanila. Hindi lang two hours but we are thinking maging regular employment, a special program for people with Down syndrome. Kasi nga inclusive at para maging normal na ito,” he said.

AOF is a non-stock and non-profit organization that concentrates on supporting community development through assistance in education, healthcare, environment, cultural preservation and economic upliftment, moral and social values, as well as sports.

On the other hand, Vergara said this is part of DSAPI-Davao’s project called “Project Inclusion”, which is in line with the Republic Act 7277 This Act provides for the rehabilitation, self-development, and self-reliance of disabled persons and their integration into the mainstream of society.

She said it is the goal of DSAPI to bridge the gap between the parents and the school, the school, and the community.

“It’s a partnership about the training. As they say ‘it takes a community to build a person,’ so muagi sila ug screening. I talked with the parents and school kung kinsa ang ready na sa ilahang students. Those who belong to the transition program to adulthood. We usually choose those 16 years old and above age group. When the school will recommend, mu-screen pud ko ana and I always make sure to tell the parents it’s not a guarantee na gi-recommend siya ni teacher, madawat siya. But the good thing is kung dili siya madawat, we will be informing you and the teacher that these are the qualities for the skills na kulang pa siya,” she said.

DSAPI-Davao carries the #heartfordown.

Leave a Reply