• Manila-Based Blogger and PWD Advocate Awarded Mother of the Year

    She was honored by a global organization that pushes to create opportunities for people with disabilities.
    by SmartParenting Staff .

  • Best Buddies International, a nonprofit organization that aims to establish a global volunteer movement to create opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), recently honored one of SmartParenting's contributing writers, Michelle Ressa Aventajado, as Mother of the Year: International for the work she has done as country director of Best Buddies Philippines.

    Best Buddies is present in more than 50 countries, Michelle explains, "so it's a pretty big honor to be chosen."

    Michelle, who chronicles her motherhood journey in Momma n Manila, told us she had no idea of the honor until a week before the event, which was held in Malibu, California. "I thought I was just attending a fundraiser!

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    Michelle, her husband Nino, and their then three kids settled in the Philippines more than 11 years ago. She almost left the country to head back to the U.S. after she gave birth to Gelli who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Michelle didn't think she would get the support she needed in the Philippines where "inclusion is in its infancy."


    "It was only four years ago that it became unlawful to deny my daughter the right to an equal education [in the Philippines]," Michelle said in her speech in front of an audience that included Hollywood celebrities (see photos below) and Best Buddies founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver. "And it was only two years ago that the Department of Education began implementing these new laws of inclusion in select public schools."

    Michelle and her family decided to stay after she realized why Gelli was given to her. "Just like how God brought me to the Philippines to meet my love, I firmly believe that He chose me to be her momma because He knew we had a lot of work to do.

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    Michelle has candidly shared her struggle to come to terms with Gelli's condition in an essay she wrote for us (click here to read).  "My story all begins with Gelli," she shares. "She has inspired me to do more and be more for others."

    Michelle, who studied to be a teacher and taught inner city kids in Bronx, New York, ended her speech with the following:

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    "I do the work I'm doing now because I do believe that the little awareness campaigns and community events make a difference in the lives of all of my buddies.

    "However, throughout this motherhood journey that I have been on for more than 18 years now, there was one thing that I did not expect to happen.

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    "I didn't know that I would welcome our fourth child into the folds of our family, that I would become her student, and she would be my greatest teacher leading me here at this stage to speak in front of all of you in support of Best Buddies."

    Best Buddies International's inaugural "Mother's Day Weekend Brunch" celebrated and paid homage to the gifts of love and friendship that parents give to their children, especially the mothers of best buddies. Hosted by its global ambassador Cindy Crawford and her daughter, Kaia Gerber, the Mother's Day affair managed to raise $300,000 for the organization's programs.

    Here are some of the celebrity supporters at the event. 

     
    With Milla Jovovich 

     
    Gia with Vanessa Hudgens

     
    With Frances Fisher  


    With Nola Gould 


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