With parenthood comes uncertainties and fears for our children's future. Will they be able to finish school? Will they get a job? Will they be accepted by the society? Will they thrive? Paano na sila pag wala na tayo?
This fear is even more pressing for parents of Persons with Disabilities. In an interview with Smart Parenting, Mommy Janet Gan, 58, from Valenzuela City, shared the employment journey of her daughter, Jana, who has Down syndrome.
Jana, 25, is the youngest of four kids. Janet said that Jana was able to undergo therapy, but she didn't have a background in formal schooling due to a lack of opportunities for children with special needs back then.
"Sumasali kami dun sa mga kakilala namin na may regular school. Inallow kami na maging saling-pusa doon. Kahit papaano, nakatulong din yun nang malaki dahil pag nakikita nila yung ibang kids, ginagaya nila, so mas mabilis yung improvement nila," she explained.
To enrich Jana's knowledge, Janet had to make extra efforts by hiring a tutor or paying for more therapy sessions since they couldn't enroll Jana in a regular school.
"Isang araw mawawala tayo diba? Gusto ko hindi siya maging pabigat sa mga kapatid niya." —Janet Gan
Jana's first employment was with the Overdoughs branch in Ayala Malls Cloverleaf. She worked there for a year and even became a regular employee. However, due to the pandemic, Jana's work was affected.
Janet, however, is happy to share that Jana has been studying at the Valenzuela Special Education Center (ValSPED).
"Lately, nagkaroon kami ng opportunity na mainterview ulit, magkaroon ng job, para sa Uniqlo naman," Janet beamed.
Jana has since been working at the branch in SM Grand Central in Monumento.
When asked what her duties at work are, Jana said, "Tupi ng damit, magbigay ng basket, lahat po ako gagawa ko."
She continued, "Pagdating ng customer, "Welcome to Uniqlo." Sobrang masaya ako doon. Madami akong friends!"
Jana shared that she goes to work on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from 10:30-4:30PM.
As a proud mom, Janet supports Jana becoming independent at work and in life. "First week, tinitingnan ko siya, nag-iistambay ako. Pero inaassure ko naman na kaya niya."
"So ang pinaka-setup namin, drop off point sa may guard, so makikita ko na pumasok na siya sa entrance sa loob ng SM. Then pag nakaakyat na siya sa Uniqlo na store, magtetext na siya sa akin na 'Nandito na ako sa taas.'"
"Ganun din ang pagsundo, itetext namin siya, "Baba ka na." Kayang-kaya na niya. Na-train na namin siya kahit papaano, yung pag mag-c-CR magpapaalam, na-i-guide na rin siya bago ko iniwanan ng husto."
Why having a job is important for PWDs
Jana's siblings are successful in their own paths; however, it doesn't stop Janet from supporting Jana in her journey towards having her own shot at life.
"Nakikita ko talaga kasi. Pag talagang may work siya, talagang proud siya. Pinagmamalaki niya sa mga friend niya, classmate, teacher, o kahit sinong masalubong niya, kahit mga kamag-anak namin. Sasabihin niya, "Uy, may work ako." Makikita mo yung feeling na excited siya na independent siya, na happy na happy siya sa work niya."
She added that having a job not only gives Jana confidence but also relieves her of her anxieties about the future.
"Lalong nabuboost yung confidence niya dahil nag-e-earn siya. Yung feeling niya na nag-e-earn siya na pareho ng iba, at may work siya, walang katumbas. Nakikita mo ang ngiti niya, sobrang saya," Janet said.
"Gusto ko ring maging ready din siya, hindi yung maging pabigat. Isang araw mawawala tayo diba? Gusto ko hindi siya maging pabigat sa mga kapatid niya, kaya readiness ang habol ko at maging independent siya mag-isa," she said.
Role of parents
With the opportunity given to her daughter, Janet is grateful. "Sobrang proud, talagang alam natin na dito sa Pilipinas na iilan lang ang nag-a-accept ng Persons with Disabilities. Pasalamat din ako na unti-unti meron na, dumadami na. Proud ako na makapag-trabaho sila kahit part-time, para ma-experience nila yung katulad ng iba na nakakapag-work. Yung happiness at pagiging independent niya kahit papaano."
She tells parents of persons with disabilities to be the first people to embrace and believe in their children and to look at their capabilities.
"Just continue sa pagtuturo, basta kaya ng mga bata, as long as tinutulungan natin maging handa sila sa future. Importante is maging happy sila." —Janet Gan
"Kailangan accepted nila na sila ay Persons with Disabilities. Para makapag-move ka, kailangan mong matutunan, at i-expose din sila, hindi sila ikahiya, at hayaan silang matuto, magkamali, para in the future, mag-improve din yung knowledge nila, para ready na sila sa paglabas nila."
She also encourages parents to let their kids experience life for themselves, "Hayaan nating ma-experience nila. Kahit sabihin natin natuto sila ng sa tingin natin napakaliit na bagay, para sa kanila, napakalaking bagay yun. At yun ang magbuboost sa kanila maging independent sila, maging ready sila."
She reveals what she values most when it comes to her daughter. "Maging masaya sila. Yun ang pinakaimportante sa akin. Happiness nila at readiness. Kung natututukan natin, natuturuan natin, unti-unti, tiyaga lang talaga sa parents na mag-guide, para marating nila 'yung pwede nilang marating at makaya nilang makapagtrabaho tulad ng ibang mga kids."
"Just continue sa pagtuturo, basta kaya ng mga bata, as long as tinutulungan natin maging handa sila sa future. Importante is maging happy sila," Janet said.
What helped Jana find employment
Thankfully, there are organizations like Project Inclusion Network, a non profit organization that strives towards equal opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
"Sila po yung naghanap ng work, inoffer nila, tapos nagkaroon ng interview. Nagkaroon ng orientation, then yun, nagdire-diretso na. Sana marami pa silang matulungan," Janet said.
Recently, through its platform, the Philippine Business and Disability Network, they held its second annual conference entitled "Working Beyond Barriers," where they raised awareness for workplace inclusion. Among their core programs include connecting persons with disability to hiring opportunities and capacitating companies through training, in which Jana became a part of.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Grant Javier, Executive Director of Project Inclusion Network, said that while there is a law that requires the government sector to hire Persons with Disabilities, there's a lot of opportunities for the private sector. Nonetheless, he said, "There are already a lot of companies that are doing it because they believe it is a good business decision to hire Persons with Disability."
Javier, who is also a dad with autism, remains hopeful for the future of persons with disability when it comes to employment. Currently, PBDN has 52 member companies, "We invite companies to journey with us in building barrier-free, accessible, and inclusive workplaces," Javier told Smart Parenting.
Janet assures companies that like what they experienced, they may receive training to be able to understand what it would take to hire Persons with Disabilities like Jana. "Before hiring, dapat yung mga kasama ay may awareness din sila sa mga Persons with Disabilities. Di naman magiging pabigat sila, dahil before pa man maipasok sila, meron silang training. Kaya nila iha-hire, alam nila na makakatulong din yun sa kanila, hindi sila magiging pabigat.
"Meron ding kakayahan ang mga Persons with Disabilities na tulad ng ibang bata. Kaya nila gampanan yung ibang tungkulin na yun, tulad ng pag-greet at pagtutupi. Kailangan lang turuan lang," she maintained.