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  • Irene Mariano

United for Down for a #healthierPH

United for Down is part of our mission to build a healthier Philippines. It aims to provide awareness and actual healthcare program for persons with Down Syndrome. This event primarily focuses on health-related needs of these PWDs in hope that they may also be part of our program, Project Inclusion.

I was browsing my Facebook account when a friend shared the Unilab Foundation’s (ULF) page requesting for social media volunteers to the United for Down annual event. It got my interest since it was a perfect time and I am free on March 5, the date of the event. I filled up the form for the volunteer writers, hoping that I could be selected. A couple of days after, I received an email and an SMS confirming my application for the volunteer event. I immediately reserved the date and time with much anticipation and blocked off any get togethers or other social events for that day.

In my previous companies, I had joined charity events but unlike United for Down. There were some reminders and guidelines sent to the volunteers prior to the event and how to interact with persons with Down Syndrome. This annual event is a joint project of ULF and the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines (DSAPI) in celebration of the World Down Syndrome Awareness Day.

Fast forward to March 5. I arrived at the venue 7.15AM but the place was already buzzing with various activities. The volunteers – composed of writers, photographers, and social media managers - were to meet with the coordinator at 7.30AM and since I have several minutes to spare, I might as well as start observing and gather my thoughts for the write up.

There were numerous reception tables for various requirements and disciplines. There was a Help-Desk for general information and a registration desk for those requiring medical attention or consultation. Pre-registration numbers were being provided for those who will undergo consultations or treatments. In the main reception hall, a large projector was set up together with several reception tables with labels on various medical discipline. These were waiting for the medical and allied medical volunteers in coordination with DSAPI.

After the short briefing for the social media volunteers, we were off to cover the different activities and it started with the welcome ceremony at the main reception hall hosted by Mr. Ed Sanchez and Mr. Grant Javier. Several speakers and sponsors were cited, as well as brief background were provided on United for Down, DSAPI, #healthierPH and #Project Inclusion. Watching the opening ceremony made me feel a sense of blessedness and gratitude in joining this event.

In a brief interview with Mr. Grant Javier, he said that ULF has been partnering with DSAPI for the past 3 years for the event. United for Down is part of the foundation’s mission to build a healthier Philippines. It aims to provide awareness and actual healthcare program for persons with Down Syndrome. Unlike other medical missions, this event primarily focuses on these PWDs in the hope that managing health-related needs will enable them to be also part of the foundation’s Project Inclusion. The Project Inclusion is a program which helps PWDs enter the mainstream workforce and be independent and self-sufficient in the future. This program assists in employing PWDs particularly those with Down Syndrome in companies who are willing and able to hire them.

Now, will I be joining ULF’s next programs of similar nature? A definite “Yes” and I am grateful to be part of this event even just for several hours. I am encouraging people with enough blessings from their side to be part of these volunteer work and make a #healthierPH a viable goal. The program itself offers a strong hope for persons with Down Syndrome in contributing to the progress and health of our country.

Irene Mariano is a dentist by profession, but her desire to provide dental care goes beyond the clinic. She’s had experience heading medical and dental missions, and documenting the stories of bayanihan through her photos and blog. She is currently a consultant on organizational development and career planning. She joins other #healthierPH builders as a volunteer writer for United for Down.

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