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  • Catherine Cham

Vico Cham, I.D. No. 001, Project Inclusion

t was last January 2013 during Vico's art exhibit in Shangri-La Mall when Grant Javier of Unilab Foundation approached me and asked if I would be interested in a job opportunity for Vico. My initial question was, "HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?"

It was last January 2013 during Vico’s art exhibit in Shangri-La Mall when Grant Javier of Unilab Foundation approached me and asked if I would be interested in a job opportunity for Vico. My initial question was, “HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?” He confidently answered, “Through PROJECT INCLUSION.” Grant explained to me the program in detail, and I thought that it will be very helpful to many Adults with Autism who are high-functioning and with special skills.

There aren’t many job opportunities for our Special Children, and as parents, we prepare them for other possibilities. In the case of Vico, we supported and believed in his gift in arts. Thus, his paintings and computer graphics became our focus. Although Grant said that Project Inclusion was still in its initial stage, I got all excited and accepted the offer, and signed in Vico as the first candidate. I invited co-parents to their adult children enlisted as well. Schools and other organizations were invited for a series of talks and interviews to share and support the success of this program.

Sometime in April 2013, Grant called and told me that since Unilab Foundation needed to know and learn more on how to make the program work, they have decided to hire an employee who will be part of the research and manual preparation. The chosen one was VICO! Thanks to Teacher Bunny Joaquin, Directress of SHINE Intervention Center, who personally recommended Vico. As a standard procedure, Vico was interviewed by the ULF officials headed by the Executive Director, Rhodora Palomar-Fresnedi. By May 6, 2013, Vico was on board! His first day of work was like his first day of school.

Last May 6, 2014 was Vico’s first year anniversary in ULF! My family and I saw him mature so fast - from a student to an Administrative and Graphics Design Assistant. He developed skills, which we never thought he could, such as scanning, sending emails, encoding, filing, and monitoring a locator board. His knowledge in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator has been helpful in his work. He has developed his communication skills and even jokes around with his officemates from time to time.

The people around him learned so much on how to handle and understand a Person with Autism. I saw the happiness in him every day when he goes to work. As a very protective mother, I learned to let go and allowed him to enjoy life like others in the corporate world. He participated in their team building in Baguio and planning session in Subic.

To mark his first year as an employee, Vico was entrusted by ULF to interpret in his own understanding of a healthier Philippines by allowing him to express himself through painting. After 12 painting sessions, Vico was able to come up with his most beautiful masterpiece so far—“A Healthier Philippines in the Eyes of Vico” mural. These things happen only in dreams, but ULF made it happened.

Vico was well-loved and accepted, which, for me, are the most important things that happened to him through PROJECT INCLUSION. I am so happy to know that, as an effect of Vico’s employment, other PWAs have been hired for jobs in other divisions. I hope and pray other companies will see the benefits of hiring PWAs because they are capable of doing greater things than anyone, if only they will be given the chance. Let’s give them the CHANCE! Let’s work together for a healthier Philippines by accepting and embracing Persons with Autism!

Mommy Cathy is the mother of Vico Cham, Unilab Foundation’s employee who, in his own words, is proudly autistic. She is also the Vice President of Association of Adults with Autism Philippines, a valuable partner of Project Inclusion.

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