My name is Ampy B. Pelaez, mother of Precy Pelaez who is now a 20-year-old lady. She is a young entrepreneur in her small business called Precious Products. Precy was born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) which causes her to have significant global challenges and blindness. Precy is my eldest child, and she has 3 younger brothers. This article is about Precy’s journey to adulthood.
Receiving Support in the Early Days
We are based in the capital of the Philippines, Metro Manila, where we have access to support services that are available in our country. Our journey of raising Precy was a difficult one. As parents of a child with significant challenges, we often find ourselves with mixed emotions. Sometimes we find ourselves at a loss of knowing how to raise our girl. However, we also feel very lucky that we have come across outstanding service providers like Resources for the Blind (RBI) who guided us and showed us the direction of how we can raise Precy. Later, I also joined a group of parents called the Parent Advocates for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC) who have become our extended family and support. Precy started receiving early intervention services at RBI. She spent 16 years receiving occupational and speech therapy from different rehabilitation centers. We are also benefiting from the Association of Therapy Centers in the Philippines and from the National Council for the Disabiled Persons who serves as a support agency of the government to assist people with disabilities. Without these supports, I cannot imagine where we would be today.
Situation of Employment for Adults with MDVI
Despite these support that we have received and continue to receive, when Precy turned 18, we found ourselves on a transition stage wherein we need to begin discussing matters that will prepare Precy to adult life; a life that she can have without us as her parents beside her all the time. At this age, her peers who are blind adults are planning for their life after high school. Some of them are talking about college applications and moving on. With Precy’s limitations, I already accepted the fact that she will not go to a higher level of education. I realized that I need to think of something that will best work for her.
The Philippines has comprehensive anti-discrimination laws for people with disabilities (PWDs). But despite having these policies, there is still a huge gap between turning 18 (out of school) and finding employment or a program for adults with multiple disabilities and visual impairment (MDVI) like Precy. For an individual like Precy, there are no programs that can cater to her needs and give her a livelihood that she can depend on. The economic and emotional cost of raising an adult with significant needs is a burden to many families in the Philippines.
How Precious Products Begun
A couple of years ago, through RBI and PAVIC’s partnership with Perkins International at Perkins School for the Blind, a seminar was conducted on creating a transition program for children with MDVI. The training focused on getting to know the strengths and interests of our child, and letting this guide us in our planning. Precy’s special education teacher, Ms. Evelyn Matienzo, Precy’s caregiver and both my husband and I attended the training. From there, came the idea that we must put our efforts in preparing Precy as an Enterpreneur. This was the beginning of Precious Products.
We learned how to assess Precy’s skills and realized how much she loved mixing liquids --- any liquid element. So we started having her mix various kinds of liquids. We started making homemade dishwashing liquid, fabric conditioner, All purpose cleaner and body colognes. We found a way to package them and sell them to our friends and neighbors. Then slowly, we started to sell it to a larger market. Since then, we added a few more products like body scrubs, gel air freshener, herbal bath soaps and peel-off masks. Precy had to mix all the raw materials in a container during her work hours. Precy’s activities in creating her products serve as her therapy now that she is an adult.
Where We Go From Here
Precious Products is not the end-product of our work. Instead, we dream for it to be a catalyst for advocacy of employment or creation of transition programs for individuals with MDVI. We hope that our products will bring awareness to the public that individuals like Precy can be productive members of society.
Currently, there are no employment opportunities for individuals like Precy. We hope that in the future, Precious Products can provide livelihood opportunities for individuals with visual impairment and other disabilities and that more businesses will grow in this light.
A More Personal Note
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Deborah Gleason, who is the Director of the Asia Pacific Region of Perkins International, and Ms. Ami Tango-Limketkai, who is the coordinator for Perkins’s International’s work in the Philippines, for the support Perkins School for the Blind has given to the children with MDVI in the Philippines. Through them, and their partnership with RBI and PAVIC, I felt their love as well as their commitment to uplift the lives of all our children. This has inspired me to see possibilities for my daughter.
I hope that Precy, through Precious Products, can touch the lives of individuals with MDVI as well as to the other members of society. Lastly, it is important for me to say that Precy’s blindness will not be a hindrance to all her dreams towards success.
Our former president of the Philippines said this:
“Our Government pledged inclusive growth to the Filipino people. Most people take this in the context of economics – of providing opportunities for the poor – but when we promised inclusive growth, we promised it to all Filipinos, including those who by virtue of certain limitations, tend to be thought of as being unable to contribute to society. This is not necessarily a mindset that comes from cruelty, but one that perhaps only stems from ignorance and mistaken notions. And this is something that we want to change, because we know that to perpetuate this prejudice means not only depriving persons with disabilities of their rights, but more importantly, depriving them of their dreams.” (Aquino, 2011)
Mabuhay! (Translated: Live!)