A Star Gate to Success

Image of Justin smiling and text.

by John Sebastian Procoro Masbad

Ask a child about his dream and he will tell you such hopeful words, “I want to be an engineer,” or “I want to become a pilot,” or “I wish I could be an astronaut.” How does a child come up with those professions that he does not know the hardships of those working industry? It is obvious that he uses his eyesight in watching TV, playing toys and reading books that attracts him to aim those dreams. A person with visual impairment does not have the eyesight to see his environment, however, he is given the free will to develop the rest of his senses and his abilities more than the persons with eyesight have. I am Justin, and I believe that being an ATRIEVER is also a great achiever.

It was June 2006 after high school graduation when my life became gloomy. My skills in technology and internet were too meager to have a decent work. After I took my breakfast, a call on my mother’s phone came.
The call was from ATRIEV. I recognized the voice on the other line and I said: “Oh, it is Ms. Des.” She offered me a 6-month training of Access Technology for Computer Literacy, which is mostly similar to Digital Literacy Training.
Ms. Des and Dandy Revale were the ATRIEV personalities who were also my schoolmates in Philippine National School For The Blind before. I also remembered once that Dandy came to PNSB’s campus to distribute ATRIEV’s brochures with the list of all programs and services.
During high school days, I spent my time in academic achievements and not in technological skills, so after the call, I felt so excited and hurried to ATRIEV’s office in STI College Cubao to fill up the registration form and submit the training requirements.

It was an exhilarating first day of the training and I met new classmates. It was the time when I started to broadened my skills in a screen reader named None Visual Desktop Access (NVDA beta versions) and Job Access With Speech (JAWS) to navigate Windows Environment as well as different software user interfaces and internet sites.

back in high school, by relying to my own ability, I did not spend my time to meet the blind communities. Once I said to myself, “I can do it alone without the help of any institutions that deal with persons with visual impairment.” Thanks to ATRIEV, through its life-changing trainings, I transformed myself from snobbish attitude to open mindedness that can work with different teams. It helped me to uplift my technological and internet buff skills and treated this field as my safety lane to an excellent career. It developed my communication and interaction skills in highest level of confidence.

As one of the trainers since 2016, many valuable principles were added in to my consciousness: “It is not enough to master all the skills in this world, you must also have to establish the ability to share your skills in a simplest way. Growth is a huge thing that I gained since I became an ATRIEVER. I met different persons with different attitudes. Another great value I kept was: “I am comfortable being uncomfortable.” It started when I became one of the two emcees in DLT final presentation. It is my first time to nervously speak on the crowd. After the program, my shyness turned in to dust.

There are countless moments that I become so mischievous, naughty and playful with my co-trainers. There are also times that I must keep myself on silent mode while observing other people.

ATRIEV is the star gate of my life that brought me to an astronomic level of my being. From establishing career to thinking skills until meeting all types of persons comfortably. Through ATRIEV, I am free to share my knowledge to anyone through its numerous projects as a trainer, blogging, operating system and online platform administration, technical writing etc. From the boring life prior to ATRIEV to dynamic life inside ATRIEV, curious-driven attitude enabled me to explore different world of persons, careers, minds and technology. Living independently through ATRIEV will never turn me down to the earth of close mindedness and fear. There is a saying from Robin Sharma: “Where victims see adversity, extreme achievers see opportunity.” And I must say: ““Where victims see their disability, great ATRIEVERS see opportunity.”

The Mentor Who Changed My Life

Image of Gab smiling and text.

by Charles Gabriel Allana

Mentoring is an effective method of helping inexperienced individuals develop and progress in their life.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines mentor as a trusted counsellor or guide. Who helps and guides another individual’s development.
This two verses also define mentoring:
Proverbs 27:17 iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Now let’s define a special kind of mentoring. Biblical mentoring, a kind of mentoring that entails more than passing on knowledge about God. It involves showing people how to love and serve God. This is the kind of mentoring that changed my life.
Before, I was the kind of teenager who’s selfish, arrogant, and playful. My early days were full of negativity. But that changed when I joined Christ the True Foundation (CTF).
Limwell Rodil, our church drummer, became my mentor. He was a generous, proactive, responsible, and a humble person. He taught me how to speak with humility and how to react to people who discriminated me.
We had a once a week studying of the word of God and once a month evaluation of our progress. He told me to focus on my ability and skills rather than my impairment. He boosted my self-confidence, He was always there to guide me in all aspects of life.
He introduced me to the church worship team where I learned how to interact and work with other people. Bro. Limwell saw a potential in me as a leader. He encouraged me to stay in the worship team.
After a few years, the technical team needed a new member and I volunteered to be part of it. I was not confident enough about my capabilities but he supported me. Bro. Limwell taught me how to dream and make those dreams come true.
With his mentorship, he made me become the best version of myself. He is the reason why I keep trying no matter how many times I failed. With this I am truly grateful for this mentor who changed my life.

The Values My Teacher Taught Me

Image of Ms. Joyce smiling and text.

by Joyce Ann Vivas

A quote says, “The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts but of values.” This was the lesson I’ve learned from the teacher who changed my life.
It was on my second year high-school when I met this teacher, Mrs. Liwanag she was my Values Education teacher then. That time I was wondering if she was really fit to be my teacher in that subject because of how she approached me in class.
I remembered how she made fun of me in front of my classmates whenever she gives her activities. Mrs. Liwanag used to give us drawing activities. I know I should not exclude myself and not do them so I really try my best to accomplish the task. But instead of being considerate because of my condition, she made fun of my work in front of my classmates.
Another instance was when we had our major examination. The school assigned two faculty members to see the class during the exam. One time Mrs. Liwanag together with her co-teacher Ms. Gallanoza handled our class. Ms. Gallanoza showed her sympathy towards me and offered to dictate what is written on the questionnaire. But Mrs. Liwanag argued with her and told her that this was not part of their work.
That moment I can’t stop my tears from falling and at the back of my mind I questioned her. Yes, it was not part of her work and she will not be compensated, but does that mean she will not care for her students? I cannot understand why is it so hard for her to give me her consideration.
However, those circumstances didn’t lessen my respect for her and even strived harder to show her that I’m differently able but that didn’t mean that I’m not entitled for an equal opportunity for education.
There was a saying that you can’t please everybody so don’t expect that everybody will sympathize with your situation.
So instead of using my energy in dwelling with this unwanted circumstances, I use this life events and challenge myself to prove to others that the most significant values in life is not the one that is taught in school, it’s the values that you learn and apply with your approach towards life.

A New found Family

Image of Nikka smiling and text.

by Nerikka Escario

The family could be your greatest strength in times of problems but they can also be the one who will let you down and be your weakness.
I was in my darkest hour back then when my sister said “Ano girl, pabigat na tayo ah?” I knew that was a joke so I just laugh but at the back of my mind, it was quite true.
After thinking about what she said, I immediately asked my mom to look for a school who teaches braille, a form of reading and writing used by a visually impaired. She eventually found an organization that teaches braille. When we were in their office, there was a man who knocked on the door and sat beside me. He talked to me and asked if I know the organization that teaches computer for the blind. He’s Mr. Ernie Heredero a former trainee and a current trainer of ATRIEV.
At first, I hesitated to enroll, but I asked a sign to God if I will grab this opportunity or not. And then, at August 2018, I decided to enroll in a Digital Literacy Training (DLT) in Adaptive Technology for Rehabilitation, Integration, and Empowerment of the Visually Impaired (ATRIEV) in Quezon City. It’s a non-government organization which helps visually impaired persons through the use of assistive technology.
The course gave me a hope that I could still learn about computers just like people with typical vision do. On the first day of the training, I already wanted to go home because I had a hard time understanding how to navigate the computer using only a keyboard and a screen reader. A software that is used to read the displayed on screen. I even cried and beg my mom to pack my bag. I was determined to back out at that time but I was thankful because the trainers and my classmates assisted me to cope-up with the training.
I had an alias, ”Ms. Tarantula” because in all the activities, I easily become “taranta” or panicky. I realized that I should be independent and faced the new challenges in my life. I started it in learning how to use a cane. In our dorm in “Bahay Biyaya”, I familiarized all the corners of the dorm repeatedly until I memorized all the shore line of sides of the room.
The course also brought back my confidence and made me became optimistic, got me to showcase my talents, and made me found new friends. I’ve also experienced a lot of first time such as: to live in a dorm without my mom, walked with my co trainees like a train, applied talkback in my phone, and used a cane when travelling. And because I enjoyed the last training and willing to learn more, Last November, I took the Introduction to Computer Science (ICS) that thought me to create and design my own website. I never expected that the trainers and trainees can be friends inside the training duration, and everybody was treated equally.
I was also enrolled in Writing for the web training that helped me intensify my writing skills and taught me to put up my own business online. I even joined the General Transcription training to improve my skills and have a job in the future
When I look back in all my memories, I just laugh because of the thought of me going home on the first day but now is different. As much as possible I don’t want to go home because I enjoy every minute with my friends.
I thought that family was the only one who can understand and comfort you in times of problems. I was mistaken. If you just open your eyes, you can find a helping hand in the most unexpected places. ATRIEV didn’t just taught me how to use computer but also introduced me to a new found family.

A Gatekeeper Who Directed Me to Finest Roads Of Life

Image of Mr. Justin smiling and text.

by John Sebastian Procoro Masbad

Being a school teacher is a great and critical profession. They have the ability to influence, lead the next generation’s literacy rate, and shape the mind of an innocent child. I naturally disregard annoying and exasperating teachers. We have our own favorite teacher and let me share you my special teacher — Mr. Touch.

Mr. Touch was my class adviser in elementary. Most of the time, people see him as an academic staff that only shares his knowledge inside the classroom, but for me, I treated him as a closest buddy inside and outside the learning area.

He introduced me to the different indoor games for the blind. The first one was the chess for the blind which was the first time that I played it with him as an opponent. I enjoyed mastering it until I joined a simple tournament in Phil Sports Arena.

Scrabble is another thing that he introduced to me which I also played with him. Until now, scrabble and chess for the blind is one of the games I play the most.

He is also a non-bookish-type of teacher. He was able to explain every lesson in a simplest way based on his collective knowledge.

He helped me to contact American institutions for the blind to receive free braille subscriptions of Reader’s Digest, Science News Weekly, The washington Post, The Popular Mechanics and PC World.

Academic factor in studying is only a tip of the iceberg of a childhood learning. Mr. Touch helped me to live with confidence especially when he encouraged me to join in the different outdoor and indoor tournaments. I can never forget such volleyball, tennis, showdown and goalball for the blind.

I always remember when he told me some piece of advice: “You must have a professional career in life but you have always to keep in mind the common sense of everything.” That is my motivation in heading up to make a blog site that will explain the reasons behind the product designs and its features.

Yes, Mr. Touch did not turned my blindness in to complete sight, but he became a gatekeeper who directed me to finest roads Of life and changed my life by helping me to make it colorful through wisdom, fun and excitement. I am not able to see the things afar, but I am able to touch, feel, perceive and think everything through my being.

A Teacher Who Learned a Lesson

Image of Ms. Nikka smiling and text.

by Nerikka Escario

They say that Experience is the best teacher. Well, I guess I have to say that teachers can also learn from experience. Do you want to know how?

It was my prelim examination on my third year college, when my vision started to deteriorate, and the ophthalmologist advised me to take a rest for a month. Because of that, I was not able to take my exams and I asked the help of my classmates to request my professors to give me a special examination on my behalf. I really thought that everything would be alright, but I was wrong.

It was the day of our intramurals, and I expected all of my professors have already considered giving me a special exam… except for one. Mrs. Ramos, a professor on one of my major subjects, Assessment I, refused to accommodate the consideration I requested for.

I went to her and personally asked her in a polite manner, “Ma’am, would you reconsider giving me a special exam?”

Then she answered like a wicked witch who was casting a spell on me, “Hindi Ikaw ang masusunod, ako ang teacher at estudyante ka lang!”

I was so shocked of her reaction, and I did not have a chance to defend myself. I was humiliated in front of my classmates and the only thing I did was to cry.

But because of what happened, I did not stop asking her to give me exam. I was determined to take exam, and I never got tired of pursuing her, until she would finally say yes to me.

After 4 months of convincing and chasing her, she finally gave me a special exam. That time, she approached me with kindness, and even asked apologies for what she told me and how she treated me then. She explained to me that it was her first time to handle student with disability like me, and she had no idea on how to assist me.

Through that encounter, my teacher gave me the worst yet best experience that I will never forget. In contrast, my teacher also learned a lesson from me, the awareness and the willingness to provide considerations possible to those who’s in need of it.

Remember that learning is not just for students, but for teachers as well. It should be a continuous and a two-way process to practice inclusion and also to build an harmonious classroom relationship.

Someone Who Believed in Me

Image contain Ms. Michelle and text.

Teachers could influence their students in countless ways. They may either bring a positive effect or a negative effect on them.

Even at a very young age, it was evident that I already had the passion and inclination in music. I had been dreaming to become a singer since then.

My mom attempted to enroll me in some music schools several times and she also tried to hire a voice teacher who could train me to become a better singer. To no luck, those schools and teachers my mom approached were not ready to accept a blind student in the class, not even for a one on one session.

That did not stop me from performing.

In search of a mentor

I still participated in different competitions and other opportunities where I can show my talent. A part of me knew that it wasn’t enough. I knew that I could do better if someone who has the expertise would willingly share his knowledge with me.

Until that time came when I had another opportunity to join a competition for vocal solo and I was chosen as the representative of our school. Once again, my mom tried to look for a voice coach who would help me prepare for the competition.

And once again, we failed.

So even without having a coach, I still decided to join the competition. Fortunately, I won in the first round but then, I did not make it to the next level of the competition. That moment, I cried so hard. I felt like I almost want to stop singing. I told my mom that If only there would be at least one teacher who would take the time to attend to my needs. Someone who has the willingness to teach blind people like me, I will really give my best and prove that I can do better than what they were expecting of me.

A teacher who took a chance

Two years later, I was blessed to have the opportunity to participate in a training program for the youth servants of our parish. That was when I met my very first voice teacher, Professor Armin Comon.

When I introduced myself to him, I found out that he wasn’t aware of my blindness. Later on, I asked him if it would be fine with him having a blind student in his class. I was really surprised by his answer. He said, “It’s okay. That wouldn’t be a problem. You may be blind but you have the talent and most importantly, you know how to listen. Your listening skills will be your greatest advantage in this class.”

That was the first time I heard a voice teacher who showed his willingness to teach a blind student. And he has proven it. He patiently taught me in every session. He truly inspired me to keep on singing. He even told me before the training ends that he was looking forward to seeing me as a successful singer someday.

Eleven years after, I can say that the goal that my teacher and I had was fulfilled. I am now a part of different performing groups, not only of Bulacan, but in other parts of the country. I also received several awards and had won in different competitions as a solo performer. And the best thing that happened was that experience brought a different perspective in other music teachers’ point of view of having a blind student.

At first, I was just asking for only one teacher who would find time to teach me but now I have many of them. Now I’m sharing the knowledge I learned from my mentors to the new members of our groups and with the other musicians I meet as I go on with my journey.

A teacher who believed in me

Image of Ms. Beverly smiling and text.

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in a certain place? Or ever doubted your abilities because of how society sees you?

I have, but that changed when I met her. The woman who believed in me more than I believe in myself.

It was the first day of my class in high school. I was in the faculty room, talking with my teachers about some arrangements during the class. They asked me how I read and write, how I answer my exams before, and how I take notes. I explained everything to them but they still seem to hesitate in accepting me.

They told me that they were not ready to accept students with visual impairment and that I should go to a school for the blind. I considered the idea but those schools are not accessible for me in terms of transportation. They kept on explaining why they cannot accept me.

I was about to just leave and let things that way when another teacher joined the conversation. She told the other teachers that she is willing to accommodate me in her class since she was also teaching first-year students. One thing that stuck in my mind was when she said that she believes in me.

The idea of someone, who doesn’t even know my name, believing in me made me so happy. She might have seen the determination in my eyes and the eagerness in my face to be accepted. Because of her, my exciting high school life began.

A Thank You

Three years later, there was a card-making contest in our school. As a kid, I love making cards for my loved ones but my self-doubt started crawling in again.

What if they won’t accept my entry because of my impairment? What if my card would be the ugliest card in the contest?

I did my best to stop the negativity in me. I inhaled, exhaled, and had a little pep talk with myself. Why do I keep doing this? Why can’t I just believe in my capabilities for once? With all my questions, the most important one eventually had to be answered: Who am I writing to, anyway?

The memory of my first-day high came and that’s when I decided–I will write this letter to the person who taught me how to believe in myself.

I picked up a piece of pink colored paper from a pile of art materials, got my pen from one of the pockets of my backpack, and started writing, “To my dearest teacher…”

The day of the awarding ceremony came. I was nervous but at the same time excited. I was contented just to be able to make the card. All I wanted was to give it to her. I was ecstatic when I learned that I got the third-place! I didn’t waste any time and gave that same card to my dearest teacher. The smile in her face was worth my every effort. I was happy to be able to appreciate the teacher who changed my life in my own simple way.

Education frees the people

Photo image of Mr. Peter Wallace.

Happy 80th Birthday to our beloved Mr. Peter L. Wallace, Chairman/President Emeritus of ATRIEV from 2002 to 2019. We thank you for being a blessing to ATRIEV and to the blind. Wishing you 80 more years of serving others!

The featured image was taken during ATRIEV’s Graduation Ceremonies in 2016 where Peter Wallace, ATRIEV Chairman/President Emeritus was our Guest Speaker.

Education frees the people (1)

My First Teaching Stint

Photo image of Mr. Edrian assisting one of his student in the class.

Note: Edrian delos Reyes is a graduate of ATRIEV’s Digital Literacy Training (DLT) in 2018 and went on to be part of ATRIEV’s Training of Trainers of Web Content Writing. At age 19, Edrian is ATRIEV’s youngest trainer. Read how Edrian describes his baptism of fire as an ATRIEV Assistant Trainer of the DLT course held from February to March 2019.

Many have said that you won’t get rich in the field of teaching. Well, so what? After teaching my very first batch of Digital Literacy Training (DLT) students, I feel like I’ve accomplished my mission on this world and I could die any minute now. Of course I don’t want that to happen yet. I just started this teaching career of mine, and it’s going to end already? Teaching is a very gratifying and fulfilling career, and I still want to teach more batches of students

With all honesty, being an ATRIEV trainer wasn’t really in my plans. I just did my part when I was a student myself. I listened to my trainers, made sure that I understood every lesson and finished the given tasks on time. When I had some free time, I gladly helped my co-trainees to cope with the lessons. I enthusiastically answered their questions and lead our group studies after class. I found myself enjoying assisting my peers and actually wanting more opportunities to lend someone a hand in achieving their dreams.

So, in February 2019, there I was, welcoming the 8th batch of DLT students as one of their trainers. Along with Rimar Joe Reynado and Gamalliel Kindot, we were honored to have students with full of potential and determination. We have students who want to make their performance in mainstream school better, students who are looking for a direction in life and students who want to further advance in their chosen careers. But teaching is not a very easy job. Little by little, we became stricter than we wanted to and even deliver some sermons. But despite all that, at the end of the training, we still heard the words, “Thank you mga Sir!”

I’d admit that being a teacher is very stressful but it pays off. It may not be through money, but who cares? Teaching is never about the money for me. It’s all about my students. I want them to pursue their dreams, become the best version of themselves and be successful in life. This is why I’m hoping that this is not yet the end of my teaching career. On the contrary, this is just the beginning.

Editor’s Note: The Digital Literacy Training (DLT) is the core training program of ATRIEV. It is conducted through the support of Microsoft YouthSpark Program and NORFIL Foundation as the strategic partner of Liliane Fonds.