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.

Write, Create and Enjoy

Collage images of Writing for The Web Trainees.

The First Batch of Writing for the Web Training for Students
Conducted in partnership with
TELUS International Philippines

Introduction

In today’s modern era of technology, we are already witnessing a lot of improvement in people’s lives, not just in terms of education and entertainment, but also when it comes to business and employment.

One of these trending types of income generators online is being a home-based writer, and you know what? People with disability are also qualified to be an author, a vlogger, a blogger and a writer of other kinds of content that you can find over the web. In that way, persons with disability can earn money on their own, without leaving the comforts of their homes.

Writing for the Web Training is an exciting and comprehensive 30-day class conducted by ATRIEV I.T. Center for the Blind that caters people with visual, speech and mobility impairment, and guides them in discovering their voice, their style and their strength as a writer. It is incorporated with fun activities that the trainees can enjoy while learning the different tips and tricks of writing.

My Personal Experience as a Trainer

When I was appointed to be one of the selected trainers of this training, I felt a bit nervous. It was my first time to lead this kind of training, but my excitement to teach and mold trainees into a productive individual through writing and technology helped me to get over with my hesitations.

We have gathered 11 trainees with visual impairment, four with mobility impairment and one with speech impairment, and they are all eager to learn and practice what they’ve learned from each session.

This training served as a fun and one of a kind teaching and learning experience for me as a trainer. I had a lot of first times. Aside from the fact that this was my first time to conduct this kind of course, it was also my first time to handle a class composed of participants with cross disability as a 30-day center-based training.

It was both challenging and exciting at the same time, because of the wide range of the age, personality, writing experience and disability of the trainees, that everyone had to adjust with each other’s needs in terms of instructional aids and assistance.

Trainees with mobility and speech impairment served as the eyes, reader, guide, and color and image descriptor of the blind. The visually-impaired participants became the hands and feet of their classmates who have difficulties in moving and walking. In spite of their limitations and differences in most aspects, still, they have shown helpfulness, adaptability, unity and empathy to each other.

To cater to the needs and learning styles of the trainees, I, together with my other co-trainers, made it sure that no-one was left behind. We created PowerPoint presentations, distributed reading materials, allotted time for video viewing, used cloud storage and social media to transfer files, inserted some energizers in between discussions, and had a one-on-one coaching to those who needed assistance when it comes to writing.

Course Highlights

Apart from the daily discussions we had, we also had the highlights of the training that all our trainees had to go through to be successful in completing the whole course.

Writing Activities

The large portion of the training was spent on writing. We had a daily 10-minute writing exercise with different themes, topics and classifications. We also tasked the trainees to write movie, restaurant and product reviews, travel logs, rewritten articles, how-tos, scripts, interviews and stories based on their own experiences.

Some articles were read aloud by the trainees with mobility impairment and everyone had the chance to give feedback to the writer. Most of them were anxious to have their articles be heard by the whole class and were hesitant to give comments at first, but then, they had overcome their fears as the days went by.

Creating a Website

Using WordPress, a website creation tool, the trainees were guided through step-by-step procedure in creating, designing and navigating their own websites.

Low vision, mobility and speech impaired trainees worked hand-in-hand with totally blind participants in doing their projects, especially with the visual aspects of the website, such as the images, designs, colors and other graphical features of WordPress. The screen reader also made it possible for them to navigate and explore their website on their own.

Posting Visuals for Social Media

During the social media marketing class, it was explained that aside from the stories in text, visuals such as videos and images are also important keys to create eye-catching, readable and likable posts. Although having mostly visually-impaired participants, we asked everyone to use their mobile phones in taking medium-shot photos for the quote card. Mobility and speech impaired trainees were all willing to help their totally blind co-trainees to capture photos through different techniques and strategies. Later on, all visually-impaired participants, including those inborn blind, had a chance to take pictures independently.

Through the quote card created and edited by the trainees, they also made a print design for the class T-shirt with their class picture on it.

Shoot Day

Online videos such as vlogs and listicles are also a type of web content. One of the major projects of the trainees is to write, shoot and edit a five-minute video based on their chosen topics with the same theme and target audience.

The class was divided into three groups and each group had to submit a video that can be informative, inspiring and entertaining.

Before the day of the shooting, the trainees had prepared all the needed tasks and materials for their video. They had even undergone a one-day script writing workshop for their video scripts and selected members to be the director, script writer, cameraman and production assistant.

During the shoot day, everyone executed their assigned tasks very well. We started as early as 7:00 AM and finished the shoot of all the groups’ videos before 6:00 PM.

Video bits and cuts were needed to be collected, compiled and edited in order to create a five-minute video, and so the days after the shoot day were spent in teaching the trainees on editing videos using PowerPoint and the built-in video editors in their computers.

Through the assistance of the trainers, sighted and low vision trainees, totally blind participants also had a chance to trim videos and add sound background on the videos they had edited.

Interview with the Experts

One week before the training had ended, we have invited experts from different established companies such as publishing company, restaurant, events venue and construction company, to conduct a short interview about their branding, unique value proposition and everything about their business.

All trainees were all active in asking questions and the guests were also enthusiastic in answering the inquiries from the trainees. In connection with writing, the trainees learned the importance of branding, voice and style as a writer after the interview sessions with the experts.

Conclusion

This training might have a lot of challenges, surprises, twists and turns, but I can say that it has been a wonderful rollercoaster ride for me as a trainer. I met and taught new people, observed their progress as trainees, read their articles, gave them feedback, provided them with activities, inspired them and watched them learn and enjoy the training at the same time.

30 days are not enough to be expert in writing but with a great determination and practice, everyone can be better at this craft. I believe that each trainee has something to improve and all of them are entitled to achieve the writing path they are heading to.

extraordinary blessing to be cherish

Image of Ms. Yvette smiling and text.

Short-tempered, uncautious of the words coming out of my mouth, and immediately reacting to everything with defensive or offensive words. These describe who I was before knowing him, my mentor. A Korean Pastor and a founder of an organization that ministers Filipino blind.

Finding a Blessing

“ I want to be a blessing to everybody, not a burden.” These were his answer when I asked him why his name is Blessing. Meeting and knowing someone like him was really a blessing for me! Staying in their ministry for a year had changed me. My knowledge and understanding about the Word of God were broadened and deepened. I was really amazed because of his heart and dedication in helping Filipino blind to become productive and successful.

Being in his position and situation, he can’t avoid receiving negative comments and sometimes disrespectful behavior from other people. Observing him on how he handles these, I can’t help but ask why he keeps calm, why he speaks only a few words instead of defending and explaining himself. These questions came popping out in my mind every time he’s in a difficult situation but these remained unspoken until I had a short but life-changing conversation with him.

Becoming a Blessing

It was during a time when I had conflicts with my co-blind. Feeling depressed and angry, I went to him and told about it. After hearing all my sentiments and offensive words to the person whom I had a conflict with, He advised,”Be calm. Give time and let Jesus Christ work in you. In your heart.”

Upon hearing these, I suddenly kept quiet and waited for his next words. He continued saying, ”All those reactions coming from you right now are worldly behavior. If all of us will be like this, we won’t be honoring God. We should live as Jesus Christ did to the best that we can. If you don’t, you’ll worsen the situation. Keeping quiet doesn’t mean defeat, mostly you win.”

From that time, I became aware and I understood why he kept calm whenever he’s criticized and attacked. No need to be always defensive. No need to be offensive and react to every negative thing and words from other people.

Truly, my mentor is a blessing not just by name but also by deed.

My Most Treasured Rosary

Image of Ms. Maricris smiling and text.

It is undeniable that here in our country, we give so much importance to education. Our parents would always remind us how finishing school will have a great impact on our future. Of course, one of the important factors of a great education is the teacher. I’m sure that everyone here has their own story about their teachers, but for now, let me share mine.

In my early years as a student, I’m not really the type who actively participates in a class discussion. I just simply went to school for the sake of just being in school. It’s also a normal scene for me seeing my adviser having favorites in our class. And most of the time, it’s because of their overly-friendly parents who seemed giving gifts to our class adviser were a part of their monthly budget. But this all change in my 4th grade, when I met Ms. Rosario Rivera, our class adviser. At first, I thought she’s no different from the others until one day, she did something that those teachers never did. She called out my name, and asked my idea about the topic that we were discussing. Maybe you’re wondering what’s so special about it, but for me, this is something new. Aside from the fact that most of the known smart kids in our class had already given their answers, I’m already used to of being unnoticed so her action really took me by surprise. It made me feel that finally, a teacher saw me as one of her students and not just a part of her class. Shyly, I stood up and told her my answer. After hearing my thoughts, she complimented me and told the class that it was the answer that she’d been looking for. It was the first time that I had been acknowledged in my class and it felt remarkable. After that incident, I became more active in our class and gave more focus on my studies.

Looking back, I realized that Ms. Rivera had not only affected me on that day but from that day onwards. Just like her name “Rosario”, she has been like a rosary to me that guides me. If not for her, maybe I’m still the same timid girl that I used to be. Maybe I’m still afraid of trusting myself. Maybe I’m not even here to where I am now. That’s why I’m so thankful to her. Thankful for her being different. Thankful for her helping me see my abilities and lastly, thankful for her being an exceptional teacher of mine.

My Small & Wengcredible Teacher

Image of Mr. Remir and Ms. Rowena

Charles F. Glassman once said, “A genuine teacher does not seek to impress you with their greatness, but instead to impress upon you that you possess the skills to discover your own”

Amidst the excitement and shrills of the crowd, this thought came to mind.

I was inside a jam-packed auditorium, not for anything else, but to watch the ALTA Media Icon Awards – the awarding of the students’ choice personalities in the field of television, radio, movies, social media, and music, featuring four short life documentaries, which included mine.

Just before my story was played on the video wall, one of the awardees for tv, dedicated his trophy to all the teachers. It was World Teacher’s Day that Friday. Then, it dawned me…

Oh my…. How could I ever forget the teacher who changed my life? The same person why my story is being featured that time!

Rowena Gregorio-Morta, now concurrent Communication Arts Department head and ALTACOMM Manager, wasn’t just an ordinary teacher to me. She was first my Editor-in-Chief when I joined the student publication. The same person who gave me the baptism of fire to write sports – where I was not good at, back in High School campus journalism. How could I forget it – running after the varsity team, waking up early in the morning to jog with them. My sports assignment actually made me sign up for the track and field team.

Thanks to the small but terrible Wengkie, as we fondly call her, the four sports articles she gave me and two news beat, became my stepping stone to broaden my writing. The next time I knew, I was already doing more than half of the sports page, with some news and feature write-ups in my first two semesters in college.

When she graduated that school year, I found myself appointed by the student publication adviser as Weng’s replacement as EIC for the next three school terms.

But it wasn’t the last time she would guide me. On my sophomore, she became the student publication adviser. And under her supervision, we were able to make some layout changes and active campus journalism. Not only that, I remember then Ms. Gregorio, assigning to me beats for “S – The Southpaper”, the community newspaper owned by the school president where she mans the desk. She was also instrumental in my Philippine Daily Inquirer stint Metro page, where I had the privileged to cover the Vizconde Massacre trial case.

Wengkie also became my teacher in several major subjects – like Script Writing, Communication Research, and more.

The funny, yet unforgettable memory I had with her, however, was not about academics, campus journalism, or our part-time newspaper work. It happened in my very first NCAA coverage with her in July of 1994.

How could anyone miss that scene, when after the coverage, we, along five others, went window-shopping from Araneta Coliseum to Alimall to SM Cubao – and for some reason, she with three other senior staff, intentionally or unintentionally left me and two other junior reporters, one after the other. And just like a lost sheep for the first time in an unfamiliar place. I had to learn how to go home on my own from Cubao to Las Piñas through the largest parking lot in the country – traffic-congested EDSA!

Thanks again to Ma’am Gregorio. And because she meant so much to me as a friend and teacher – I formally made our ties closer when I made her godmother to my eldest son. And what is the best place to do the reception? SM Cubao, of course – where she left but “taught” me to commute six cities away from Las Piñas!

What an odd time to be reminded of this… The Teacher who changed my life… Thank you Wengkie!

Here are some testimonies from our past trainees

Image of Jan Lance Domingo in action.

by Lance Domingo, DLT Trainee, Feb. to March 2019

“Thank you for accepting me as part of your community. I met many wonderful people. For the longest time, I feel I belong here. ATRIEV is the best school I’ve ever been to. No bully, no discriminations and most important of all, the people here are very considerate. I’d also like to thank the instructors for teaching us the very best they can.
Also, I’d like to thank Microsoft for the accessibility of their products and for being partners with ATRIEV. I’d like to thank the donors for the sponsorship and for opportunity that ATRIEV gave me. I know I can do a lot of things and reach my goal. Thanks to ATRIEV, I now have the confidence to compete in the real world.
ATRIEV gave me the helmet of wisdom for me to make the right decisions, The chest plate of encouragement to encourage my co-trainees and raise their self-esteem, The boots of guidance to guide me wherever I may go and The shield of bravery so that I can be brave whenever trials come and I will not bog down. The sword of learning with the ATRIEV engraved on it. I will raise it and say “I’d started from ATRIEV towards my goal.”
I’m now an ATRIEV soldier. I hope many visually impaired will become an ATRIEV soldier too and help each other to compete in the real battle.”

Image of Rubilou Dacillo wearing blue dress

by Rubilou Dacillo, DLT Trainee, August to October 2018

“I just want you to know that I am very glad that I’ve been a part of ATRIEV. I am thankful that I discover your page in facebook and got the chance to be a scholar in the Digital Literacy training for visually impaired (VI). This is my first time to mingle with lots of visually impaired persons like me and it feels like I really belong.
Through the help of DLT, I learned that we can use computers even without monitors and I was very amazed. I learned a lot and for sure it will be useful to me when I conquer the corporate world if ever I will be given a chance.
Thank you for creating this program for visually impaired that will help us to achieve our goals and prove our worth. I hope that you’ll continue helping people with visual impairment and make them realize their worth. I can now say proudly that yes, I am a VI but I am Not just a VI, I can do more and I will have a better future.”