21 August 2018, Quezon City, Philippines— World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific (WYAAP) in collaboration with local social enterprise, Hand & Heart, successfully hosted an afternoon get-together for the general public and the deaf community in Manila. Entitled “Letters from a Stranger,” the event was a casual gathering and letter exchange for Persons with Dignity (PWDs) to be in the company of new friends from different walks of life.
This year, Letters from a Stranger reached out to the general public and to members of the deaf community. Through a letter exchange, the event envisioned creating a safe space where individuals who belong to different communities would find common ground and engage in meaningful conversations.
The program opened with warm remarks from the WYAAP Regional Director, Mary Imbong and Hand & Heart Co-Founder, Gen Diokno. Imbong welcomed the guests and shared an inspiring message about the importance of upholding the dignity of all persons, regardless of one’s circumstance, ability, or disability. She also shared how by treating each person with respect and understanding, we are able to contribute to building safe spaces for people in our communities. Meanwhile, Hand & Heart’s Gen Diokno, a notable leader in the deaf community in Manila, warmly welcomed guests and shared a message of appreciation on behalf of the team of Hand & Heart.
The program also included a meditation session led by Reiki master, Sarah Salcedo-Rubin, a special performance by young members of the deaf community, a spoken word performance by volunteer interns of WYAAP, a short talk by Dr. Salvador Cuare, a school director of DEAF Inc., and closing remarks by WYAAP Director of Operations, Joyce Cedeño. Snacks and beverages served during the event were provided by SIP Purified Water and Teys’ Cakes and Pastries.
The main highlight of the event was the letter exchange held at the foot of the program. The simple activity allowed guests to write a letter to an anonymous recipient (prior to the event), and receive a letter from an anonymous guest. The letter exchange ceremony capped off the afternoon and enveloped the venue with a positive atmosphere as guests continued to interact and bond.
“Inside the room had a visible barrier between silence and noise. It’s amazing how the event was able to fill the gap and connect both perspectives through written letters to understand how much different and alike we are. It hugely made an impact for both Deaf and Hearing because it gave them space to listen and learn about one another. At the end of the day, all gained a friend, all learned something new. Let them reach out to you as you reach out to them.” – Guanzon, Cristina Isabel
“Honestly, my heart was blessed by the event more than I expected. It was the first time that I was part of an event with deaf people and some PWDs. It was such a heartwarming experience for me…I was blessed to know and see that organizations like WYA and Hand & Heart really open their doors for these people, making sure that they don’t feel alone in their battles and their journeys.” – Tan, John Moses
“Beyond grateful to the WYA team for doing an outstanding job in making everything come together into a project that would leave a mark in the hearts of our brothers and sisters from the PWD sector, and in mine as well. This event emphasized that each one of us is capable, and that we can all be united through our unique individualities and identities. Thank you for making our hearts full & for uplifting our spirits through this event.” – Aytona, Quita
Hand & Heart is social enterprise which aims to empower, educate, and provide employment opportunities for members of the PWD community. Tied with WYAAP’s vision of fostering a culture of mutual respect and love for all, WYAAP’s second Letters from a Stranger became an avenue for solidarity among members of the PWD and non-PWD communities.
WYAAP and Hand & Heart would like to thank Sarah Salcedo-Rubin, Dr. Salvador Q. Cuare, Vincent Habana, Jansen Salamero, the WYAAP Batch 2-2018 interns, Atty. Pancho Umali, and the attendees, for their contribution to the success of the program. WYAAP and Hand & Heart would also like to thank SIP Purified Water and Teys’ Cakes and Pastries for their generosity in sponsoring the event. View photos of at the WYAAP Facebook page.
Official event sponsors: