A disability is defined as an impairment which results in serious functional limitation. Whenever we hear the word ‘disability’, we have the tendency to associate the word along with disadvantaged, handicapped, weak, and helpless.
But over the years, people with disability have always proved to the world that just because they have physical or cognitive disability does not mean that they are not capable!
Noelia Garella, is a 31-year-old woman with Down syndrome. Despite her genetic disorder, Noelia is proving to the world that she is just as competent as a person with 23 pairs of chromosome.
“Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to be a teacher.” Now, Noelia’s dream is no longer just a dream but has turned in a victorious reality! The 31-year-old woman with Down syndrome has become the first of her kind to be a teacher in an Argentinian preschool.
Although Noelia experienced a lot of setbacks, still, she did not give up on pursuing her dreams. Noelia recalled that she felt alienated and unwelcome in school when she was just a little girl.
In fact, there was even an instance in which a school director turned her away because of her disability, “No monsters here,” according to Mercedes Cabrera, Noelia’s mom, these were the exact words of the school director who rejected her daughter.
Fotunately for Noelia, one director chose to believe in her competence and ability. “We very quickly realized that she had a strong vocation,” Alejandra Senestrari explained. “She gave what the children in nursery classes most appreciate, which is love.”
Although at first, Noelia encountered a lot of controversy and protest, she did not give up and in the end was able to win the favor and support of the people around. “With time, even those who had been opposed joined in the initiative to hire Noe as a teacher,” Alejandra shared.
If there was one person who did not cast a shadow of doubt in Noelie’s abilities, it is none other than her students. “The way the children accept her, incorporating her naturally into the school — there is a lesson in life there for us all,” Alejandra further explained, hoping that others can start seeing things in the perspective of children.
Noelia, who has begun her teaching career as a humble teacher assistant in 2012, has been promoted as an official class teacher. Just like what she has for herself, Noelia has big dreams for her students.
But every great things start from something simple, if there’s one lesson Noelia would like her students to always remember it is to be able to listen. “I want them to read and listen, because in society, people have to listen to one another.”
Noelia is not the only one with Down syndrome who is revolutionizing the educational environment. Brina Maxino from the Philippines, is also inspiring thousands of people across continents when she fulfilled her dreams despite her disability.
“When I was just 9 days old, a doctor told my parents that because of my very bad condition, I will not live long. But now, I am already 21 years old. I will turn 22 years old on my birthday, on August 31, 2018. When I was 11 years old, a Psychologist told my parents that I may not even finish Grade School.
But now, I am an Assistant Teacher at Pean Integrated School of Parañaque. I graduated College with a degree of AB History from CAP College Foundation, Inc. I also graduated from a 2-year course in Associate in Arts and a 1-year course in General Clerical Skills,” Brina proudly shared on her Facebook account.
Brina’s blooming teaching career is only one among her array of achievements. “I am a Special Olympics Global Youth Ambassador, traveling abroad, delivering inspirational speeches in the Philippines and abroad.”
“To all parents — please believe in your children with Down Syndrome, just like what my parents did. To all PWDs like me — believe in yourselves and pray to God always. You can do it. Just study and work hard.” Brina added, encouraging parents, family, and loved ones to believe in the capability of people like her.
Brina also included in her inspirational message her plea not to call people like her with degrading monikers. Just like any normal people, those with impairment have feelings, dreams, aspirations, and capabilities as well. It is only a must to respect them.
“Please do not call us names like mongoloid, idiot, moron, stupid or retarded. It hurts us. Please be kind to us. Our disability does not mean inability. We can be useful members of society. Cheers to all Persons with Down Syndrome!”
Noelia and Brina are two distinct women living thousand of miles apart. Yet, their strong will to soar above their disability and show the world that they are just as skilled and capable as a ‘normal’ person is truly inspiring. Indeed, not even a genetic impairment can stand between success and a person who have someone who believes in their abilities.
May Noelia and Brina’s inspiring story encourage us to continue pursuing our dream and aspiration. May their success open our eyes to see beyond people’s disability. May their story remind us that disability is not synonymous to inability, simply because people like Noelia and Brina CAN do a lot of wonderful things and make their dreams come true!
Photos | Diego Lima and Brina Maxino