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Social enterprise showcases products by PWDs

Mini Dried Flower Bouquet — LAZADA.COM.PH

AN ARTIST with down syndrome, Jana Gan, paints colorful landscapes and portraits which are available online through Jana atbp. Meanwhile, Special Hands by Nina features painted abaca and eco bags, and stickers sets featuring images by Nina Bantoto, an artist with autism. Deaf arts and crafts maker Chindee Cruz’s business, CLCreates, features personalized products for special celebrations such as birthday cakes, giveaway goods, and gifts.

They are three of the 15 young artists and entrepreneurs whose artworks and products are available at the newly established social enterprise for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) called Precious Works of Differently Abled Enterprise (PWDe).

PWDe — pronounced as “puede,” the Filipino work for “can do” —  is a nonprofit social enterprise that aims to provide a space where PWDs can provide their goods and services to the public.

During the enterprise’s online launch on July 23 via Zoom and livestreamed through Facebook, Arlene Tan-Bantoto, a founding member of PWDe and mother to an artistic daughter with autism, noted the importance of inclusivity and opportunities among PWDs.

“We believe that PWDs must be given equal rights and opportunities to make the contributions to society,” said Ms. Tan-Bantoto.

She and three other committed individuals formed PWDe. The other founders are Archie David, who established Independent Living and Learning Center (ILLC), a school for special-needs children; Princess Schuck, an actress and marketing professional who has a passion for supporting PWDs; and Elyse Go, co-founder of Hand and Heart, a social enterprise that facilitates jobs and livelihoods for PWDs.

“We hope this innovative project will help our PWD friends with a means of living amidst the pandemic,” said Archie David, PWDe co-founder and executive director of ILLC.

In line with National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week, which was observed from July 17 to 23, the newly established enterprise was launched as an online bazaar on Lazada on July 21.

“We’re very excited to continuously support this community. What we have done this week is only the start… Hopefully the community grows because we are very ready to help them out. Let’s show them how them how talented the community can be with the different products they sell,” said Yshana Wong, Senior Associate for Business Development Services at Lazada.

The online bazaar features products made and services to be provided by deaf people, people with Autism and Down syndrome, physically disabled people, and other PWDs.

The online bazaar includes food products (French macarons, no-bake cheesecakes, Korean samgyupsal sets, buko pandan, macaroni); craft and gift items (paintings, customized flower and basket arrangements, table runners, saori weaves, drawstring pouches, and T-shirts); and services (encoding, cleaning, sign language classes, graphic design, and photography).

“Through an online platform, we hope to create a marketplace where buyers and can meet and do business together,” Mr. David said.

“PWDe is envisioned to initiate programs such as this online bazaar, [offering] equitable opportunities for PWD entrepreneurs [who] need to do business with potential clients and customers. Initially we have invited a select group of PWD entrepreneurs to join us… but we hope that with everyone’s support, we will be able to engage more sellers, even those from different parts of the Philippines who are not necessarily affiliated with any of our organizations,” he added.

PWDe is supported by JCI Manilena, Lazada Philippines, and the National Commission on Disability Affairs.

The products and services are available on the bazaar’s dedicated page on the Lazada website or app, Precious Works of Differently Abled Enterprise (lazada.com.ph). — Michelle Anne P. Soliman