[News] Meet the SENIA Advocacy Honorary Winners 2017

The SENIA Advocacy Award is a search for exceptional persons or institutions who advocate for people with special needs in the Asia. The winner of the SENIA Advocacy Award for 2017 is Rhodora Palomar Fresnedi of the Philippines.

There are many excellent nominees who also received the SENIA Advocacy Honorary Award citation. It is our privilege to present to you the other SENIA Advocacy Award nominees who inspire many with their lives and their advocacy. Meet the SENIA Advocacy Honorary Award 2017 recipients.

aventajadoMichelle Ressa Aventajado is a mom blogger, special needs advocate and Country Director of Best Buddies PhilippinesBest Buddies is an international movement that aims to develop one to one friendships between persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities. The program allows all people to feel included and valued as a member of society. As Country Director of Best Buddies Philippines, Michelle has worked tirelessly with numerous institutions to promote inclusion. During the last Best Buddies Leadership Conference in the United States, the Philippines was the largest international group represented. Michelle’s advocacy reaches farther than her work in Best Buddies, though. Considered a gamechanger in the area of education, Michelle is an inspiration to many. Her successful blog, MommaNManila, covers topics such as parenting and special needs. Michelle’s inspiration is close to her heart as she hopes to build an inclusive world for her lovely daughter, Gelli, who was born with Down Syndrome. Be inspired by the work that she does by watching this video, “End the R Word“.

maurerUwe Maurer is the Director and Co-Founder of Taiwan Sunshine, a non-profit organization that aims to bring hope and support to families with special needs children in Taiwan. The main program of Taiwan Sunshine is the Hero Games, a sports program that connects national public schools with special needs students to create an inclusive environment that fosters friendships, team spirit and acceptance. Through a volunteer and school partnership system, the Hero Games provide opportunities for everyone including school administrators, students, teachers, parents and support staff to contribute to the event. It is incredible to witness the Hero Games where participants may be in wheelchairs, have leg braces, or other types of assistive supports and are able to join the sports events. Indeed, Taiwan Sunshine advocates for those who are excluded.  To learn more about Taiwan Sunshine and assist in their work, visit their official website and view this video

arceAna Kristina Arce is a Deaf advocate, scholar, teacher and researcher. As the first Deaf Filipino scholar of Gallaudet University and recipient of the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship, Ana has brought hope to her fellow Deaf Filipinos. Her graduate research on Deaf Gain in the Philippines promoted employability of Deaf workers in a dominant hearing world. Her research received the Graduate Research Writing Award and her scholarship performance generated a George Veditz Award for consistent Academic Excellence. Upon her return to the Philippines, Ana was part of the founding team that started the Development and Accessibility Fund for the Deaffounded the Development and Accessibility Fund for the Deaf, an NGO focused on developing self-reliant and independent Deaf Filipinos through sourcing and managing funds that contribute to the development and access for Deaf Filipinos. Watch Ana share her personal story during the TEDxFortBonifacio by clicking here and here



Max Simpson is the Founder and Vocational Programme Coordinator of Steps with Theera, a coffee shop and vocational training centre for young adults with special needs. Steps with Theera offers a UK accredited life skills and employability programme (ASDAN) alongside work based learning. Together with Founder and Pastry Chef Theeta Hotrakitya, they run Steps with Theera. The coffee shop is a platform to demonstrate the abilities of trainees with the hope of breaking down barriers surrounding special needs in Thailand. Through the coffee shop, learners with special needs are given real work experience and the opportunity to develop independence through a sustainable career. Max’s advocacy work does not end in education. She has also partnered with companies to launch a successful National Autism Awareness campaign called “1 in 68”. The campaign has attracted 50,000 people within two weeks and was featured on national television and various print media. Be inspired and learn more about Steps with Theera by clicking the video here.

ikukoIkuko “Bea” Tsuboya-Newell is Directress of the International Secondary School in Japan. Bea is a passionate advocate of inclusive education and special needs. Her tireless work in Japan, considered a traditional and structured society in the area of education, is truly inspiring and worthy of recognition. As a chartered member of the Council of Revitalization of Education for the cabinet office of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Bea has pushed her advocacy to provide services for learners with special learning needs. She actively participates and initiates proposals to the National Congress to make education more inclusive. This year, the Japanese government approved funding of 890 teachers for specialized training in the next 10 years, a proposal Bea advocated for. This project is a significant milestone in Japan’s journey towards inclusive education. 

chengDolores Cheng is Founder and Director of the Center for Possibilities Foundation, an NGO focused on helping persons with disabilities and their families cope, relate and integrate in Philippine society. Dolores is also producer of the film “Yakap” (“Embrace”), a documentary of the lives of three individuals with various types of disabilities. “Yakap” features the lives of Gelli, a 4-year-old with Down Syndrome, AJ, an 8-year-old with Epilepsy, Autism, and Global Developmental Delay and Kevin, a 45-year-old with Global Developmental Delay. The goal of the Center for Possibilities is to have this film viewed by as many people as possible. “Yakap“, being a beacon of light, will raise awareness about the strengths and contributions of persons with various types of disabilities. As an advocate for special needs, Dolores has also initiated numerous inclusion projects including but not limited to parent support groups, sensitivity trainings, free special education services and other programs. 

nildaNilda Delgado is Director of MindHaven School in Roxas City, Capiz Philippines. MindHaven is a pioneer in inclusive education as it offers a brain-based, environment-based, culture-based, and evidence-based program called the “Whole Child, Whole School, and Whole Community” approach. The inclusion program of MindHaven School has resulted in learning opportunities for children with disabilities and special education needs alongside neurotypical children. In addition, the school has opened its doors to children at-risk through their free outreach programs. Running an inclusive school outside the Metro Manila is a huge challenge. Nilda has faced these challenges head on and has received the respect and endorsement of the City Social Welfare and Development Office  for her efforts. 

Story written by Catherine Deen, SENIA Board Member

Read more about past SENIA Advocacy Award and Honorary Winners!

Dr. Shari Rosen wins Inaugural SENIA Advocacy Award

Dato Dr. Amar Singh wins SENIA Advocacy Award 2016

Meet the SENIA Advocacy Honorary Winners 2016


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