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Transforming lives at TWHI goes 'green'.

Forty-one years and counting, Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Incorporated, (TWHI) continues to train and rehabilitate persons with disability (PWDs) at its facility in Cainta, Rizal, with a passion now spurred by the need to contribute to a "greener" and healthier environment.

Angelita Villafuerte, Resource Development Office director of the TWHI, says the largest manufacturer of wheelchairs and other mobility aids in the country is now one with the provincial government's "Yes to Green" project.

This project of Rizal Governor Rebecca Ynares aims to involve various sectors in reforestation, greening, and backyard vegetable planting as components of her tourism promotion and livelihood programs.

Apart from embarking on pro-environment activities such as waste recycling and vegetable farming, TWHI is keeping its four-hectare compound free from toxic substances that may pose harm not only to the institution's 350 personnel but also to its clients and partner institutions.

At present, TWHI is maintaining vegetable gardens through hydroponics, a water-based farming system, and the use of other pro-environment farming methods and technology. These efforts form part of TWHI's commitment to its partners and donors which include the Australian Embassy, which granted assistance to the rehabilitation center through its Direct Aid Program (DAP) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Last January, TWHI started mushroom farming in the hopes producing enough supply of high-value mushrooms not only for its beneficiaries in the community but also to nearby villages in this town.

Gilbert Agonoy, a government nurse from Ilocos Norte for 18 years before becoming a PWD and entering the TWHI for his leg replacement and rehabilitation early this year, tells the Manila Bulletin that he found himself doing worthwhile and productive activities in the TWHI first as a machine operator and then now as a gardener.

"I used to pity myself since I lost my leg after I met a car accident in November, 2013. But with the help of the TWHI, which I now consider as a new-found family, my self-esteem and outlook in life changed," says Agonoy, eagerly showing off some of his so-called "magical cultured mushrooms" during a tour of the facility earlier this week.

The TWHI said the pro-environment initiatives of the rehabilitation center, under the leadership of its founder and chairperson, Sister Maria Valeriana Baerts; President and Chief Executive Officer Manuel Agcaoili, and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Jocelyn Garcia, may continue to become a role model institution for the PWDs so that it may gather more donors and partners to support its present and future programs.

As part of its anniversary today, a Grand Anniversary Sale will be opened until February 25. The showcase offers up to 70 percent discounts for mobility aids; handicraft products; educational toys; household, office and restaurant decors; and other recycled products which are mostly handcrafted, designed and manufactured by the TWHI workers and beneficiaries.

Maricel Candole of the TWHI administration office says exhibition games of basketball and other sports, as well as a simple program, highlight today's celebration.

"The TWHI continues to live up to its mission and objective of assisting the disabled in physical and emotional rehabilitation, and helping them in their integration to the mainstream society through education, training or in-house employment," Candole says.

Villafuerte adds: "The success of the institution for the past 41 years made us stronger that even though most of us here are PWDs, including the wheelchair craftsmen, we can show to others, especially those who are not disabled, that there are still many things to be thankful for."

TWHI was established in February 21, 1973, through the initiative of a Belgian nun, Sr. Baerts, with the help of the Belgian Government which shouldered 75% of the construction cost, and the Archdiocese of Manila for the acquisition of the lot that is leased for free.

It has five workshops, which is the only source of income of the PWD workers and staff who are into metalcraft, woodcraft, needlecraft, packaging and handmade paper making.

Aside from the livelihood projects, TWHI also accepts donations, conducts fundraising projects and write project proposals to funding agencies to sustain the welfare services and to address major development projects.

CAPTION(S):

NOBLE WORK -- Work goes on at the TWHI facility in Cainta, Rizal, for many whose lives are not confined to a wheelchair but used for a common good. They make various products at a facility now kept cleaner and environment-friendly. (Courtesy of Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc.)
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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 21, 2014
Words:732
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