Through a project called Forward Together, Humanity & Inclusion is addressing a challenge that young people with disabilities face every day: unemployment.
Forward Together is an inclusive employment and livelihood project led by Humanity & Inclusion in the Philippines and Indonesia. Throughout a successful three-year pilot phase, teams learned how to become more efficient, while supporting 380 young people with disabilities and more than 50 companies to be more inclusive of workers with disabilities. The project is now being relaunched in the Philippines and Indonesia, and will later arrive in Vietnam.
The project empowers people between the ages of 18 and 45 with disabilities, by increasing their access to decent employment.
The approach is two-fold: Forward Together engages companies who want to hire youth with disabilities, then supports young people with disabilities in accessing jobs. This is done through personalized coaching to ensure prospective workers develop the skills needed to enter the workforce or start their own business. Humanity & Inclusion teams also provide technical assistance to employers to prepare them to recruit, retain and provide professional development opportunities for employees with disabilities.
Fighting systemic exclusion
The systemic exclusion of persons with disabilities, especially in the workplace, is one of the forms of social prejudice that youth with disabilities experience regularly. This situation worsened during the Covid-19 period during which young people with disabilities became more marginalized than ever.
In the Philippines, for example, even with a formal degree, a person who is blind will generally not have access to training or a profession that matches their skill level. In fact, the only common profession available to people with visual disabilities is massage therapy.
‘Young people often have skills and commitment that could get them a good job or position,” says Twyla David, Humanity & Inclusion’s Forward Together coordinator, who helped launch the project in 2018. “At HI, we're working to ensure that they can access decent, productive employment."
Centering skills and passions
Young people participating in Forward Together can choose between self-employment or being hired by an employer. Humanity & Inclusion provides personalized support, including assistance devices such as special screens or glasses, mobility aids, coaching sessions, as well as allowances to support them financially until they receive their first paycheck. Even after landing a job, Humanity & Inclusion conducts home visits, provides ongoing job coaching and organizes peer support groups for project participants.
“They have to be of working age with basic literacy, a satisfactory level of autonomy and ability, and with adequate support from their families,” David explains. “We use the personalized social support approach; we try to bring their skills and passions to the forefront. We want to help them to work where they feel safe, productive and valued.”
She shares the story of Kyenna (pictured), a 26-year-old who is an advocate for the Deaf community.
“Kyenna has a hearing disability and communicates through sign language,” David says. “She specializes in video editing, special effects, digital illustration and layout. HI has been supporting Kyenna in the pursuit of her professional goals through coaching, training, and job preparation such as mock interviews.”
Now, Kyenna is pursuing a career in visual graphic design in Manila.
A community effort
While each participant is at the heart of the project, stakeholders are also important. Humanity & Inclusion works together with a pool of young jobseekers, companies of all sizes, public employment offices, technical schools and professional institutions.
David explains that the goal of the project is for the job market to become “disability-Inclusive, sustainable, and community-based.”
Humanity & Inclusion works alongside companies to strengthen their capacity to hire people with disabilities and protect their rights in the work place. Teams provide businesses with technical support and training sessions on disability awareness, inclusive hiring and talent acquisition. The project also supports companies in drafting inclusive business continuity plans and inclusive disaster risk management for their offices.
“It does not matter to us if the company has experience hiring persons with disabilities or not,” David says. “The most important is their readiness to do so. We help them with the most difficult step in achieving inclusive employment: getting started.”
In the Philippines, frequent natural disasters have serious consequences for people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion works closely with affected communities to ensure inclusive disaster preparation.
Located in the North Pacific typhoon belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire, the country experiences frequent cyclones, volcanic activity and earthquakes, putting its more than 100,000,000 residents at risk.
“Persons with disabilities are invisible during crisis events in the Philippines, whether caused by cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or COVID-19,” explains Carissa Galla, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction Technical Specialist for the region. “How many people with disabilities are affected? How many can access humanitarian assistance? How many receive warning information and can evacuate safely? This information is rarely collected, so the needs are not considered. We need to work with persons with disabilities and their organizations to ensure that no one is invisible during emergencies.”
In the event of disaster, people with disabilities are up to four times more likely to lose their lives than those without disabilities. They are often left out of disaster preparedness planning, resulting in accessibility barriers and a lack of adapted emergency resources.
Humanity & Inclusion operates inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) projects in 15 countries, including the Philippines: one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.
Empowering local leaders
In the Philippines, Humanity & Inclusion teams are working to reduce the vulnerability of 32 barangays—small administrative districts—devastated by Typhoon Ompong in 2018, and to prepare for disaster risks by enhancing the meaningful, inclusive participation of civil societies in disaster and climate risk governance.
Project EMPOWER, funded by the European Union and operated by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, aims to:
- Develop preparedness plans in 3,000 households
- Distribute 26 inclusive early warning kits to communities including items such as megaphones, whistles, bells, and visual devices such as color-coded flags, communication cards, reflective vests, ponchos, LED flashlights, solar panels, headlamps, and transistor radios
- Remove barriers for aging people, people with disabilities, children and women in DRR actions
- Increase the number of women leaders and active members of disaster and climate risk governance structures by more than 500
- Increase community organization-led climate risk initiatives by 80%
- Improve municipality contingency plans and implement 26 climate risk help desks
- Conduct and create modules for inclusive DRR training for organizations and policymakers
- Host gender, age and disability sensitivity workshops and simulation exercises
- Collect data regarding gender, age, disability, risks and resources.
Uplifting voices of impacted people
“When Typhoon Ompong hit our municipality and killed 94 people, I realized the importance of citizens' participation in risk governance,” says Avelino Tomas, Regional President of the Organization of People with Disabilities. “Persons with disabilities are capable of taking control of their lives and safety. We must allow them to participate and contribute to disaster and climate risk governance."
Not only must we include their needs in disaster risk reduction efforts, we must ensure that people with disabilities are active contributors to the response. According to a UN 2013 survey, 50% of people with disabilities said they wished to participate in disaster risk reduction efforts, but only 17% were aware of any plans in their community.
Many authorities focus on what people with disabilities cannot do while ignoring their expertise and capability to lead initiatives. In the Philippines and elsewhere, misconceptions and barriers to participation give people the false impression that people with disabilities can only be passive recipients of assistance. Surveys revealed that many in the community perceived these individuals as “victims,” “fragile,” or “burdens” in a disaster scenario.
Carmela Penchon, Secretary of the Federation of Persons with Disabilities in Itogen shared that as a woman with a disability, she felt unable to actively contribute to climate governance policies. After attending a Humanity & Inclusion awareness session on disability, gender and age sensitivity, she has become an outspoken and active advocate, championing ways to protect her community and lead DRR and climate change management initiatives.
Global climate change conference
Humanity & Inclusion is attending COP26, the UN’s Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, Scotland, to advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in disaster risk reduction and climate change governance around the world. Over a billion people are concerned by inclusive risk reduction planning and climate action, and it is no longer acceptable for policymakers to exclude people with disabilities from response efforts.
Driven by climate change, the frequency and intensity of disasters from natural hazards is steadily increasing. Research shows that populations already facing difficult circumstances and low-income countries suffer the greatest consequences.
The rate of natural disaster occurrence is five times higher than it was 50 years ago. Between 1970 and 2019, more than 91% of deaths from over 11,000 disasters occurred in lower income countries. Droughts, storms, floods, and heat waves claimed the most human lives among natural hazards, with storms causing the most damage and economic loss.
“In the Philippines we see increasing and intensifying typhoons, storms and flooding,” explains Jennifer M’Vouama, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Policy Officer. “Cyclones are affecting new parts of Madagascar. In the Sahel, it’s longer episodes of drought, and floods and landslides in Latin America. Each context is different, but we are trying to have a better understanding of vulnerability. In many places, disasters from natural hazards mix with other factors like conflict or epidemics, so we need to consider how these events reinforce each other and increase vulnerability.”
People with disabilities at greater risk
During disasters, people with disabilities are at greater risk of mortality and difficulty, as they often face additional barriers. In the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the death rate among people with disabilities was two to four times higher than people without disabilities. In a 2013 global survey, only 20% of people with disabilities reported being able to evacuate without difficultly, and another 71% reported having no preparation plan for emergencies. Aging people and people with disabilities are often left out of contingency plans. As a result, they are left behind when disaster strikes.
Disasters often result in injuries that can lead to future disabilities. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused more than 200,000 severe injuries or disabilities, and the 2021 earthquake wounded another 12,000. Disaster can also wipe out livestock, destroy crops, and prevent economic activity, causing loss of livelihood and food insecurity. As the rate of occurrences increases, this means that each disaster puts more people at higher risk for future events.
Disaster risk reduction at work
While disasters caused by natural hazards are increasing, improved early warning and contingency plans have reduced the number of related deaths. Humanity & Inclusion operates 15 countries worldwide and collaborates with international organizations and local authorities to promote inclusion in the evolving global efforts to reduce risk.
“As a disaster risk reduction agent, Humanity & Inclusion helps communities anticipate the most serious meteorological episodes,” says Julien Fouilland, Humanity & Inclusion’s Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist. “Our first priority is to better prepare the more vulnerable populations for disaster by ensuring their meaningful participation and effective access during the planning stage.”
After initial risk assessments in each neighborhood, Humanity & Inclusion teams develop activities such as strengthening shelters and ensuring they are accessible, developing household emergency response plans, and developing tailored evacuation solutions for people with specific needs. Teams also work with farmers and local organizations to develop sustainable economic activities such as securing livestock and fishing boats, which are essential to many populations.
“Disasters do not affect everyone in the same way,” M’Vouama adds. “This depends on where we live, on our socio-economic background, our gender, our age, whether we have disabilities or not. It is essential that we take into account the differentiated impacts of disasters on people and consider the underlying factors that generate vulnerability.”
With natural disasters on the rise, communities worldwide face increasing danger. Jennifer M’Vouama, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Officer, explains the growing need for risk reduction and importance of inclusive emergency response:
Humanity & Inclusion's Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) team works with communities and individuals, among them people with disabilities, to build their resilience to disaster risks such as floods, cyclones, droughts or earthquakes. Our overall objective is to minimize the impact that these disasters can have on their lives and livelihoods, and to promote coping mechanisms that support recovery. We help them identify and analyze the impacts that these disasters can have on their lives, their livelihoods, habitats and on their well-being. Then, we help them develop risk mitigation and emergency preparedness plans that will protect them against the worst impacts of disaster.
How DRR fits into HI’s mission
Humanity & Inclusion’s mandate is really to work alongside most at risk populations and groups, including people with disabilities, to respond to their essential needs and promote their rights in situations of poverty, conflict and disaster. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in the event of a disaster. For example, an older woman with reduced mobility will very concretely face difficulties to evacuate an area that may be subject to flooding, or an area that will be impacted by a cyclone or a hurricane. This person will need support and specific assistance to evacuate their home and reach a shelter in a secure location where humanitarian assistance will be provided. Too often, we see that people with disabilities are not sufficiently supported. They tend to be excluded from relief efforts, and as a result are left behind when a disaster occurs.
DRR in action
On the ground, our disaster risk reduction efforts are focused on key activities including risk prevention, risk mitigation, disaster preparedness and early action activities. To mitigate risks, we contribute to strengthening houses and community infrastructure to make them more resistant to shocks. We also conduct inclusive risk awareness activities within the community to ensure that all community members are appropriately informed. In terms of disaster preparedness, we develop contingency plans with the community to organize their resources. We help establish stocks with first aid materials and mobility aids to facilitate evacuations. We identify safe evacuation routes for the population and collective shelters, and ensure they are accessible. When a disaster strikes, we can support pre-emptive evacuation of people and their assets. Finally, we conduct simulation exercises to test everything and continuously improve our approaches.
The role of climate change
One of the most visible consequences of climate change is the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather and climate events. Floods, heat waves, cyclones, all these elements are much more frequent, intense, and much more violent. For the populations that we accompany in the world that are already vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, this means increased vulnerabilities and additional difficulties to achieve sustainable development.
Bringing inclusion to the global response
Humanity & Inclusion works in partnership with several technical, financial and institutional partners within the framework of these activities. For instance, we very often assist NGO partners in their disaster risk reduction actions, by bringing our expertise in terms of inclusion and analysis of vulnerability to disasters. Humanity & Inclusion has a unique capacity to analyze the differentiated impacts that a disaster will have on an individual according to various factors such as disability, gender, age, ethnicity, etc. Not everyone experiences a disaster in the same way, so the responses must be adapted and take these differences into account.
To mark World Cerebral Palsy Day on October 6, Humanity & Inclusion highlights the importance of providing care and treatment to children born with this life-long condition.
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disorder encountered by rehabilitation teams in the countries where Humanity & Inclusion works. Assisting children with cerebral palsy is therefore a major priority for the organization.
Seventeen million people worldwide live with cerebral palsy. It is the most common cause of motor disorder in children. Globally, people with cerebral palsy are still subject to discrimination.
Cerebral palsy is a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and coordination. It's caused by a problem with the brain that develops before, during or soon after birth. It is sometimes associated with severe cognitive and sensory difficulties. It can also make it challenging to communicate with a child, to calm them and take care of them, which sometimes leads to rejection.
However, depending on the severity, if cerebral palsy is detected early, the parents are provided with information and the child receives immediate rehabilitation care, the likelihood of further complications can be reduced. The correct treatment can quickly transform the life of both the child and their family, and increase their chances of being able to walk, go to school, work and live a fulfilling life.
Humanity & Inclusion takes an intersectional approach to healthcare and physical and functional rehabilitation, while working as closely as possible with the family in order to provide them with the best possible care and treatment.
First step: early detection
Children born with cerebral palsy in the low- and middle-income countries where Humanity & inclusion works are often at-risk of discrimination and exclusion.
“Cerebral palsy is caused by an accident during pregnancy or during or just after birth. Symptoms depend on which part of the brain is affected, and they change over time. If a baby does not receive treatment, they will develop problems with muscle tone and will not be able to coordinate their movements. The faster it is correctly treated, the less brain damage the child will experience,” explains Uta Prehl, Humanity & Inclusion’s West Africa rehabilitation specialist.
“Unfortunately, in the countries where we work, care staff are often not trained to detect this condition early on,” Prehl continues. “Midwives need to know how to test the reflexes of newborns, for example. These tests need to be done every three months to check if the child is affected. This is why Humanity & Inclusion trains medical staff in the early detection of the cerebral palsy whenever possible. Care staff need to make a diagnosis and parents should be provided with information and guidance on visiting a health center with their baby without delay.”
Raising awareness of parents
Many families never visit a health or rehabilitation center or go when it’s too late. Sometimes parents are unable to take leave from work or to pay for transportation to health centers. Others feel ashamed and frightened their children will be seen as different. In some countries, children with cerebral palsy are hidden away or ostracized.
Humanity & Inclusion runs family education activities to raise the awareness of parents and their communities to help people learn more about cerebral palsy and the possibilities that treatment can open up for a young child. Parents also learn about the significant role they play in helping their child at health centers and in their future care.
Rehabilitation is essential
Most of a child’s early learning and brain development happens before the age of 5. Early detection of cerebral palsy is essential to providing an immediate rehabilitation response, in addition to mobility aids and other supports. These are included in the services provided to children with cerebral palsy by Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation teams or its partners. Mobility aids and other supports must be personalized, and children need to learn how to use them with help from their parents.
“With our partners, we work in direct and close contact with families, often the mothers, to ensure rehabilitation care produces the right results,” Prehl explains. “We need to provide equipment or devices adapted to the child, like mobility aids, and adapted chairs and tables, which are made to measure to give the child proper posture support.
“We make the diagnosis and decide on treatment and orthopedic fitting using the international Global Motor Function Classification Scale, which means we can work in a way adapted to each child, based on a precise evaluation. The next step—exercises to learn how to use posture and mobility aids—depends a lot on the relationship between the mother and child, and how motivated they are.”
Many people with cerebral palsy live long and fulfilling lives with support from Humanity & Inclusion and other organizations around the world. But too many people are still left behind. Humanity & Inclusion will continue its efforts to ensure young children with cerebral palsy are able to access the immediate care they need and to increase their chances of enjoying the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
Through an inclusive education project in Nepal, Rabina finally has the chance to learn alongside other students.
Rabina, 19, was born with cerebral palsy. As a girl with disabilities from a low-income family, she was unable to go to school. Her parents were unaware children with disabilities could access education. Disability is stigmatized in communities like hers, where there are no inclusive schools. As a result, Rabina lacked both mobility and education for years.
That’s changing since she met a community officer working with the Empowering a New Generation of Adolescent Girls with Education (ENGAGE) project, managed by Humanity & Inclusion and Voluntary Service Overseas along with local partners in Nepal. The project seeks to empower more than 2,000 girls who are not enrolled in school—including those with disabilities—through education across three districts in Nepal’s Terai region. It is supported by UK Aid’s Girls Education Challenge Fund.
“I think that many people with disabilities in our community are still deprived of their rights and the support they need to gain their independence,” Rabina explains. “They need to be involved in projects like ENGAGE, which can be life-changing for them.”
Rabina’s opportunity to learn
In a medical camp organized by the ENGAGE, teams assessed Rabina’s needs and provided her with a wheelchair and toilet chair along with training in how to use them correctly. Soon, she will receive another, custom-made wheelchair that will help her move around even more easily.
A community officer also paid regular visits to her home to meet with her family. After a series of discussions and counseling, Rabina’s parents agreed to let Rabina join an intermediate class to prepare her to attend school. ENGAGE supplied her with the necessary learning materials.
“Thanks for supporting me with a wheelchair and a toilet chair; they really made a difference to my life,” Rabina says. “Thank you for providing counseling to my parents. They started to see me as their daughter with a future and have helped me learn.”
Rabina has completed her intermediate class, learning basic literacy skills and developing a strong interest in drawing and art. She is gaining self-confidence and wants to go to school to take her learning a step further. She will soon join a classroom where children with and without disabilities learn and play together.
“Rabina’s life has changed a lot since she joined the ENGAGE project,” explains Suman Buda, a community officer who works with Rabina. “She had never been to school and was totally illiterate. Now I feel very happy for her because she can read her lessons and write.”
Rabina’s parents are pleased with the progress she has made in her studies, and they are participating in a training program to learn how to better support their daughter. Now, they see her as a woman with ambitious plans for the future. Rabina’s neighbors are more welcoming, too, inviting her to social activities and rituals. This means Rabina is more involved in her local community, and she feels more confident than ever.
An estimated 800,000 people have been affected by an earthquake that hit Haiti mid-August. Women and girls with disabilities are among those most impacted. Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are on-site and coordinating with local actors to ensure that humanitarian aid takes their needs into account.
The population in Haiti has long been exposed to issues of poverty, made worse by frequent natural disasters in the country. Today, in addition to inflation of the local currency, Humanity & inclusion surveys of local markets found that the cost of basic goods has increased since the earthquake. A pack of women’s sanitary napkins was 75 Haitian gourdes before the earthquake, but now costs over 100. Even more challenging, many people are now without any income after the disaster.
“Many women with disabilities have lost their tools for their income-generating activities,” says Marijoe Pierre, President of the Haitian Association for Women with Disabilities in the South. “A disabled woman seamstress lost her sewing machine in the rubble. She is a single mother with three children. This machine allowed her to feed her three children. She now lives with them in a camp for displaced people along the road to Torbec.”
According to the UN, around 1,500 people with disabilities have been identified in the three most affected regions (Nippes, Grand’Anse, South), the majority of which are women. In the more than 500 emergency rehabilitation sessions carried out by Humanity & Inclusion’s team since August, 58% of patients have been women and girls.Read more
Humanity & Inclusion is determined to put inclusion and protection at the forefront of its emergency response to ensure that no one is left behind.
Women, children, aging people and people with disabilities are at even greater risk of harm following the recent Haiti earthquake.Read more
Léa Bayekula, a Belgian athlete specializing in track and field, hopes to use her position as a Humanity & Inclusion ambassador to raise awareness about inclusion for people with disabilities.
As a child, Léa knew nothing about adapted sports and had never seen athletes with disabilities in the spotlight. In June, she competed in the World Para Athletics European Championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and brought home a bronze medal in the 100-meter dash.
"This sport has had an impact on who I am today,” Léa says. “Before, I didn't know anything about sports. When I was little, I wasn't introduced to para-sports, so I didn't know that they existed. I learned about them when I was 15 years old. I started with basketball, and then I discovered track and field during a special day that my league had organized. I had played three years of wheelchair basketball, and I really liked it. I was the only girl. 2013 is when I first began pursuing track and field, and then I began competing at a high level in 2016. I started with the 100 meters, then the 200 meters, and then 400 meters came not long afterwards. I always enjoyed the competitive aspect the most, and today I find myself in competitions and I love it.
"In the middle of a race, it's all about the adrenaline—I feel great. It can vary depending on the competition. Sometimes I get a little stressed, but that's normal. It's a positive stress. There is this feeling of freedom—feeling free and being able to express yourself on the track. It's different from everyday life.
On being an HI ambassador:
Léa: I consider it a victory to be able to represent HI. I think anyone with disabilities is trying to make a difference in this society, and having someone who speaks out for people with disabilities is important. I have trainers and physical therapists and a coach. I have a whole team behind me that help me to progress and move forward. I have the chance to have free braces, while there are people and children who do not have the opportunity to have braces, a wheelchair or a walker. That is what drew me to HI. I think that together we can change the way people look at things, and we can change reality a little bit.
On the importance of visibility:
Léa: It's important to give visibility to athletes with disabilities because we also have our place. Whether we have a disability or not, we all have a place in society, and we shouldn’t set anyone aside because they are different. Sure, we are all different, but we are all human beings. My objective and my role as an HI Ambassador is to give even more visibility to the world of disabilities. Today, almost nothing is adapted, and that already makes things difficult. Some things are starting to be, but it's not so simple. It really is my goal to bring visibility to all of these issues.
Visibility can change people’s mindsets, because many are closed-minded when it comes to disability. Whether that be in the media, or in life, we need to change the gaze, that look of pity.
On setting an example:
Léa: I think that everyone chooses an example of someone who resembles them. For me, my example was Cynthia Bolingo. She is a high-level Belgian athlete in track and field, and she was the first person I knew in the sport. I didn't know that you could do adapted track and field, so for me Cynthia Bolingo was my main example of an Olympic athlete, and she is an example for me still. If there is someone who is not doing well, and I can serve as an example for them to regain their strength, that would make me very happy.
But each person works differently. We can find fulfillment in all areas of life, not only in sports. Personally, I think you can find pleasure in anything, so we must continue to keep the joy of living and simply do things we love.
Leadership donor and Legacy Society member John O'Donnell established an inclusive fellowship with a significant gift to Humanity & Inclusion in honor of a long-time friend.
It’s not uncommon for Alan Bennett to receive an email from his friend of 40 years, John O’Donnell. But this email was unlike any other.
“To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement,” Alan recalls.
John, who lives in Washington, DC, had made a gift to Humanity & Inclusion in honor of their friendship.
“We met when were working at a Social Security field office in Oregon,” John explains. “We became fast friends…We’ve always remained friends. We talk regularly, sometimes every day.”
Alan is used to giving gifts in honor of his family members. In fact, in lieu of gifts each Christmas he and his wife make donations to their children’s favorite nonprofits.
“We have plenty, so we give to nonprofits,” Alan explains. “I don’t know if John maybe planted that seed. One of the things I learned from John is generosity. He is extremely generous.”
But until that email arrived, Alan didn’t comprehend the depth of John’s generosity. John had made a generous gift to Humanity & Inclusion to establish a fellowship to support the inclusion of professionals with disabilities overseas. It would be known as the Alan D. Bennett Fellowship.
“I admire him a lot,” John says of Alan. “He’s a smart, thoughtful guy. I’m really pleased that I can make this donation to an organization that’s doing this important work. I suppose it’s not like buying the naming rights to a sports stadium, but it’s as close as I can get, and it has some effect.
“Part of the appeal of supporting Humanity & Inclusion is how many local people are involved in their work, so that people with disabilities can be helped in the long term. Locally sourced materials keep costs down, support the local economy and local craftspeople, too.”
Both men share a love for travel, having traveled to Ireland a number of times.
“John’s the poet, and I’m the pragmatist,” Alan quips. “If you walk into a pub with John, you’ll be talking to everyone in a couple of minutes. John’s that kind of person. It would take me weeks to know those people!”
John lives with condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which has gradually taken his eyesight. Most people are blind in their 30s, John explains, but he “didn’t go full-in with the white cane” until he reached his 60s.
“I’ve been fortunate that I had eyesight for as many years as I had it. I had a 30-year career without a lot of assistance," he says. "And now, there’s computer technology that I can use.”
John balances out his generous giving with support to his high school, The Phillips Collection, the Library of Congress and other organizations. He has been a leadership donor to Humanity & Inclusion for the past decade, and is one of the founding members of the organization’s Legacy Society, which includes dozens of donors who have named Humanity & Inclusion in their wills.
After Alan read John’s email, he called John to ask an important question: “how can I let you know how meaningful this is?” John’s answer is simple: “the friendship, and knowing the money will be put to good purpose, is thanks enough.”
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