| Rokiah Mahmud |
THE Society for the Management of Autism Related Issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei yesterday hosted a 4-in-1 celebration at Brunei Autism Centre for Adults (BACA) in Kampong Jangsak.
The celebration was in conjunction with the 13th anniversary of SMARTER Brunei, Teacher’s Day, the official opening of SMARTER Washington Bakery and the handing over of SMARTER’s cookies to The Coffee Bean as SMARTER’s official distributor.
In his speech, president and CEO of SMARTER, Malai Haji Abdullah bin Malai Haji Othman, explained that 13 years ago when SMARTER Brunei was established, it faced so many obstacles and challenges especially in providing a better life for autistic children including his own son.
However, he continued, driven by determination and a pledge, to “provide love, education, development and empowerment”, as well as with the assistance of other families, SMARTER is not only surviving but striving and leaping towards their vision that is giving the autistic individuals with SMILE (Sociable, Meaningful, Interdependent Life and Employment).
“Unfortunately, most schools, professionals and some parents focus on deficit model of autism, which is focusing more on treating the child’s diagnostic criteria for autism as a list of deficits or symptoms all of which have negative connotations.
“This constantly gives them feedback on how deficient, damaged or incompetent they are. This leaves the child feeling very anxious, insecure and weak, which mould them into what they are not. The child is placed in situations where they often feel unsafe, unaccepted and incompetent.
“We at SMARTER Brunei believe that every child presents a set of strength with a cluster of interests, talents and gifts. All children have natural gifts and strengths that when supported and fostered, will grow into the person that naturally unfolds their true essence.
“We recognise and value their unique essence and help them grow and blossom, everyone has a desire to feel safe, accepted and competent,” said the CEO of SMARTER.
The president and CEO of SMARTER Brunei also thanked the US Embassy for its grant and support for the SMARTER Washington Bakery, and also to The Coffee Bean for believing in the children and giving them an opportunity to shine and explore their talent in baking.
“With the official opening and operation of the bakery, it is the start of their journey to sustainability and employment, and the effort will provide them to earn their own salary where they will be involved in the baking, packaging, making the containers and printing the labels for their cookies,” added Malai Haji Abdullah
Aside from bakery project, he noted, they will be carrying out other projects such as in the pipeline fields, performing arts studios and electrical workshop.
“As a family support organisation, we understand the difficulties of families with Autism are facing with.
“Thus, we are also supporting the families by operating our own employment agency to recruit maids and caregivers at minimal costs or on instalments.
“These maids and caregivers will be given hands on training in caring for individuals with autism as well as first aid training at our SMARTER and Learning Centre, and soon we will be offering the Certificate of Intervention Strategies for Autism training,” he ended.
The guest of honour, US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Daniel Shields, congratulated SMARTER for all their hard work, effort and dedication in their 13 years of operation.
“At the US Embassy, we seek to be good partners to the Bruneian community and we value the efforts of local non-governmental organisations such as SMARTER Brunei.
“The US Embassy is pleased to partner with SMARTER Brunei on the SMARTER Washington Bakery initiative, which expands SMARTER’s current baking project into a long-term and sustainable baking operation run by the students.
“This initiative is about much more than just helping SMARTER carry out its mission. It is about providing equal opportunity to individuals regardless of their ability.
“With this programme, we know that the students will develop vocational and professional skills, and with these skills, they will be increasingly independent and are able to make important contributions to their society,” he ended.
During the celebration, the US Ambassador along with the president of SMARTER Brunei cut the 13th anniversary cake, followed by the presentation of service awards and appreciation to all the teachers and staff of SMARTER Brunei.
The US Ambassador then launched the SMARTER Washington Bakery marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and then handed over the key to the centre and signed a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the bakery.
The event also saw the handover of the first delivery of SMARTER’s 3Cs (Cookies, Cakes and Candies) to the US Ambassador as well as to YAM Pengiran Anak Abdul Mun’im, the Managing Director of PAR Food and Beverage Sdn Bhd.