World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) has been celebrated every April 2 since 2008 to push for awareness on autism and everything that autism brings.
Over the years, the WAAD celebration has evolved, following the times and the needs of the autism community. Currently, along with ASEAN Autism Network counterparts, WAAD is celebrated not only for the awareness, but to promote acceptance, action, accommodation and appreciation for autistic individuals.
This was said by the Society for the Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) Brunei Vice President I and CEO Sharifah Adila Surya binti Malai Haji Abdullah at the Charity Art Exhibition to mark the WAAD 2023 celebration at the One Riverside Hall of the Baiduri Bank headquarters yesterday.
As a leading non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the Sultanate to commemorate WAAD annually, SMARTER Brunei was honoured to build a strong collaboration with Baiduri Bank in organising a charity art exhibition this year.
Deputy Minister (Civil Service Governance) at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Paduka Mohd Riza bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos officiated the launch.
Sharifah Adila also announced SMARTER Brunei’s downsizing and possible closure. “However, we are not giving up and instead are strategising, revamping and further pushing for change to happen. Positive change not just from SMARTER Brunei internally, but pushing for change to happen from the community.
“We hope through this charity art exhibition, the artworks showcased today will not only give the audience a glimpse into the world of autism, but also help to raise funds for SMARTER Brunei to continue providing our services for years to come.”
Several SMARTER Brunei students undergoing vocational training to work and be employed attended SMARTER Brunei’s first BJAK Café.
“We want to showcase and embrace inclusion in various forms and show to you that inclusion is not difficult. If done right and done well, with the right support and system in place, it can be executed wonderfully,” Sharifa Adila added.
The employment programme at SMARTER Brunei not only pushes for inclusion in the workforce but also aligns itself with Brunei Vision 2035 for a highly skilled workforce as well as high standard of living.
“We hope that everyone can support our employed adults in ensuring they are not left behind in this already fast paced world.”
She also expressed hope that it will inspire people to be more inclusive and encourage them to be more accepting.
“Inclusion can no longer simply be a word used and thrown around lightly, where the word is still as it is – a word. It must be shown in the actions, the implementation of policies as well as the transparency and evidence,” she said.
SMARTER Brunei President Pengiran Zamri bin Pengiran Haji Bujang said art encourages the creativity to express oneself and autistic children find it as a mode of therapy and a form of communication. “We hope the public will see the colourful world from the eyes of our SMARTER Brunei students. By purchasing their art, you are not just giving back to the community, but also showing your support and promoting inclusiveness.”
The guest of honour and guests comprising foreign envoys, Baiduri Bank officials, stakeholders and partners of SMARTER Brunei, were ushered for a tour of the exhibition.
The showcase of the talents and skills of individuals with autism through their artworks, will be exhibited until March 31 for public viewing and purchase where 50 per cent of the sales will go directly to the artist and the other 50 per cent to SMARTER Brunei.