“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein
When we try to fit people in the boxes they are not meant to be in, it always leads to frustration and self-doubt, why let anyone feel like that?
My name is Kamille Therese M. Tingzon or “Kamille” to everyone. I have Down Syndrome. I am 24 years old and I graduated from High School last 2015 at Ann Arbor Montessori School – Inclusion Program.
As a child, I was brutally bullied. I was called names and excluded from school activities because of my disability. This left me feeling hurt and emotionally broken.
After high school, I wanted to go to College. My mom tried to enrol me in Colleges near our home but I was never given a chance by the schools – not even to be interviewed or to take an exam. I was not even given the opportunity to send in my application form. I was immediately turned down.
Then, I told my mom I want to work and help the family. She sent my resume to several of her personal contacts who worked at restaurants and pre-schools but she was only given empty promises. Despite so many rejections, I have not given up, I believe in myself and know that someday I will find my place and make a name for myself in society.
Dancing has been something that brings me joy, it is my passion and helps me channel my energy and creativity. My mom enrolled me at Symmetry Dance School right after High School. I have been performing Hip-Hop and Jazz Funk during recitals and also enjoy doing Zumba twice a week. In 2019, I got the chance to join the Unified Hip-Hop dance event organised by Special Olympics Philippines and it was wonderful. People with and without intellectual disabilities danced and performed alongside one another. I enjoyed every minute of it.
When my mom goes to the Outreach Program where she teaches Catechism to grade 3 and grade 6 students in a public school in Paranaque, I accompany her and take the opportunity to teach dancing to the children in the school. I aspire to be a dance teacher someday as I feel that dancing is the best way to deal with anything that you’re struggling with in your life.
I have faced a lot of negativity. I’m told I cannot do many things, but I’ve never let anything bring me down. Since being a part of the Special Olympics family, I’ve made many friends. I am accepted for who I am, celebrated for my talents and abilities; and not ostracized as someone with Down Syndrome.
Even when the world was going through a tough time during the lockdown, I worked with other Special Olympics athletes to lead the community in online dance events to spread some joy and help people cope with being stuck at home. I felt empowered and strong. It was proof that every single one of us, with or without disabilities, is able to contribute positively to the community.
I am currently working on my barbeque business called HowSpecial. I started this during the lockdown and have sold more than 1,000 bbq sticks since.
I am constantly working and trying out different things in the hope that someday society will realise that we, people with intellectual disabilities, are more than who we are thought to be. I hope we can all build a world where everyone gets a chance to express themselves freely. I wish for a world where we go beyond labels and accept each other for who we truly are.