Washington, D.C., 23 October 2019 (PAHO) - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been recognized for its efforts to include persons with developmental disabilities in the workplace, in an event organized to hold the National Month of Awareness on Employment and Disability, that is observed in the United States since 1988. 

The recognition was granted by the District of Columbia Department on Disability Services for PAHO’s work over the past five years in providing work experiences for young people of Ivymount School, a Maryland educational institution that offers community-based services for children and young adults with special needs in the metropolitan area of Washington. 

Ivymount students at work

"We recognize PAHO for this great program that was developed with Ivymount, that provides every year employment opportunities and career development," said Andrew Reese, director of the DC Department on Disability Services. Reese said employers like PAHO "help us do the work that we do," adding that between 550 and 650 people are helped to obtain employment every year. 

Gerald Anderson, director of Administration of PAHO, said “It is important to promote an environment of inclusion, tolerance and acceptance in PAHO, and at the same time to create opportunities to collaborate with the community." He said PAHO is "committed to doing more to become an inclusive employer", and pointed out that he wants "to encourage other international organizations to do the same, or do more, so that communities are healthier, inclusive, and tolerant." 

Gerald Anderson, director de Administración de la OPS
Gerald Anderson, director of Administration of PAHO

PAHO began its association with Ivymount In 2014, not only to create opportunities so that the students collaborate and learn from the PAHO community of PAHO, but also to promote an environment of greater inclusion, tolerance and acceptance in the agency. 

Ivymount student

Since then, PAHO has welcomed 19 secondary school students from Ivymount for internships in various technical units, carrying out a variety tasks. Of these students, eight live in the District of Columbia, one is now employed full-time, and two others are joining the Smithsonian Institution, where they are currently doing internships to learn necessary abilities for their future work.

Israelle Resti Ivymount school
Israelle Resti, Assistant Director of the program of the School to Work program at Ivymount

Israelle Resti, Assistant Director of the program of the School to Work program at Ivymount, praised “the acceptance of our students as one more worker at PAHO." Resti explained that the fact that the students have their own cubicle, for example, sends a message that “you are like us, you are part of us.”  This might seem like a small message, but it is important for the students and the rest of PAHO, she said. 

recognition event

Ivymount also recognized PAHO as Work Partner of the year in the event, organized jointly by the Staff Department on Disability Services and PAHO. Administrators, mentors and Ivymount students also shared their experiences of inclusion in the workplace and in PAHO. Other area organizations were also recognized at the meeting. 

The National Month of Awareness on Employment and Disability is promoted the by Labor Department of the United States. The theme for 2019 is "The right talent, right now." 

Links

—  Video on the experience of PAHO and the school Ivymount
—  National Month of Awareness on Employment and Disability 2019 (in English)