Young Heroes

INSIGHT AVENUE

Last Thursday, I got to witness the book launching of Mr. Rolando Villamero Jr. Currently the expert on Mission on Inclusive Education of UNICEF Kenya and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, he focuses his efforts on increasing the capacities of education stakeholders in developing, reviewing, and implementing policies inclusive to the needs of learners with disabilities. A teacher by profession, he holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Secondary Education and in Inclusive Education, respectively. He has experience working with learners with and without disabilities in regular classrooms in rural Philippines.

Before he became a force for good in the international stage, Mr. Villamero was simply Jun-Jun to me. We would pursue several initiatives together, all based on a simple premise: to make our community a little bit better particularly for children with disabilities. Together, we had myriad activities from capacity building of mainstream teachers to leadership programs for persons with disabilities. It was indeed a rewarding experience for us as we learned from the experiences of the participants of each activity we initiated.

Being a lot older, I had the privilege to see Jun-Jun grow into this awesome, larger-than-life young leader. There are three things about him that struck me the most. Allow me to share such insights:

First, he has always been made of the grittiest stuff. His dedication to his cause drew no parallel. He was a major proponent of mainstreaming of children with disabilities in our division at a time when mainstreaming was somewhat of an alien idea constantly facing objection and rejection. I would say that he and his colleagues from GP rehab were instrumental in the acceptance of children with disabilities in regular classrooms in our province.

Second, I’ve always admired the clarity of his vision. Even at a young age he knew what he wanted to be, what he wanted to do and pursued that goal with dogged determination. For a person that young to be so remarkably authentic is just awe-inspiring.

Third, he is moving. Being around Jun- Jun is like being electrified to your core. He inspires you to do more, to be more. If he could do it, so could you!

Jun-Jun is truly a force to reckon with. He is an epitome of commitment and dedication. He is a genuine leader and a passionate servant. He is a loving son and a generous brother. He is a man I am so blessed to call a friend.

Jun-Jun co-authored the book entitled “Inclusive Education and Disability in the Global South” which has been officially launched in the Philippines through the support of the American Studies Resource Center (ASRC) at the Silliman University Library. It is a collection of research done by five highly esteemed resource persons, Jun-Jun included. What makes this book special is the fact that it is authored by writers who really come from the respective areas the research was conducted making the results more relevant. You can check www.palgrave.com/br/book/ 9783319728285 should you wish to get your own copy of the book.