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Enabling the differently-abled: LERC and its 20-year Quest for Inclusion

Civil society was brimming with excitement as the Livelihood Education and Rehabilitation Center (LERC) commemorated its 20th founding anniversary. The jubilant event marked a significant milestone in the center's dedication to empowering persons with disabilities (PWDs) and uplifting vulnerable communities in Metro Manila.

The anniversary celebration showcased a remarkable achievement resulting from a fruitful collaboration between LERC and its development partners. 

One of the highlights of their joint effort was the inauguration of new facilities in the center that can further aid in achieving equal opportunities for the disadvantaged to thrive within an enabling environment. These include a community library, an events place, a space for physical therapy, and a mushroom farm, among others, all easily accessible to all visitors. 

The newly-established LERC Community Library made possible through a partnership with San Sebastian College Manila, De La Salle University Manila, and the local government of Caloocan (Photo courtesy: NHA Community Support Services Department)
LERC Director Richard Arceno (2R, front row) oversees the newly-inaugurated Events Place of the center together with development partners and beneficiaries. (Photo courtesy: Richard Arceno)
Samuel Sumilang (L), chief nurse at the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium joins Caloocan City Councilor Atty. King Echiverri in unveiling the new Physical Therapy room for PWDs. (Photo courtesy: NHA Community Support Services Department)
Representatives from the National Housing Authority visits the mushroom farm inside the LERC (Photo courtesy: NHA Community Support Services Department)

In addition, the LERC together with the Alliance of Persons with Disabilities in Caloocan City and the local government spearheaded the provision of free baptism and a mass wedding ceremony among the residents of Barangay 185, where the center is located. 

Earlier, LERC was the recipient of a state-of-the-art indoor vertical hydroponic garden after its partnership with the Latter-day Saint Charities (LDSC) and the Department of Agriculture, with a specific focus on promoting food security and livelihood opportunities for PWDs.

Latter-day Saint Charities missionaries facilitate the turnover of the indoor hydroponic garden to LERC. (Photo courtesy: LDSC)

These enabled LERC to fulfill its mission of providing livelihood training for PWDs and nourishment to vulnerable children and families in the Caloocan City North area.

Richard Arceno, director of LERC Caloocan and a PWD himself, worked closely with development partners to create a model that would not only benefit the center but also serve as a shining example for other PWD centers. 

“We want the LERC to be the model of community-led inclusive development that focuses to alleviate and empower the persons with disabilities and other marginalized members of the community using the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” said Arceno. 

“LERC wants to be part of proactive solutions and this is our commitment in the next 10 years (2023-2032). Please join us in this journey. We need the support of the government, the private sector and community at large,” he added, as the center continuously strives to target the development, empowerment, and transformation of over 50,000 PWDs and 20,000 vulnerable families in adjacent cities of Caloocan, Quezon City North, San Jose del Monte, Meycauayan, including some parts of Santa Maria, and Norzagaray in Bulacan. 

This ambitious and groundbreaking vision culminated in the development of a cutting-edge vertical indoor gardening facility that could produce nutritious vegetables and herbs for distribution to those in need and for commercial sale.

Beyond the hydroponic garden, LERC also expanded its endeavors to include the raising of rabbits, chickens, mushroom production, and beekeeping. The once abandoned building that housed LERC for years was transformed into a vibrant urban gardening model, with every inch of available space utilized to foster sustainable agriculture and provide valuable learning opportunities.

The dedication and passion of Jhun Herrero, a volunteer cooperative development specialist and a PWD, were instrumental in providing training on Cooperative Governance and Management for the newly appointed officers and members of the Bigay Buhay Multipurpose Cooperative (BBMC). 

This cooperative, organized, owned, and managed by PWDs, is spearheading a paradigm shift, empowering PWDs as contributing members of society towards the improvement of their socioeconomic lives by fostering independent living through economic and social development. 

The partnerships flourished, resulting in the creation of sustainable livelihoods and food security initiatives for disadvantaged communities. 

To date, the LERC is facilitating the livelihood training of 150 PWDs on school furniture making and bag production as well as printing of promotional materials and urban integrated farming. 

Meanwhile, the center has been continuously providing support to 500 children PWDs and other vulnerable children through the dispensation of direct social services such as feeding programs, physical therapy, and inclusive early childhood education. 

These initiatives add to the array of socioeconomic assistance that the LERC provides to 1,500 vulnerable families. 

LERC also became part of the ATI (Agricultural Training Institute) Urban Agriculture Program, joining other accredited Urban Agriculture Garden sites under the ATI Central Office's supervision. 

Through the said program, LERC will be further capacitated in contributing to the development of resilient food systems amid natural phenomena. 

Their dedication to creating income opportunities, providing fresh and healthy greens, and promoting knowledge dissemination in urban agriculture has set an example for other organizations to follow.

In 2022, the LERC celebrated its 19th founding anniversary by establishing a Kadiwa selling outlet as it aligned with the center’s aim of generating livelihood for income security as well as to widen access to healthy foods at affordable prices.

The DA joins the celebration of the LERC's 19th founding anniversary by organizing a Kadiwa on Wheels in the center. (Photo courtesy: Department of Agriculture)

As LERC embarked on its 20th founding anniversary, it served as a beacon of hope, growth, and resilience. From despair to opportunity, from hopelessness to empowerment, LERC's journey has been nothing short of transformative. 

The center's commitment to nurturing sustainable livelihoods, fostering inclusivity, and serving as a community resource hub continues to inspire change and uplift the lives of many in Caloocan City and beyond. 

The legacy of LERC's 20-year journey sets the stage for a brighter, more sustainable future for vulnerable communities in Metro Manila. (PIA-NCR)

About the Author

Janna Marie Pineda

Information Officer


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