Meet Enzo, a 15-year-old painter whose bold, colorful work has appeared in various exhibits in Manila. His parents, Dean and Chu Calleja, have generously allowed NVC to reproduce four of his paintings in gift cards, sales of which will fund Mingo Meals for malnourished children all over the Philippines.
Enzo is a teen living with autism. Diagnosed at age 2, he has been getting all the different interventions he needs to cope with the world around him, which he can find overwhelming. Enzo swims, works out, and plays the piano, but Mom Chu feels that Enzo really expresses his emotions through is artwork.
“When Enzo was younger, we would make him try all sorts of activities. At first I wasn’t sure if he could paint,” Chu narrates. But a friend of hers, an art gallery manager, encouraged them to try it. “And yes, to our surprise, Enzo really enjoyed it. Since then, we have been very supportive of his talent.”
Four of Enzo’s highly expressive, colorful paintings have been translated into gift cards that will benefit malnourished children in the Philippines. A box of 12 cards featuring all 4 paintings is Php 250.
Helping other children and promoting nutrition
“I feel this project would make more of an impact rather than just giving grocery items to kids on the streets,” says Chu. “Nutrition affects our whole body’s development. Enzo himself is on a gluten-free, casein-free, and sugar-free diet [to help him deal wit the symptoms of autism]. But of course, most other children need to be nourished in order to grow and develop.”
An initial set of 300 gift card sets all sold within one month, and enrolled these 8 children in NVC’s 6-month daily Mingo Meals feeding program (top): Princes 4, Cristina 3, Yesha Mae 3, Francis 3, and (bottom): Eugene 5, Jethro 4. James Coby 2, Neil John, 3. They have been identified as malnourished an in need of nutritional supplementation. They reside in Brgy. Punta Taytay, Negros Occidental.
Reprints for another batch of kids
NVC reprinted 300 more sets in January 2019, sales of which will enroll an additional eight children, all from the same community. Left to right: Daveriel Villaluna, Lance Lance Reyman Olano, Precious Purificacion, Reylene Heliana Olano, Bill Brian Dechilla, Brian Jordan Dechilla, Reygan Dechilla, and Shahira Dechilla
Raising autism awareness
“For all autism parents, let’s try to expose our kids to a variety of activities and stick to the ones they like and enjoy,” Chu continues. She hopes that putting Enzo’s art in NVC’s gift cards will raise awareness about autism and prevent people from being judgmental about it. “My son’s condition made me work harder and not settle for status quo. My loyalty is and always will be to my son. Enzo’s condition freed us from what society dictates, as we have to follow the road less travelled.”
“We parents must be patient, open and willing to try what works for our kids. Each child with autism is different. If you meet one child with autism, that’s just one child. They are showered with their own different talents as well.”