Merlee Jayme launches ‘The Misfits Camp’: a haven for creatives with mental and physical disabilities
After a successful career in the advertising industry, Merlee Jayme, the previous founder of an award-winning agency and Chief Creative Officer of Dentsu Asia & Pacific, has decided to take on a purpose-driven venture: launching ‘The Misfits Camp.’ This is the first and only training camp that bridges creative neurodiverse individuals to a career in the creative industry. The camp is open to adults on the autism spectrum, with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Dyslexia, and other mental health disorders. It provides a safe space for training, resources, and support to empower them with the end goal of helping them pursue creative careers.
Research conducted worldwide has highlighted strengths and abilities in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder, particularly in areas such as visual thinking, attention to detail, pattern recognition, and creative problem-solving. Most applicants have a natural aptitude for multimedia and digital arts.
Parents have always worried about their neurodiverse children’s future after spending years in special education schools. Moreso, high-performing neurodivergent with creative talent feel uncertain about their career possibilities after college. They are not confident that they have the right skills to be employed or that companies will accept them if they are diagnosed with mental disabilities, including Autism Spectrum condition, Asperger’s, Dyslexia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is exactly what The Misfits camp hopes to provide them, the right training, acceptance, and inclusion.
“We want to give hope and sustainability to all these talented minds.” Jayme shared. “Years ago, I wrote a book about “Everyone Can Be Creative,” studying the different levels of creativity in all kinds of people. Little did I know I would discover a new world of creativity with the neurodiverse. Meeting all these wonderful creatives today inspires me and my volunteers to unleash creativity in the most unexpected ways. I had to go back to school to study their psyche and behaviors to be able to connect with them in the right way. This is mentoring on a whole new level. My dream is for these creatives to go up the stage for a lion! ” She continues.
The camp’s staff includes medical and creative experts trained to provide students with a respectful, inclusive, and supportive environment. Jayme created Individualized Creative Programs with JR Ignacio, the camp’s Chief Digital and Innovations Officer.
The 15-day creative assessment, harnessing the talent, social skills, portfolio building, and preparing for a job interview is all part of a six-month training program. Support will continue after being hired with monthly progress follow-ups with the companies’ HR departments.
JR Ignacio, who trains the digitally inclined divergent, said: “Meeting all these wonderful creatives inspires other volunteers and me to unleash creativity in the most unexpected ways. Their level of attention to detail and their focus on the work is something I have never encountered before”.
Junette Lacap, The camp’s adviser and a mother of two neurodivergent teens, said: “If we think differently, diagnosed differently, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is what we contribute creatively. Creative people understand the positivity of being a “misfit “because they know their talent sets them apart from everyone else.”
After her global and Asia Pacific roles in her past network Dentsu, Jayme reflects, “One of the best roles assigned to me in the region was the Diversity Equity and Inclusion lead. This opened my eyes to the importance of DEI in building the right culture at work, creating better ideas for clients, and fostering kindness and acceptance among people. More companies should realize this and take DEI goals seriously. I’ve done many “purpose-telling.” initiatives for this in the past. Now, it’s time to start “purpose doing” by creating a life around this. The Misfits camp is more than an ad or a campaign to push DEI; it’s a real-life safe space to practice what we preach”.
To date, the first batch of neurodivergent creatives have finished their creative assessment and have started their training. The assessment focused on each divergent’s creative skills and capabilities. This included simple visual arts and digital arts programs.
Jayme adds: “So far, I am blown away by their focus on the work. I asked one of them to write about a topic, and he started typing away and produced five pages in less than an hour. Without checking Google, mind you. It was like watching ChatGPT in a human form. Another takes his photos and creates films wonderfully with natural lighting. His eye for detail and for lighting is really out of this world. Thankfully, I was able to get him an apprentice job with a popular director.”
The camp has opened its registration for the next batch of Divergent. It has just partnered with The College of St. Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies, seeking out deaf multimedia arts graduates. The Misfits Camp is excited to welcome the next generation of creative minds with big dreams. As the famous Apple ad had advocated, “The square pegs in a round hole- misfits will change the world.