Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Camp promotes volunteerism

It is common to find Malaysians shying from being friendly with the disabled either because of negative perceptions or ignorance. SUSAN TAM discovers what the disabled have to say about this during a special weekend camp that was part of the 'Be an Angel Campaign'.

TOMMY Leong gave a lopsided smile as he pushed his orange-dyed hair out of his face.

“People think I’m mentally retarded because of the way I look but they don't know that I am just as smart as the next person,” explained the youth.

Tommy told the audience that he suffers from cerebral palsy and is disappointed that people do not understand what he tries to say.

“I find that people like to talk amongst themselves instead of asking me directly what they want to know. They do not take the initiative to approach a disabled person,” he continued.

Leong, who was sporting gold-rimmed glasses and a bright red T-shirt, later revealed that he is in his late twenties but continued to tease his audience when they asked him about his IQ.

“If I had a problem with my IQ, I wouldn't be able answer any of your questions,” the Information Technology student told the laughing crowd.

A group discussion in progress during the camp.

Leong was one of the many disabled participants who shared their feelings about living with the able-bodied community at a special camp organised by two non-profit organisations.

The two-day camp was part of Beautiful Gate Foundation and “Be an Angel Campaign” to bridge the gap between the able-bodied and the disabled.

Wheelchair-bound Chaw Lai Sim, shared Leong's sentiments, finds it sad that people perceive the disabled as being depressed most of the time.

The Ipoh lass pleaded with her new able-bodied friends to not look down on the disabled or give them weird looks.

The camp organisers felt that it would mark the first step for the able-bodied to have a “real feel” of living and working with the disabled.

At the camp, held at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi, 80-odd disabled and able-bodied participants played interactive games with balloons, dances and became creative directors for the weekend to put up humourous sketches.

The camp also featured a talk by social worker Andrew Wong on the dos and don’ts of being a volunteer and the proper techniques of manoeuvring a wheelchair.

Wong, who runs the Holistic TEAM Community Centre, said being a volunteer was not easy as it required people to commit not only their time and energy but to share unconditionally.

Siti Fatimah sharing her experiences at the end of the camp.

“Volunteerism or charity work should not be seen as something to “accumulate credits”, impress friends or collect brownie points. If you choose to serve, you must serve unconditionally,” said the 36-year-old.

Beautiful Gate Foundation director Sia Siew Chin explains that many Malaysians were interested in working with the disabled community but often struggled with obstacles, ranging from language barriers to pure ignorance.

“We have managed to plant the seeds to care and share among the able-bodied at this camp, and we hope they will now commit to the second phase of the campaign,” said Sia.

Student Emily Chan, one of the able-bodied participants, felt that the strength of her new disabled friends had inspired her.

“Meeting people with so much courage and strength really inspires me and I guess the greatest gift is to stay alive and to be alive,” said the 18-year-old.

Her brother, William, 17, also had a lot to say when asked to share his feelings about working with the disabled participants.

“We should be grateful and should learn from them as the disabled are people, too. They are human and want to have friends and enjoy life,” he said.

Steven Thong, 46, felt that the camp had given him insights on how to interact and work with his disabled relatives.

“I’ve learnt to be more sensitive and not to underestimate the abilities of my disabled loved ones and friends,” said the IT manager.

For Sia, one of the success stories of the camp was wheelchair-bound 26-year-old Lee Zing Yean who overcame communication barriers to participate in the camp's activities.

At the start of the camp, Lee kept to himself due to language barriers and did not see much use for the camp as he felt he would not benefit from the activities.

However, by the second day, Lee, who lost partial use of his legs in a motorcycle accident, had completely different feelings about the camp.

“I learnt a lot and realise that we can be friends with the able bodied. In fact, the night before, we stayed up until 3am just talking,” he explained.

Sia also explained that the real test would be seen over the next couple of months. According to her, camp participants would have to perform at least 15 hours of community service before earning their “angel wings.”

Once complete, the participants will receive a certificate at a charity dinner to be held later in the year. campaign chairman Kok Hee Poh says the camp should not be seen as throwing the challenge of volunteerism to the able-bodied.

“Volunteerism will not work if it is based on a one-way relationship.

“The campaign will also reveal the disabled community’s openness to accept the able-bodied in their lives. We have many able-bodied people willing to help but the disabled must be broad minded as well,” he explained.

It would be heartbreaking for wheelchair bound Siti Fatimah Badruh, 23, who wanted to spend more time with her new friends, if Malaysians only took volunteerism seriously during short camps like this one.

The customer service officer hopes that the situation in Malaysia will change to give her more chances to interact with people from all walks of life and not just the disabled community.

Wong probably said it best when he pointed out that a successful volunteer not only works for the community but also with the community.

Source :

Saturday, May 21, 2005


















座上貴賓包括贊助場地者ATRIA商場經理潘美燕及美門關懷中心管理委員鍾秀群。 (星洲日報‧2005/05/21)


Saturday, May 14, 2005






另外,主辦當局也另外安排了2項活動,即5月21及22日於奧迪雅購物中心(Atria Shopping Centre)舉辦殘障生活體驗坊,目的是讓公眾體驗殘障人士的日常生活,如穿衣、吃飯、掃地等,從而瞭解殘障人士所面對的困難。









她說,政府與非政府組織所給予的,多數是物資方面的協助,但殘障人士更需要精神上的支持,這就有賴于公眾的愛心與關懷。而參與志工活動的公眾人士,也可藉此來提升個人的人生價值。 (星洲日報/大都會.2005/05/14)


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Telematch kicks off campaign for volunteers


Shielding the sun from their eyes, some 50 disabled and able-bodied people braved the hot weather to have fun at Taman Jaya on Saturday morning.

Their shared laughter could be heard loud and clear as they paired off to take part in various games.

Able-bodied and disabled participants of the telematch held to kick off Phase Two of the 'Be An Angel Campaign.'

The teams, each made up of one disabled person and an able-bodied person, co-operated well when they played games, one of which required teams to soak sponges in buckets of water before racing to the other end of a platform to fill up a one-litre plastic bottle.

The one-hour telematch was held to kick off Phase Two of the Be an Angel Campaign, organised by the Beautiful Gate Disabled People Caring Centre, and Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Women, Family and Community Development Ministry parliamentary secretary Chew Mei Fun launched the event and sportingly took part in one of the games.

Chew was blindfolded and took part in a ping-pong ball race, teaming up with her disabled partner, who happened to be Beautiful Gate Disabled People Caring Centre director Sia Siew Chin.

The able-bodied members of the teams had to push their wheelchair-bound partners to other teams at the opposite end of the lane in order to pass on the ping-pong ball.

This phase of the campaign, which was called Angels-at-Work, required volunteers to sign up to work 15 hours for two months in any organisation of their choice.

More than 25 of the volunteers at the telematch were from Phase One of the campaign.

Phase One, which was in the form of a camp at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, was held last month to give able-bodied people insights on volunteerism and tips on how to work with the disabled community.

Upon completion of the 15 hours, the volunteers would be given their “wings” and a certificate to acknowledge their contributions.

Sia said in addition to the 25-odd people who were continuing with Phase Two of the campaign, more than 20 volunteers had showed up at the telematch for the first time, expressing their interest in the campaign.

“This is very encouraging as it shows that support is building up for the campaign,” she said in an interview after the launch.

But, she noted, initial support for any campaign would be good and she hoped that volunteers would carry on their work after gaining their “wings”.

Biotechnology student Tan Chin Peng, 19, said it was her first time attending such as event and she would make time for future activities.

“It was fun and it definitely inspired me. I felt very happy to interact with the disabled community,” said the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman student.

Her partner for the telematch, M. Manoharan, said activities like these were necessary to bridge the gap between the disabled and able-bodied people, especially the youth.

“Many youngsters are not aware of the disabled community and with such events, we can encourage interaction between the two groups,” said Manoharan, who is vice-president of the Damai Disabled Association of Selangor and Federal Territory.

Manoharan, who is wheelchair-bound, said similar activities should be held for other groups such as the elderly or senior citizens.

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