Fintech firm Aleta Planet’s new foundation donates S$100,000 to Mediacorp Enable Fund

SINGAPORE: A new foundation established by Singapore-based fintech firm Aleta Planet has donated S$100,000 to the Mediacorp Enable Fund, the company said on Friday (Oct 16) in a media release.

Aleta Planet announced on Friday that the foundation will make donations to various charities, aiming to “create a positive impact on society at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected many livelihoods”.

It will support the needs of the elderly and children in the local community, with an initial commitment of S$200,000, said the company.

The first of such donations is S$100,000 to the Mediacorp Enable Fund, a community fund administered by SG Enable that aims to help build a society where people with disabilities, including the elderly and children, “are recognised for their abilities and are able to lead full, socially integrated lives”.

SG Enable chief executive officer Ku Geok Boon said: “We are deeply grateful to Aleta Planet Foundation for their strong spirit of charity and choosing the Mediacorp Enable Fund to make their first donation. 

“The generous contribution will provide much-needed financial assistance in meeting the last mile needs of persons with disabilities, as well as to help them fulfil their aspirations in life.”

This will enable the foundation to connect with suitable charity partners as well as manage the funds it receives.

CEO of the Community Foundation of Singapore Catherine Loh said: “We look forward to closer collaboration with the Aleta Planet Foundation to identify gaps in the community so as to foster more effective giving and amplify the positive impact they have on our society.”

Aleta Planet Foundation said its support for the elderly “will go particularly towards those abandoned by their families and those having to work despite their frailties”. 

It will also focus on children with disabilities and those from low-income families whose parents “have little means to help them reach their full potential”.

Aleta Planet chairman and group CEO Ryan Gwee said that contributions to the foundation will increase over time “as part of a sustainable corporate giving culture”.

“As Aleta Planet has reached a level of growth, we feel that it is now fitting for us to give back to the community in which we operate,” said Mr Gwee.

“This is especially timely amid a pandemic and recession that have created considerable hardship for the most vulnerable groups living on the fringes of our society.

 

Mediacorp said the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on people with disabilities and their caregivers has been “disproportionately huge”.

From cooked meals and cash relief to the provision of essentials, a new initiative by the Mediacorp Enable Fund — a charity fund by national media network Mediacorp and SG Enable — aims to help people with disabilities and their caregivers ride out the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative “C.A.R.E.” — short for the provision of cooked meals, assistance funds, respite care and essentials — will be driven by public donations, Mediacorp said in a statement on Thursday (May 14) as it launched the scheme.

The funds collected from the campaign will give beneficiaries access to:

Cooked meals. These will be for persons with physical disabilities or those with visual impairment who are living alone, frail persons with disabilities and aged caregivers

A one-off cash relief of S$400 for families with multiple persons with disabilities who face financial hardship and caregiving stress. This will help the families defray the costs of daily expenses and other needs, such as medical costs

Respite care — home-based respite that provides relief for caregivers. This will minimise the risks of burnout and injury for low-income elderly carers who look after persons with disabilities round-the-clock

Fortnightly distribution of dry food rations. This will help persons with physical disabilities or those with visual impairment who are living alone, frail persons with disabilities and elderly caregivers

Mediacorp said the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on people with disabilities and their caregivers has been “disproportionately huge”.

Those among this group who are seeking employment or are working have been hit hard, with some having lost their jobs, the company noted.

“Many have not been able to access rehabilitation and care services when non-essential services are suspended, while others face greater difficulty getting food and necessities due to mobility challenges,” Mediacorp said.

Singapore is in the midst of an eight-week circuit breaker to curb the spread of Covid-19, with rules to limit business activity and restrict movement for all but essential activities.

To drive the initiative, the Mediacorp Enable Fund — a community fund administered by SG Enable, an agency supporting people with disabilities — has started a fundraising campaign on the Giving.sg website. It has set a target to raise S$500,000 by the end of June. 

Six Mediacorp personalities will chip in to the fundraising drive by rallying support and appealing for donations on Mediacorp platforms and social media.

They are presenters Glenda Chong (regional news network CNA), Fadli Kamsani (Warna 94.2FM), Lin Peifen (Yes 933), Chris Mak (987FM), Mohamed Rafi (Oli 96.8FM), as well as artiste Denise Camillia Tan from The Celebrity Agency.

Mediacorp chief executive officer Tham Loke Kheng said that nobody is spared the impact of the pandemic, in particular persons with disabilities and their caregivers.

“Mediacorp is committed to working with SG Enable to do our part to help this vulnerable group by leveraging our media network as well as the reach and influence of our artistes… to spread awareness of the C.A.R.E. donation drive,” she said.

“We hope that members of the public who are able to help can support wholeheartedly and generously.”
Read more at https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/mediacorp-launches-scheme-support-persons-disabilities-their-caregivers-during-covid-19

Last Mile Help Hits Home

Heng Lye Nging has not had it easy. Her only child, Lina, was born with developmental delay, autism and hearing impairment, something she only confirmed when her child was three years old. Lina is now 24.

“I suspected something was wrong because she wasn’t behaving like other children. She started babbling at eight months but stopped soon after. She never learnt to walk. She didn’t play with other children,” recalled Madam Heng.

It took several visits to various hospitals before Lina’s disabilities were diagnosed. Madam Heng’s in-laws could not accept the girl’s condition and her marriage broke down soon after.

Although she was entitled to both alimony and child support after the divorce, Madam Heng never demanded either.

“If my ex-husband has money, he will give me some. If not, I don’t ask,” she said. “I only ask that he takes Lina out every weekend to spend time with her. That was my only condition.”

Lasting Devotion

Left to support Lina on her own, Madam Heng began to work at coffee shops as a stall assistant, often clocking in 12- to 15-hour shifts.

“We try to make ends meet. Lina’s not picky. When I don’t have enough money, I feed her canned sardines and she is just as happy,” smiled Madam Heng.

“On her birthday, she gets to eat KFC or McDonald’s. She likes that and I buy her a little cake to celebrate. We do this only once a year. That’s all we can afford.”

Although Madam Heng did not make much, she made sure her daughter was well cared for. She hired a maid to watch over Lina when she went to work and trained the maid to care for her special needs child who, by her own admission, is not easy to manage.

“She throws temper tantrums when she can’t get her way and won’t take no for an answer. She hits people as well. The older she gets, the worse the tantrums have become. She also gets restless and refuses to sleep at night, choosing to pace the room or raid the refrigerator for food.”  

As a result, they have not been able to retain their maids for long. The constant change of maids has been difficult on Lina as well.

“She will chase the new maid out of her room, refuse to eat or become violent. At times, she will vent her frustration by throwing things out of her bedroom window. I had to put a net across the window because she refused to stop,” confided Madam Heng.

Still, she says Lina can be thoughtful.

“She may not be able to dress herself, bathe herself or go to the bathroom on her own, but she knows when she is loved and she can be sensitive to my needs,” Madam Heng said.

“When I come home from work exhausted or when I am sad, she can sense it and she will give me a hug. She won’t ask me for things like she usually does.”  

Mother and daughter are so close they need neither words nor sign language to communicate.

“I can sense what she wants. It’s a mother’s instinct. Sometimes, just a look is enough for me to understand her.”

Last Mile Help

Then a year ago, Madam Heng sustained a fall. She hurt her leg so badly she could not work. Without a regular income, she could not contribute to her Central Provident Fund (CPF). Without money in her CPF, she soon fell behind on the payment for her Housing Development Board (HDB) flat. She resorted to small loans from friends but it was still not enough. She faced the real risk of losing her home.

Through St Andrew’s Autism Centre’s Day Activity Centre (DAC) where Lina has been attending since 2012, Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) found out about Madam Heng’s plight. Aid from MEF helped Madam Heng tide through a very difficult period by financing Lina’s DAC fees, meals and transport for a one-year period.
 
“I am so grateful to MEF for their help. I don’t usually like to rely on others. I try not to ask my family to help us because Lina is my responsibility. I don’t expect others to take care of her,” said Madam Heng.

Lasting Care

Asked about her hopes for Lina, Madam Heng is sober, “I live one day at a time. I don’t ask for much, just that she grows up peacefully. I don’t expect her ever to be able to work or take care of herself independently.”

10 years ago, Madam Heng made plans for the day when she is no longer around to care for her only child.

“I told my niece to sell my flat and use the money to pay for Lina to stay at a home,” said Madam Heng. “Until then, I will care for her the best that I can.”

These days, things are looking up a little. Madam Heng’s friend recommended her to a coffee shop and she is working once more.

“Lina is not be able to tell you what she wants or when she is not comfortable. All she will do is cry. As a mother, it is my job to figure out how to make her feel better. But when she is happy, she will give me a kiss.”

An independent spirit who fiercely protects and loves her child, Madam Heng may not often ask for help, but she is always thankful when people come alongside her to ensure that her daughter is continually being trained and engaged. The rest, like the glimpses of affection Lina is able to show, is a bonus.

Arising from the family’s dire financial situation, Lina’s DAC programme fee had been deviated to $100 monthly for several years. Since January 2017, the fee has been paid by a private donor as Mdm Heng is unable to manage the cost of programme fee and bus transport. Further assistance has been extended for the programme fee till March 2019. Other short-term assistance was also arranged to defray the family’s daily living expenses. The family’s financial situation has not improved. Mdm Heng foresees she will have difficulty with managing the cost of DAC and transport after March 2019.

In addition, Mdm Heng has no savings and exhausted her CPF.

In Feb 2019, MEF granted $3,000 as a last mile need, to help meet Ms Lina’s DAC programme fee and meal expense, as well as the balance bus transport cost, all amounting to $257.50 per month so as to alleviate the financial strain on the family.

ABLE To Help

ABLE began with a vision that the physically challenged should not be left behind in society. That singular idea led to the founding of Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE) in 2009 which sits under Caritas Singapore, the official social and community arm of the Catholic Church in Singapore.

A decade in, ABLE has empowered many with physical disabilities to live dignified, productive and independent lives through their signature Return-to-Work (RTW) programme.

“We customise our Return-To-Work programme based on the needs of each client, who may have acquired a disability resulting from conditions such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury,” said ABLE’s Rehabilitation Programme Manager, Carmen Lok.

Partners in Enabling

Always looking to support efforts that enable those with disabilities, it was natural for Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) to support ABLE’s initiatives through a partnership with SG Enable. MEF supports some of ABLE’s employment support services, allowing the charity to help people with acquired disabilities return to work.

“The partnership is very important to us especially in our efforts to help those with disabilities who come from low-income backgrounds,” said Ms Lok.

Rebuild Lives

ABLE’s work may be targeted specifically at persons with disabilities, but for those it helps, ABLE is central to their sense of worth and well-being. Manfred Seah, 59, would certainly testify to this. Eight years ago, Mr Seah’s world fell apart because of a single, though deadly, bout of fever.

“I was on a business to trip to the US when I suddenly came down with a fever. I carried on with my activities as usual but after I returned to Singapore five days later, I had to be sent to the ICU. I was in a coma for one and a half months due to a viral infection,” recalled Mr Seah.

The virus attacked Mr Seah’s spinal cord and brain. By the time he woke up, Mr Seah could no longer walk and his left eye was affected. For a year, he was bed-ridden and had to undergo physiotherapy at home.

“After a while, I realised I couldn’t carry on like that. So, St Andrew’s Community Hospital, where I was undergoing physiotherapy, linked me up with ABLE in 2017.”

ABLE became integral to Mr Seah’s efforts to return to the workforce.

Re-train to Return to Work

Mr Seah entered ABLE’s multi-disciplinary Rehabilitation and Training programme that includes rehabilitation, employment support, training and social work services. He started off with physiotherapy to improve his activities of daily living and increase his community mobility. Through employment support sessions, he explored potential job sectors, discovered what he wanted in his career and identified his training needs to achieve his career goal.

“I used to be the head of my company’s IT department, so I wanted to go back into something IT-related,” said Mr Seah.

ABLE’s Employment Support Specialist provided vocational counselling and helped him match his skills to available jobs and re-design his skill sets to increase his employability. When he was ready to go on a job hunt, ABLE was on hand to assist Mr Seah in the creation of a new resume and to approach employers.  

“We have been fortunate enough to work with many inclusive employers willing to employ those with disabilities and give them a new lease of life. A common misconception employers have is that they would need to invest a huge amount of resources into accommodating employees with disabilities. However, this is often not the case. For example, it may be as simple as customizing the employee’s job tasks based on their strengths and abilities,” said Ms Lok.

Persons with disabilities face a variety of challenges when they seek employment. For example, some companies do not have group insurance that can cover the new hires with disabilities because of their pre-existing medical conditions. Others, like one employer who initially wanted to hire Mr Seah, do not have wheelchair-friendly offices.

“They wanted to hire me to teach English to their employees but their office didn’t have an elevator,” said Mr Seah.

In May 2018, a year after getting assistance from ABLE, he managed to secure a job as an IT system Advisor in an SME.  

Continue to Support

ABLE’s support does not end when its clients become employed.

“We offer post-employment support to help them transition back into the workforce,” said Ms Lok.

ABLE’s Employment Support Specialist visited Mr Seah’s workplace to better understand his work environment and provide accommodations advisory to Mr Seah’s employer if needed.

“This is so the newly employed can excel at their jobs,” said Ms Lok.

Life may not always be fair, but everyone deserves a fair chance. That is why ABLE strives to give everyone a success story like Mr Seah’s.

Care Carnival for Caregivers

Raising one child with special needs is challenging enough. Raising three puts unimaginable stress and strain on the family. Yet, this is Annette Chua’s reality. Annette’s six-year-old son is suspected to have autism. She is also caring for her nephews who both have autism. The older boy who is 11 is also being treated for depression and anxiety while his nine-year-old brother is being tested for learning disabilities.

“Our situation is quite challenging. I don’t just have to manage the boys, I have to manage their parents as well who have mental health issues and are going through a divorce. Because I don’t have legal guardianship of my nephews, I continually have to go through their parents and they are often not co-operative,” shared Annette.

“My husband is also not supportive of the situation and I am largely left on my own to care for our son and my nephews.”

Annette has to depend on her parents for financial help because her brother and sister-in-law do not chip in and her husband is mired in debt. Yet, her plight is not unique. Many caregivers of those with disabilities face their trying circumstances alone, uninformed and unsupported.

Caregivers Unite

Few understand the needs of such caregivers quite like fellow caregivers. That is why some of them decided to come together in November 2019 to organise Care Carnival. The one-day event aimed to connect, enable and empower caregivers of children and youths with special needs. Together they shared knowledge and practices, and built partnerships with the community, professional bodies and stakeholders.

“I enjoyed myself because at Care Carnival there were child-minding volunteers who helped me care for the boys so I could attend the talks and discussions,” said Annette.

“It was also good to be in a place where people didn’t stare at my boys when they acted up. I came away with lots of takeaways as well such as online resources to help the boys and organisations which provide activities that support caregivers.”

This focus on empowering caregivers is exactly what Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) believes in as well. That is why MEF supported the event as a major sponsor to create a more inclusive society.

Caregivers Learn

Nearly 500 caregivers, their children, volunteers, partners, service providers and performers came together that Saturday for Care Carnival. Attendees got to listen to event speaker Professor Robin McWilliam. A special education professor at The University of Alabama, and the Founder and Director of the Evidence-based International Early Intervention Office (EIEIO), Professor McWilliam is an expert in early intervention. He developed the Routines-Based Model (RBM) of Early Intervention (Birth-6).

RBM is a collection of practices that helps those with young children with disabilities to cope by enabling the children to function optimally in their daily routines at home and in school. Instead of letting professionals teach the children during isolated sessions, RBM teaches families to manage their children’s learning needs throughout their day-to-day activities.

At the talk, Professor McWilliam discussed strategies to optimise learning opportunities for special needs children and engage them to improve their development and quality of life. Caregivers also learnt parenting activities and teaching methods that have been proven to be successful. In this way, families can decide how best to enable their children.

“It was good to know that children learn best from their natural settings, and that they can be engaged to learn through their daily routines and even pick up general knowledge essential for their independence in the future when they are grown up,” said Annette.

Caregivers Connect

To give caregivers more avenues for help, 20 service providers set up interest-based activity booths to showcase programmes available to special needs children and youths. From performance art, art and craft, and culinary to sports and outdoor, science and technology, and horticulture and agriculture, caregivers saw myriad possible ways their charges could be engaged.

The participants found the carnival educational and informative, one said she was surprised that the scene for special needs had developed so much over the years and that there was that much more now that could be done for special needs children.   

Caregivers also received the support they needed. They took part in a focus group discussion with professionals and community stakeholders, and connected with support groups over lunch. A tour of the Enabling Village gave them insights into community resources available to them as well.

The inaugural event was certainly an important step towards building a vibrant and dynamic caregiving community. Many enjoyed it so much that they asked for more of such events. With initiatives like these, caregivers need never journey alone and unaided.

Enabled to Hit the Big Leagues

Like many children, Akram Ramadan Misrawi, 24, began playing badminton because it was something his family did.

“I started out since young because usually my family would, especially during the holidays, invite me out to play badminton for recreation, under the void deck,” recalled Akram.

It did not matter that he was born with skeletal dysplasia and that the condition affected the development of his limbs so he could neither walk nor grip things properly.

“I can’t really hold [the racket] the way normal players do for most of the shots, so I have to improvise in a way that suits my disability,” he said.

His family encouraged him anyway.

“They know how active I am, they know how I like badminton, so they asked me to try it.”

Big Dreams

Soon, fun family activity gave way to aspiration and Akram began dreaming of playing for Singapore.

“If you are competitive, you have scheduled training programmes,” he explained. “I like badminton so I want to increase my skills to more of a competitive level, instead of just hitting [the shuttlecock] around.”

In 2015, he began playing competitively. He was so good that two years later, he represented Singapore at the Asian Youth Para Games in Dubai.

Big Hurdle

But for this Nanyang Polytechnic graduate, there were limits to his aspirations. Beyond buying the usual sports equipment for badminton, he needed a special wheelchair.

“[The one I have] was more for basketball. The structure of the wheelchair is different which makes it not suitable for badminton”, Akram explained. 

“If you move fast and suddenly break, you might fall over because of the weight. There were numerous times where I fell over while playing, so that’s why I decided to get a new wheelchair.”

A sports wheelchair for badminton would cost upward of $5,000, amounting to even $7,000 for a good one. It was money his family did not have.

Big Help

This is the plight of many with disabilities. It is not the lack of ability nor ambition that stops them from living out their potential and fulfilling their dreams. It is the lack of finances and opportunities. At times like these, a helping hand can go a long way.

For Akram, that helping hand came from Mediacorp Enable Fund which sponsored a new wheelchair specifically designed for para-badminton players.

“It really helped to lift the burden off our shoulders and we didn’t have to worry about paying that amount of money,” said Akram, who is the second of three children.

“The new one is a bit lighter; you can move faster. Performance-wise I am able to focus more on the game.”

Now, Akram has plans to hit the big leagues and do Singapore proud.

“My goal with this new chair is to excel in my training and to one day participate in games such as Asean [Para] Games,” he said.

Empowered to Scale New Heights

They were an unlikely team of trekkers. Some had cerebral palsy, others with autism, four were visually impaired and one needed crutches. All, however, were determined that no disability would prevent them from living life to the fullest. Empowering them to do just that was non-profit organisation YMCA Singapore.

“For the last 14 years, we have been organising Y Camp Challenge where we take people with special needs outdoors four times a year. This year, we decided to take it to another level,” said Steve Loh, General Secretary and CEO of YMCA Singapore.

Next Level Challenge

That new level was to climb Japan’s tallest peak, the nearly 4,000-metre high Mount Fuji, in August 2019. For able-bodied adventurers, that would have been an easy one-day expedition. For the 10 people with various disabilities, it would be a monumental two-day journey requiring the aid of volunteers, local guides and even a team doctor.

“We wanted something inspirational and aspirational, something that would uplift them and inspire them to reach beyond themselves,” said Mr Loh of their choice of destination.

To meet the challenge, the 24-member team trained together for three months, going for hikes regularly and even completing a vertical marathon that required them to race up 57 floors.

Added Mr Loh: “The training sessions were not purely physical. It was actually for the volunteers like us to figure out how we were going to keep up with them and the kind of help they needed.”

One of the participants, 46-year-old Chris Tan, has only five per cent of her vision left because of glaucoma which she developed in her teens.

“I definitely need a guide to be with me. My guide will be my eyes. She has to describe every single step to me, the rocks, the terrain to make sure I am able to manage the trail,” she explained.

Many also went the extra mile and trained on their own. Oh Siew May, 48, who has speech and movement difficulties because of cerebral palsy, took the stairs to get to her 25th storey apartment four times a week every week for months.  

“I want to tell people that being disabled doesn’t mean we are unable. We can do everything that we want,” she said.

 Next Leap Partners

Given the magnitude of such projects, organisations often cannot work alone. That is where charity funds like Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) are able to come in. MEF was one of the sponsors of YMCA Mt Fuji Inclusive Expedition 2019, lending both financial support and resources to help fulfil aspirations.

Actress and Mediacorp’s Gold 905 DJ Denise Tan was one of the volunteers for the climb.

“I think a world in which we help each other achieve our dreams is a better place in which to live. If you can help just one person today with your gift, it’s still worth it. It’s life-changing and it goes both ways,” said Tan.

“I was paired with Chris. We ran together to build stamina, climbed stairs and did a few practice hikes up and down Bukit Timah Hill in preparation.

They are amazing individuals. They have this can-do spirit that puts us to shame and physically, they are very, very fit. They train longer and harder than any of us abled-bodied people.”

Next Climb on the Agenda

 That kind of grit certainly came in handy during the actual climb, especially when the weather was not in their favour. Heavy rains during their ascent made the rocky paths even more of a challenge.

“I did not lose motivation because in my mind I always keep telling myself how to reach to the top to get some ramen inside of me,” said Harun Rahamad who has cerebral palsy.

Bone cancer survivor James Wong, 28, shared: “In a group, everyone moves at a different pace. I couldn’t really run to catch up with the team. But I hope that the climb will raise awareness about people with disabilities, that we can do beyond what we imagine.”

In the end, the team made it to the eighth station, just a little shy of the summit of Mount Fuji. Still, it was a win. They were able to raise $200,000 for future outdoor activities for the special needs community and they proved that with gumption and good partners, few things are insurmountable.

 

Partnering to Lend a Helping Hand

Theirs is an unlikely friendship. D J Saravana Kumar is a senior graphics designer at Fraunhofer Singapore. Tan Whee Boon is a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs as a result of a bacterial infection. They would never have met if not for an Israeli humanitarian project that became global.

A Real Need

Mr Tan has no hands and his legs end at mid-calf. A plate of yusheng, a raw fish dish, he ate in 2015 caused a near-fatal case of food poisoning that landed him in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Sadly, the drug that helped him fight the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection also caused gangrene to develop in all four of his limbs. Amputation was the only way to save his life.

Once a technician in the gas industry, Tan had to quit his job. Activities he used to enjoy – swimming and basketball – became impossible.

“Without hands and feet, I just sink,” he said ruefully.

While he did eventually learn to move around on a donated motorised wheelchair, feed himself with the aid of elastic bands his wife sewed for him and even type using a stylus pen, Mr Tan is far from independent.

“I can’t go out on my own for long because I can’t go to the bathroom without help,” he said.

For that, he relies on his wife Madam Choong Siet Mei, 52, who is now also his caregiver.

“She has to be with me 24/7,” said the father of two.

The logical solution to his difficulties would have been prosthetic arms, and though he did receive some from helpful donors, they all proved ineffective. One from the United States could not grip the water hose that would have enabled him to shower on his own. Another from Hong Kong took up to 15 minutes to put on even with help and was too heavy to really use.

A Community Effort 

It is for people just like Tan that organisations such as Tikkun Olm Makers (TOM), Hebrew for “repairing the world”, exists. The global non-profit network brings together local communities, getting people to harness technology to solve everyday problems of those with special needs. 

In June 2019, TOM organised its first MakeAthon in Singapore where 60 local and Israeli Makers from various walks of life and with different expertise came together to overcome the daily challenges of 15 Need Knowers living with disabilities.

Joining the community effort was Mediacorp Enable Fund (MEF) which raised $30,000 as the main sponsor. Community efforts like these that promote integration are very much in tandem with MEF’s belief that society needs to support inclusion and champion the cause of people with disabilities.

Over three days, the team that worked on Tan’s problem, Team PJ, laboured to design a prosthetic arm with a hand that could function like a real one. The six members, who had never met till then, comprised physiotherapist students, computer science researchers and a teacher led by Kumar who has 10 years’ experience in 3D modelling. Tan provided real-time feedback as the team worked, their common goal drawing them together.

“He was at the side cheering us on, he brought us life,” said Kumar, an Indian national who moved to Singapore with his family six years ago.

Added Tan: “Participating in the creation process was the best part of the whole experience because I felt like I had a part to play.”

In the end, the team came up with a prototype – a 3D-printed rotating prosthetic arm with a grabbing mechanism that could be worn without help. They were awarded a joint third prize as well as $2,000 for their effort.  

A Solution at Hand

 It has been more than six months since but the bond forged between Tan and Kumar during those intense three days is just as strong, and the commitment to give Tan a hand that works remains.

“He is still working on fine-tuning the prosthetic arm. We visit each other or he calls,” said Tan.

While the prototype could grip things, the grip was not firm enough. The next version improved on this but there was the issue of control.

“I could pick up the water hose but I couldn’t control it,” explained Tan.

The third try resulted in a prosthetic hand that had good grip and control but was too heavy. Kumar is not giving up, though. 

“Previously, I would just spend my time playing games on my computer,” he said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with my spare time. Now I know what I want to do.”

This is creativity for a worthy cause. This is technology put to good use. This is community support at its very best.

特需人士组龙舟队 首次参赛夺冠!

“异龙”突起!本地有这么一个由不同特殊需求的队员组成的龙舟队,他们在正式成立约半年左右便首次出征一年一度的星展银行滨海龙舟赛(DBS Marina Regatta),夺得坚韧不拔精英组公开赛的冠军!

异龙龙舟队每个星期天早上都会在新加坡体育城进行训练。上个星期天(26日),龙舟队进行了正式比赛前的最后一场训练。约40名队员和义工在烈阳下埋头进行热身运动以及短跑训练。虽然各个都汗流浃背,但他们却没有任何一点怨言。

如果不说,你或许看不出龙舟队由不同特殊需求的队员组成,当中就包括了轻微和重度的自闭症患者、失聪人士、失明人士和智障人士等。

中重度自闭症儿母亲:这是他人生中很重大的比赛!

在训练途中,其中一名队员、25岁的杨震宇突然脱掉身上的救生衣和帽子,不愿意继续下海划船。这时,他的母亲、52岁的彭维燕便在一旁轻声安抚他,“乖乖训练,我们等一下去吃东西”,并重新帮他将救生衣穿上。

彭维燕告诉8视界新闻,儿子震宇患有中重度自闭症以及过动症,智商只有37。因为觉得划龙舟是个不错的运动,同时也希望儿子能参加团队活动,所以就从去年12月开始,让他加入龙舟队。

“我跟他的爸爸提议说要让他去划龙舟,他还说‘不要啦,他肯定不可以的’。我本来也觉得会很难,可是就想说让他试试看,顶多不行就算了,可是要给他这个机会。”

划龙舟每个星期的训练都十分辛苦,非常耗体力。彭维燕说,虽然儿子不会对说些什么,但是他会通过肢体语言表达出自己的情绪。

“像今天(26日),他的情绪就不是很好,一开始做第一个热身运动做第一下就不太好了,所以就不太合作。如果他合作的话,他的笑容是很可爱的。”

彭维燕也在约三个月前开始担任龙舟队的义工,陪同儿子一起训练、划龙舟。两人的母子关系也因此增进不少。

“我们有比较多时间在一起,不管是在路上,或是在参加活动。而且划龙舟是个团队活动,比赛的氛围也很让人热血沸腾。”

对于儿子参加划龙舟比赛,彭维燕可说是又担心、又自豪。彭维燕一方面担心震宇会“拖后腿”,一方面又不敢相信自己竟然会有看到儿子参加比赛的一天。

“从他小时候诊断出患上自闭症,他从来没参加过什么比赛,因为他的能力比较弱。这个可以算是他人生中很重大的比赛,所以会紧张,会担心他拖后腿、不肯划。”

义工:他们和大家都一样

有不同特殊需求的“异龙”在训练时,身边都会有一名义工在旁协助和教导他们。陪在震宇身旁的义工是26岁的陈嬿全。她说,因为自己从未和患有自闭症的人有所交流,因此一开始和震宇一起训练时,总是会不知所措。不过经过慢慢的磨合、相互了解后,她也找到了教导震宇的方式。

“有时候我们一群人一起划船的时候,他不会一起划。我们休息的时候,可能我就会叫他再划给我看。有时候他在划船的时候会突然站起来,我就会尽量叫他坐下。”

陈嬿全和震宇接触的这几个月以来,不仅两人的关系更加融洽,她也开始了解到震宇母亲的辛苦。整个龙舟队就像是个大家庭一般。在今年的母亲节,陈嬿全也和其他义工们准备了小礼物,送给队员们的母亲,慰劳她们。

担任舵手、27岁的王辉杰也是龙舟队的一名义工。王辉杰说,自己担任义工后,也从队员们的身上学了不少东西。

“其实他们和我们一样,不要对他们有不同的偏见。他们可能有障碍,可是如果你用简单的方式跟他们沟通,其实他们都会。有些队员没有划过龙舟,可是过了10到15周,他们就可以划得很好。” 

最温馨比赛 教练:对比赛成绩感到十分满意

在星期六(1日)早上,异龙龙舟队的队员们聚集在滨海湾一带,准备参加星展银行滨海龙舟赛坚韧不拔精英组公开赛的项目。队员们各个异常兴奋、笑容满面。不少家长也特地抽空陪他们参加比赛,并趁着比赛空挡加紧给孩子们进行一对一的训练。

比赛在短短的1分钟内便结束,异龙龙舟队所派出的两支队伍分别夺得第一名和第四名。

其中一名患有自闭症的队员、20岁的林佳毅说:“我很喜欢划龙舟。对于今天比赛的成绩,我感到很开心。我们整个队伍都很开心地一起比赛。”

异龙龙舟队的教练、28岁的黄衍量表示,一开始会创立异龙龙舟队,是希望能够提供一个平台,让这些特殊需求的人士也能够参与这项运动,同时也让他们的家长、看护能够有一点喘息的时间。

黄衍量对队员们在比赛中的表现感到颇为满意。

“今天的表现不错,可是当然还有可以进步的地方。好的部分是他们划得蛮齐的。我们接下来的计划是在2021年的时候参加世界竞标赛,所以我们以那为目标努力奋斗。”

异龙是社会企业Society Staples旗下的龙舟队,Society Staples 也获新传媒协立慈善基金(Mediacorp Enable Fund)的资助。

Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story raises S$2 million for charity

SINGAPORE: More than S$2 million was raised at a charity launch of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s biography – A Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story on Wednesday (Nov 21).

The charity event sold more than 250 copies of the book autographed by Mr Goh. The books were priced at S$2,000, S$10,000 and S$50,000.

The proceeds from the event, as well as all royalties from the sales of the books, will go towards two charities Mr Goh is patron of – the Mediacorp Enable Fund and EduGrow for Brighter Tomorrows. 

The book, which documents Mr Goh’s life and career, was officially launched on Nov 8 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. It is written by former Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei.

Speaking at the event, Mr Goh said his generation enjoyed meritocracy and social mobility put in place by the Government and nurtured by society. He stressed that it’s important to continue efforts to keep Singapore a meritocratic society. 

“A government bursary paid my way through university, my life turned out well, not just because of my own effort but also because of our practice of meritocracy, ” said Mr Goh. 

“I did not have to rely on ‘guanxi’ (Chinese for networks or connections), I had equal opportunities to study, compete, get a job and do well on my own steam,” he said.

“Meritocracy cannot be left to its own devices. We must constantly adjust to maintain an open system with opportunities for all Singaporeans to advance themselves,” he added.

The Mediacorp Enable Fund, formerly known as the Today Enable Fund, seeks to help people with disabilities realise their aspirations, improve their skills and work prospects.

EduGrow for Brighter Tomorrows is an initiative that supports the growth of children from disadvantaged families in areas including education and character building.

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