On Friday 24th March, my friend Trisha and I went to volunteer at the DPA (Disabled People’s Association) to help deliver supplies such as tins, water, tables, chairs for the Flag Day the next day. We first got a quick introduction to everyone at the office and then had a very interesting briefing from Asha about people with disabilities. Asha is a consultant who gives talks on disability awareness in schools, colleges and companies. It was interesting to hear how to “act” around someone with a disability and the different ways you can offer help and guidance. As we were “buddying up” with R (who is visually impaired) the next day, Asha made sure we would know what to do. She played a couple of games with us to simulate what it would be like if we had lost one of our senses. For example, she gave Trisha a blindfold and handed her a box of coins. Her task was to try and guess the Singaporean coins compared to the rest. She also had us practise how to guide someone who is visually impaired. For example, being on the opposite side from the cane and offering an elbow rather than taking theirs. Or when showing them a seat, lead them to the chair and let them feel it before sitting down. She told us how, in the past, one volunteer had grabbed the cane and pushed the visually impaired person into the chair!
After the briefing, we had lunch and then helped to pack up the last remaining boxes before taking them downstairs to be loaded onto the van. There were three stops, HWA (Handicaps Welfare Association), Bedok and New Town Primary School. When we got to HWA I was immediately surprised by what greeted us. The building was extremely small as I had expected it to be more modern and larger. However the equipment inside looked nice and new. We picked up tables and chairs to take to the locations where the flag sellers would collect the tins. We also picked up a few boards so that the flag sellers using wheelchairs could put the board on the wheelchair and put a couple of tins on top. At Bedok, we visited the VSA (Very Special Arts) office which is very small and slightly cramped. However their acts of kindness and patience is what matters most. It was interesting to see the various locations and meet new people who are also helping those who don’t get the attention they need because they are “different”.
The next day was Flag Day itself. Trisha and I were “buddying up” with the lovely R who is visually impaired but it doesn’t stop her from being independent. She had travelled on her own from home and she was also using her phone to contact her husband. I found this very interesting because to me, a phone is so simple to use. I noticed that when she wanted to call someone she would use the vibrations coming from her phone screen in order to know what to press and who the person was.
We stationed ourselves at Bishan where we managed to collect quite a bit of money. It was touching to see a few people dropping in $10s, $5s and $2s. Even the small change that they had in their pockets as it all adds up. I loved seeing the younger children asking their parents for their own money to give to R. However there was one moment that came as a shock to me. There was one mother and her two young sons who donated their own money. However I noticed the mother stopping one of the sons and took some of the change away from the tin. It surprised me as it was the choice of the son using his own money for an extremely good cause. However, I noticed one of the Giant (supermarket) employees pull out his wallet and count how much money he had. From what I could see I think he was debating whether to put money or not. Nonetheless he still gave money that will be put to good use. A small act of kindness that will go a long way.
I hope to volunteer for the next Flag Day and hopefully get other learners from my school to do the same. It was a great opportunity for experience as in the future I want to speak on behalf of those who experience discrimination. People with disabilities suffer from discrimination and their voice needs to be heard.
Catherine E (aged 16 years)
About the Writer: Catherine has recently been diagnosed as having a Specific Language Impairment with severe expressive language disorder and an overall mild language disorder: Language disorders can make it difficult for people to understand what others are saying to them and to formulate appropriate responses. In the educational setting, students with such disorders may miss important points in lectures, misunderstand what the teacher is saying and misinterpret assignments and test questions. Also affected is their ability to retrieve ideas and vocabulary and express their thoughts in a clear manner.