Multinational helps out learning disabled 1 June 2011
By PANG HIN YUE
THE Malaysian Armed Forces’ quarters in Desa Tun Hussein Onn along Jalan Jelatek, Kuala Lumpur, is more than a show of might. Unknown to many, there is a tender side to it. Within its self-contained sprawling grounds is a centre to cater to the army’s families and those in the vicinity who have children with learning and physical disabilities.
Hemmed in between the high-rise living quarters and a school is the MAF’s very own single-storey Community Rehabilitation Centre. With the Social Welfare Department overseeing the centre, on a regular day between 30 and 35 people, including toddlers, converge there.
The majority of them are persons diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that impairs movement and learning in varying degrees. Among them is Rozana Rozami, 20, who has limited mobility on her right limbs. To prevent her muscles from stiffening, her mother, Rosnah Hamid, accompanies her daily to the centre and diligently does physiotherapy for her. A handful of people with autism and Down Syndrome are also at the centre.
A toddler enjoying the stimulating bubbles column in the multisensory room at Kem Perdana Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur. Multinational corporation Procter & Gamble sponsored the special therapy room.
Toddlers with cerebral palsy lie on the padded floor mats, soothed by the air-conditioning and the exercises done to tone their muscles.
Manned by six staff members, the centre at MAF is open from 8.30am to noon, Mondays to Fridays. At the helm is Sharifah Anum who has been serving faithfully at the centre since its inception 10 years ago.
“The centre is open to anyone, from babies to adults who have disabilities,” says the affable Sharifah who receives training sponsored by the Social Welfare Department, to keep abreast of happenings.
The centre also has classes to help students with the basics of reading and writing.
“We are preparing some of them to be accepted into the Education Ministry’s Special Education programme,” explains Sharifah. To date, at least seven have successfully gained entry to school.
(The regulations under the Education Act stipulate that only students who are “educable” are accepted into the Education Ministry’s Special Education programme. The Social Welfare Department admits those who are not able to care for themselves under its Community Rehabilitation Centres.)
In the last two years, the centre at MAF received another boost with a multi-sensory room sponsored by multinational corporation Procter & Gamble (P&G). The air-conditioned room is equipped with lights, sounds and other gadgets that have been modified to meet the diverse sensorial needs of the disabled. Some are used to soothe the nerves, while others stimulate learning in a stress-free environment.
The centre at the army barracks is just one of the 50 Social Welfare Department centres across the nation that has benefited from P&G’s generosity.
P&G’s External Affairs Leader, Zulhaimi Abdul Hamid, says the multinational has invested RM1mil over the last two years to equip 50 Social Welfare Department community rehabilitation centres across the country with therapeutic multi-sensory rooms. P&G also provides training to ensure the multi-sensory rooms are optimally utilised.
In fact, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was present last month to mark the handover of the 50th multi-sensory therapy room at Kem Perdana Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur.
P&G’s contributions towards the cause of the learning disabled in Malaysia are based on its global corporate campaign themed “Live, Learn and Thrive” to improve the lives of children in need, from infancy to 13 years old.
P&G has been reaching out to children with learning disabilities in Malaysia since 1999 under its Open Minds Programme, says Zulhaimi. To date, RM6mil has been spent.
Besides funding the Social Welfare Department’s centres, P&G also contributes towards non-governmental organisations that serve people with autism and dyslexia, he adds.
While the Persons With Disabilities Act 2008 has been enacted, it remains to be seen how the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will work to ensure that those under its care, will have equal rights to education, healthcare and employment. As it is, there is no available data on the number of students from the community rehabilitation centres who are transferred to schools.
For now, the learning disabled community can take heart that there are corporations and individuals who are investing their money, time and talent to make Malaysia an inclusive society.
One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties. For enquiries of services and support groups, call Malaysian Care ( 03-9058 2102) or Dignity & Services ( 03-7725 5569). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.