Wednesday July 13, 2011
Walk with faith
By PANG HIN YUE
Big-hearted volunteers walk the extra mile to raise funds for people with learning disabilities.
SHE took a leap of faith when she quit her decade-long job as a secretary and signed up for a diploma course to teach special needs children. Five years on, Rebecca Jane Thomas has taken on another challenge – not only has she dedicated her time to teaching students with learning disabilities, she has also taken on the task of raising funds for the community.
The hot, cloudless day that kept the rain at bay on July 2, brought smiles to Rebecca and her group of volunteers who organised “A Silent Walk In The Night” at 1 Utama Central Park in Petaling Jaya, from 3-8pm.
The inaugural event attracted 450 people and raised RM8,120 for Dignity & Services, a self-advocacy group that works with people with learning disabilities.
It was no small feat, considering that no event management company was hired to do the job. It was just a crowd of big-hearted volunteers who worked diligently for two months to get sponsors and participants for the walk.
“Everything went smoothly. There was a lot of support and goodwill. And we will continue to explore options to raise money for the learning disabled,” enthused Rebecca.
Award-winning singer/songwriter Reshmonu and his two sons, as well as PR queen Datuk Nancy Yeoh, were there to lend their support by taking part in the candle-lit silent walk.
People with learning disorders came out in droves with their families. Some baked cookies for sale, some showcased their artwork and some performed on stage. There were 14 booths at the event, mostly related to providing services and support for the learning disabled.
Singer and song composer Brian John Yim, who had been instrumental in setting up the very first choir of autistic people last year, was at hand to ensure Umar Hasfizal, Clement Ooi and Tan Seng Kit hit the right notes. Their friend, William Chan, spontaneously went up on stage and danced as they sang their hearts out. Many in the crowd looked on in silent admiration. Who could imagine that people with autism, whose biggest issue is language deficit, were up on the stage singing in harmony with the rest.
By all accounts, the event was a huge success. So how did Rebecca manage to pull off the event, given such short notice?
“I have found my calling in life, that is, to teach children with learning disorders and to work with their parents for breakthroughs. Just as I am blessed, I want to pass on the blessings to others,” explained Rebecca.
Although she is open to teaching children with various needs, she finds more and more families who have children with autism and Down syndrome, seeking her services.
Rebecca spends considerable time conducting one-on-one therapy and group learning.
During the day, she teaches two 12-year-old students in an unconventional setting. They are a familiar face at the Starbucks outlet at the Great Eastern Mall in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.
“The kids tend to do better when they are not confined to their home. At Starbucks, the students get a chance to learn in a social setting, and the staff have been very helpful and considerate,” she said.
But her daily routine does not end there. Her abundant energy enables her to teach late into the night. Between 8pm and 10.30pm, Rebecca has 12 students with learning disorders at her place in Taman Bukit Angkasa, Kuala Lumpur. She enjoys sharing knowledge with them and getting them to interact with her.
Rebecca is motivated by her love for special needs children. She wants to give hope to their families and share her philosophy that all things are possible.
It is precisely her unbridled energy and optimism that prompted Dignity & Services to partner with her and her group of volunteers.
“What draws us to this motley group of people is their vision, humility and sheer enthusiasm. Most of all, their hope in people with learning disabilities,” said Mettilda John, executive director of Dignity & Services.
From the looks of it, this partnership could be the beginning of more exciting things to come. For the members of Dignity & Services, it was another busy and memorable weekend, having just completed their 5km run the week before at the Standard Chartered KL Marathon.
Altruism is alive and well. What a welcome relief in the wake of selfish drivers who hog parking lots meant for wheelchair-users and commit other insensitive, discriminatory acts.
> One Voice is a monthly column which serves as a platform for professionals, parents and careproviders of children with learning difficulties. Feedback on the column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For enquiries of services and support groups, please call Malaysian Care ( 03 90582102) or Dignity & Services (% 03-77255569). E-mail: email@example.com