Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fun camp time at Bethany Home

Fun time at camp
By Nor Amilia Farahin Bt Abu Bakar
Sunday April 27, 2008

THE Bethany Home 17th Annual Handicamp, a camp for severely disabled children and adults, was held in Cameron Highlands recently. Upon arrival, each volunteer was assigned to a camper who has certain disabilities.

The campers have learning disabilities ranging from Down Syndrome to autism, and some have physical disabilities. During the three-day camp, we were to be with our charge all the time, to help them in any way they need.

Amilia dressed her charge for a fun night.
Amilia dressed her charge for a fun night.

I was assigned to a camper who has Cat Eye Syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder. Goh Hai Sheng looks like a small boy, and so I assumed he was around 12 years old. He was actually my age.

Hai Sheng could not talk and he has lost his sight on his left eye. My first task was to feed him lunch. It took me a while to get him to the table because he kept on walking off very fast in the wrong direction!

During lunch, he would not eat properly and refused to finish his meal. We ended lunch with his plate half full.

Our first meal certainly did not go well, and I began to worry about my ability to take good care of Hai Sheng during the camp.

Somehow, I managed to quell my rising panic, and find strength in Bethany Home’s director Jayasingh Raggiah advice to us during his briefing.

“We have so much love in ourselves, why don’t we give some to these people,” Jayasingh had told us.

It was a fun day out for the Bethany Home students and volunteers.
It was a fun day out for the Bethany Home students and volunteers.

The next agenda after lunch was games for the campers. The event was noisy and filled with lots of fun. There were plenty of cheering as team members rooted for each other and shouts of joy as the winning team was announced. The games might seem a bit childish to some, but I enjoyed it anyway as I assisted my camper in throwing the ball at a line of tin cans.

Later that evening, Jayasingh spoke to us about working with people with special needs.

The next day started off with morning exercise. After breakfast, we headed to Brinchang where the campers did community work. It was their turn to give back to society, which they did by planting trees on a bare land which had been deforested.

Some campers - those who are more independent- hiked up Gunung Brinchang to plant trees on higher ground. The trek was not easy. Many of us began to pant and feel tired as we reached the top of the hill.

The campers had fun trying to plant the trees on their own, and we volunteers were not allowed to help at all, but we ended up assisting them anyway because it was such fun! When we trekked down the hill, it drizzled and we were thoroughly soaked.

Wan Aisyah helped the campers take part in the activities.
Wan Aisyah helped the campers take part in the activities.

Trekking down the hill was quite a challenge because the path had become slippery. I had been assigned to a camper who has Down Syndrome, and he slipped a few times. The path had become very wet and slippery, and even able-bodied people found the going tough.

My camper was quite chatty, so it was quite fun hiking down the slopes with him.

The only difference between him and I was that he was a little slow in learning new things.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with this activity called “Drum Circle”. Every one of us, campers and volunteers, made music using simple handmade percussion instruments. Everyone had a good time making lots of noise, and we sang Rasa Sayang at the end of the session.

The hall was filled with the beautiful song that all Malaysians have learned by heart, telling us to feel the love that is around us.

“Rasa sayang, hey, rasa sayang sayang hey...” we sang happily.

We had a party on the final night. We dressed up our campers nicely for the evening. Since the theme was “Orang Asli Night”, I dressed up my camper with a headgear and a wristband made of leaves.

Everyone enjoyed the performances by the campers, and we clapped louder and harder because there were so much joy and appreciation of their efforts. FIVE BRATs recently volunteered at the Bethany Home’s camp for disabled children and adults.

The last day was spent visiting local places. We visited the Butterfly Farm, where we got in for free! I appreciated how many business owners opened their doors to the disabled by hosting their visits. It shows how caring we are as a society.

We also visited the tea plantations at the top of the hill, and had our lunch amidst the beautiful scenery of the really green tea plantations and the wind blowing gently against our faces.

The rest of the day was spent shopping for souvenirs and Cameron Highlands goodies to bring back to our friends and families before we all headed home. -- The Star Lifestyle

Great experience for everyone
By Kavidah Nadarajan
Sunday April 27, 2008

THIS camp was definitely an eyeopener for me. I have a newfound respect for caregivers of disabled children and adults. It was difficult for me to take care of my charge as could not communicate with me.

But I persisted in trying to be a friend to him. At the end of the camp, he gestured to me and his mother then explained to me that he has taken a liking towards me.

Finally, I realised that my efforts to be his friend were not in vain. It was a really heartwarming moment.


I learnt how challenging it is to care for the disabled. I am glad that I persevered, and was able to take care of my cerebral palsy and slow learner student emotionally and physically.


I had a LOTS of fun and exposure! Simple things like eating, bathing and putting shoes are daily challenges for the disabled. I was in charge of a girl with blood disorder from Penang. I learned how to control a wheelchair, and helped her with her daily activities. We made friends with the Bethany Home residents and also the other volunteers. — LEE THENG YING

My ‘charge’, Fui Peng barely responds to people. I thought it made no difference to her who took care of her. But on the last day, when I asked her what my name was, she replied “Aisyah”.

I thought it was no big deal. But when I introduced her to my friends at the camp, she did not respond to them. She wouldn’t turn to others when they spoke to her, but would turned to me when I addressed her.

I know it might appear as trivial to many, but it touched my heart that she responded to me.


I was totally unprepared on so many levels when I signed up to volunteer at Handicamp. I had never had any experience living with disabled persons before, so I was a bit worried that I might do something wrong.

I never realised just how unfriendly it is for a disabled person to move around. My friend Anne Lim, was willing to share what her life was like, being wheelchair bound.

Our experience together in those three days made me more aware of my surroundings. We had lots of fun, along with the other BRATs, taking our charges on their first outing in Cameron Highlands.

There were so many life lessons that I learned from Anne.

-- The Star Lifestyle

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lesson in keeping the environment clean

Lesson in keeping the environment clean
Thursday April 17, 2008

I MUST thank R.K. IMMS for his letter “Dirty Penang Beach” (The Star, April 15). It's no different with the beaches in Perak.

I learned a lesson some 22 years ago on my extension service to an aboriginal village in Cameron Highlands where we had to track for about three hours one way. While making our way through the thick jungle, we decided to take a rest. We sipped on packet drinks, and after we finished, I flung my packet into the thick jungle.

I thought it was all right but my expatriate friend picked it up and put it in his bag and said nothing. He kept it and disposed of it only when we were back in town.

Littering is easy and convenient. It is a matter of attitude and awareness of the consequences to others and the environment. My question is, how do we educate ourselves to have the kind of mindset of my expatriate friend to the extent of taking your rubbish home even in the middle of a thick jungle?

I believe a signboard with “Take your rubbish home” would remind us and raise public awareness.

The local council may make a start to implement this idea and erect these magic signboards in beaches and public parks.

I was amazed by the upkeep and cleanliness of the Penang Youth Park during my recent visit to Penang. It is of world class standard. I checked the dustbins and could hardly find any rubbish such as plastic bottles and food packaging.

I believe that litter bugs just refrain from dirtying the place because it is so clean.

Batu Gajah.

-- The Star

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hill trip for single mothers

Hill trip for single mothers
Tuesday April 8, 2008

IT WAS an unforgettable vacation for 18 single mothers and their children who were treated to a three-day trip to Cameron Highlands by the Caring Old Folks Home recently.

The home organised the trip with a donation of RM4,500 from three good Samaritans.

Not only did they find it a good opportunity to foster closer ties with their children, but they also learnt some valuable lessons through interacting with the social workers, as well as visiting the indigenous community and other poor families in Cameron Highlands.

Organising chairman Wendy Yap said the trip was an eye opener for the single mothers and their children, and thanked the donors for their generosity.

Happy together: The mothers with their children posing for a group photo.
Happy together: The mothers with their children posing for a group photo.

“Some of the single mothers are 40 years old but they had never been to Cameron Highlands.

“They live from hand to mouth and often do not have time to care for their children, much less going on an outstation trip,” she said.

However, she said despite the setback, their children were well disciplined and deserved a reward.

High scorers were aplenty in the group of 27 children; one of them scored 4As in STPM while his brother obtained 11As in SPM.

The home for single mothers had more than 50 families under its care now, said Yap.

Breakfast time: A good way to start the day.
Breakfast time: A good way to start the day.

She advised single mothers to stay strong and also called upon the people around them to give whatever help they could.

“Life is a long journey, there are trips after trips, stations after stations, but regardless of what lies ahead, we have to tread each step with care and courage.

“In life, you learn something from every turning point, you learn about forgiving when feeling helpless, contributing when taking up burdens, giving way when being adamant and staying resilient when facing obstacles, so, stay strong.

“You may not be highly educated or earn good money, but you can still cultivate high values in your children,” said Yap. -- The Star Metro.