TO KNOW, TO WORK & TO GROW WITH THE DISABLED
Throughout my tenure as a volunteer in the past ten years, I have indeed had a wonderful experience in getting along and growing together with the disabled members. It is also my hope to be to share my view of experience albeit limited with others in respect of the volunteer ism in conjunction with BG’s 10-year anniversary.
The conventional way of viewing volunteerism is to provide necessary assistance in helping the disabled in the physical forms. It is not always intended to be long period oriented; and many people “come and go” and there isn’t really much communication between the disabled group and the volunteers.
Volunteer ism nowadays should gear towards not only the physical aspect but also to look into the other aspects like personal and spiritual needs in respect of the support rendered.
Volunteerism has to always be associated with friendship between the two. I must confess that in the beginning stage of encountering the disabled, I find it difficult to get close to them and worry to may hurt them in words or in various aspects. I felt pity on them and could not comprehend the way of their living.
However, in making attempts to get along with them and being part of the Group, I have come to hang around with. As volunteers approaching the disabled, there are few aspects to take into consideration in getting along with them.
To begin with, volunteers have to examine their perception and attitude towards the disabled. This is often the deciding factor if a person is to befriend another. Our value system often carries the fundamental believe and positions. It has the element of morality, worthiness and perception of value.
Throughout the experience of visiting families comprising disabled members, it is always thought that having a disabled member is a shameful thing in the society. It is not even surprised to find that family members despised disabled family members of their own. In facing the disabled as a volunteer, volunteer ought to have an appropriate perception towards the disabled entity and should not feel embarrassed and shameful of their existence and companion.
In offering our friendship towards the disabled, we have to be sincere and not having pity on them. Our attitude and opinions on them can often have a direct impact towards their behaviors and emotions. Many disabled members give high regards to volunteers around them. Treat them with the right attitude and dignity. Never do things on ground of sympathy and pity.
In establishing a life long relationship, and in order to communicate more effectively to them, it is imperative that we understand some barriers before rendering out assistance to them.
Lack of confidence/Inferiority Complex
Due to physical disability or external imperfection, the disabled are rather unwilling to expose themselves and get acquainted with others, especially the able-body volunteers. They are often passive and introvert. In their growing experience since childhood, they did not get the recognition and encouragement from friends as others do; they often have not accepted their very disability.
As volunteers, it is important to be proactive and approachable to gain their comfort; and take more initiative to get to know them more. We have to also encourage them to participate more in social activities in groups to gain more self-confidence.
Anger and Defensive
Some of the disabled members often take their wrath and anger out of other people, often inclusive of volunteers or maid in a violence way. The anger is often attributable to their inability to apply their skills/knowledge and explore potential due to physical disability. In this case, we have got to give in more patience and offer our heart to share their emotional burden. We often need to give them more time to fully accept themselves.
Irony and Perfectionist
Whilst hoping others to help, the disabled are sometimes reluctant in asking assistance from others ironically. Even when volunteers offer a helping hand in the right circumstances, the disabled often reject them unexpectedly. Due to their disability, they are often “overly-sensitive” and cynical towards other people’s sincerity. Therefore in giving our honest opinion or comments, we got to be careful and sensitive enough to allow rooms for the disabled to take comfort; and to give more patience in getting to know them.
Having understood their unique characters and personalities are not the way to get close to them easily, in order to better know them, we inevitably have to participate in their daily life more actively. Generally, increase in opportunity to meet each other shall result in higher cooperation level thus strengthen the relationship in a positive manner. There are many activities that require the input and knowledge of volunteers; and roles that volunteers can play to render their assistance to the disabled. The following are some of the common ways to work together with the disabled members.
(1) Encourage and assist them to participate more in social activities
Due to their introvert and lack of confidence nature, we can jointly organize social activities with the disabled members to have them exposed to the general society at large. Often at individual capacity, it is rather difficult and impossible to ask the disabled members to appear in public places for either leisure or business purpose. However, with the assistance and companion of volunteers, the disabled can slowly learn to adapt to socialize with both disabled groups as well as the public in general. This will have a positive impact in building their self-confidence. Simple activities like watching movies, shopping or even traveling are easy means to assist them to better
integrate into the society.
(2) Help them to be financially and physically independence
A rapidly industrializing country provides numerous opportunities for employment. Sadly to say, many disabled are still denied on employment opportunities. For disabled person, the transition from economic dependence to financial independence (or even financial freedom) often take years to realize due to their limited knowledge and skills.
As volunteers, we must take cognizance of their predicament and play our part in helping them to become independence in many ways, especially in the economic aspect. I have come across many employers whom are willing to offer jobs to the disabled; however, many disabled members often do not meet the minimum/bare requirement as required by the employer.
Volunteers can always offer to teach them important skills such as the comprehension of English and computers skills. Also in contemporary society, with the advance of information technology, it is hoped that jobs with various requirements can be identified and introduced to the disabled community. Personal services such as providing letter of recommendation or introduction to the relevant parties can indeed be of great start for them.
In addition to locating employment, career development is also another area of assistance that a volunteer can offer. By combining the various knowledge backgrounds, it is indeed possible to come out with some feasible and viable business plans to work together.
(3) Increase public awareness
The mass media has played a key role in highlighting not only the work of the voluntary activities but also educate the general public on the plights and issues relating to disabled difficulties. Often the non-disabled community is insensitive to the needs of the disabled community; like accessibility of public places, toilet facilities, recreations, legal rights etc.
Volunteers can also play a part in educating friends, colleagues and relatives about the needs and difficulties faced by the disabled. This will undoubtedly help in fostering a caring society in line with vision 2020. For younger generation whom will become the future generation of leaders and professionals of the society, getting the awareness level at can indeed make
a change in the fate of the disabled communities in the foreseeable future.
(4) Education Opportunity and Gaining Competitive Advantage
Many disabled members are denied education opportunities due to illiteracy. In recent years, growing number of public individual offer their line of speciality in giving coaching to disabled members in English, Computer knowledge, Accounting, Legal knowledge etc. in Beautiful Gate. This has seen many disabled members securing jobs for example in the computer industry. As explained earlier comprehension of these skills will undoubtedly increase their competitive advantage to surviving in the highly competitive job market.
There are many other areas that volunteers can give guidance to the disabled members inclusive of daily living skills like cooking, house-cleaning, car driving, marketing skills for simple products etc.
From my interesting experience, disabled members can indeed be wonderful and sincere friends and vice versa for the volunteers. Through the direct interaction with them, we are always touched by their determination and courage in facing life albeit a tough one. This often leads and influences us to have a positive mindset as well. Being a volunteer, it is indeed our responsibility to inculcate and assist the disabled group to develop a higher level of self-reliance as well as achieving their financial and physical independence. It is also hoped that disabled group can find support and comfort in volunteers whenever they are needed spiritually, I believe through sheer sincere participation by volunteers, people with disability will be able to enjoy full participation and equality in society through active cooperation and encouragement by volunteers from various spectrum of the society.