Scaling obstacles to bridge gap with disabled youths

Su Jing Wen (left), from Commonwealth Secondary School, giving her buddy Siti Nurhamizah Hamzah, from Minds Fernvale Gardens School, a helping hand on the high elements rope course at Camp Include on Monday.

SINGAPORE - A group of youngsters with special needs were joined by 13 teenage volunteers on Monday as they tackled an obstacle course in a programme to boost integration.

Students from the Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) Youth Alumni helped 15 young people, aged nine to 18, climb ropes, negotiate high platforms and find their way through dimly lit mazes at the OBS East Coast Campus.

The project, called Camp Include, saw the students work with those from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) Fernvale Gardens School Adventure Club.

For OBS alumna Su Jing Wen, 16, it was a new experience. She was partnered with Siti Nurhamizah Hamzah, 15, who suffers from global developmental delay. "Initially things were awkward but I was gradually able to communicate with her," said Jing Wen, exchanging a smile with her partner.

Darren Teo, 15, an OBS alumnus from St Patrick's School, said: "It's fun to work with the kids... I treat them like I would normal people... they just process things a little bit slower. It's like playing a big brother role."

The initiative comes under the Central Singapore Community Development Council's (CDC) community impact programmes.

Assistant manager Zelig Lee said:"We are trying to foster integration between special needs youth and able-bodied youth. We found that a lot of special needs children spent a lot of time at home during the school holidays so we tried to find a way to get them to engage in something meaningful."

The CDC also organises the annual Embrace Carnival to raise awareness of Singapore's special needs community.

Mr Roland Koh, manager of community engagement programmes at OBS, said: "Through (Camp Include), we hope the alumni will better appreciate the social needs of the community."

bryantc@sph.com.sg


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

Become a fan on Facebook