Since 2004, the YMCA of Singapore (YMCA) has been mobilising volunteers to organise and participate in community service programmes for people with disabilities. Christian Outreach to the Handicapped (COH) was one of the first Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to respond to their initiatives.
“COH has been a great partner of YMCA, as the leadership of COH was supportive and appreciative of YMCA’s efforts to mobilise volunteers to develop meaningful programmes for the clients. Very often, COH staff were also involved in the development of programmes,” says Mr Albert Ching, Vice President, YMCA of Singapore. He was previously the General Secretary of YMCA from 2005 to 2012.
Today, COH clients continue to be active in many of YMCA’s programmes, including Y Outing, Y Visit, Y Movie Treat, Y Nature Walk, YMCA Proms @ the Park, Y Arts Challenge, Y Camp Challenge, and YMCA Sports Day.
Meeting a Need
Recognising that the disability sector needed a lot of help, as not many volunteers were giving of their time and resources in the area; the leadership at YMCA assigned a group of staff and volunteers to identify the needs of VWOs serving people with special needs.
In the years that followed, YMCA came up with many new programmes based on the beneficiaries’ needs and interests.
They adapted old programmes to better serve the organisations, which grew to include AWWA, Bishan Home, Grace Orchard School, Rainbow Centre, Blue Cross Thong Kheng Home, and Touch Ubi Hostel.
Platforms that Bring Fun and Cheer
All YMCA community service programmes are designed to be fun, platforms for social interaction, and to bring cheer to beneficiaries.
Throughout the past decade until today, clients at COH’s Emmanuel Activity Centres look forward to the monthly Y Visit by volunteers, as well as attending the action-packed Y Camp Challenge (often, the highlight of their year).
Volunteers Who Care
Mr Victor Poh, Senior Manager, Domestic Programmes, YMCA, shares, “A person with special needs who is frightened to go through a tunnel in an obstacle course at his first camp, may be more confident to attempt it again at the next camp, with their buddy volunteers encouraging them on.”
“It is a beauty that the volunteers choose to come back for subsequent camps because they want to see how their (special needs) buddies progress.”
YMCA volunteers have compassion for people with special needs. Many of them continue to give back to society even after they start work.
“Some have been with us right from the start when they were Junior College students. We are very grateful that they continue to journey with us today,” he adds.
“Some rope in their colleagues to volunteer, whilst others try to get the programme adopted by the Corporate Social Responsibility department at their workplaces.”
There are also volunteers who have found work in the social service sector or become Social Workers.
A Radical Difference
The strong and steady partnership between COH and YMCA shows how young people can make a radical difference in the lives of others, and bring enduring change to an often forgotten part of our community.
From the bottom of our hearts, COH is grateful to YMCA and every volunteer for the affirmation and dignity you communicate to our clients. They have grown in their self-esteem and confidence because of you.
Also read: COH@Y Camp Challenge 2016
About the Author: The COH Resource Team comprises volunteers, content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals.