Project pairs special people with volunteers

National 3 minutes, 44 seconds


SPECIAL needs individual Norazian Hj Metussin was shy and avoided socialising, but a programme that allows volunteers to conduct regular house visits has helped improve her interactions with others.

When volunteers first met the 31-year-old who has Down syndrome earlier this month, she would cover her face with her hands whenever someone speaks to her.

On the volunteers’ second house visit, she slowly opened up to the volunteers who are part of the community-based rehabilitation project that was introduced by the Community Development Department (JAPEM) last December.

“It was quite difficult at first when she didn’t want to interact with us. But we persevered and when she finally gave in, it was heartwarming to see. We want her to feel loved and to know that we want to be friends,” said Sandora Hj Basri, one of the project’s volunteers.

Sandora said the house visits have made a difference to Norazian’s social skills.

“We can’t wait to come and make more house visits. We want her to get used to us and we are planning to bring her out to engage in physical activities such as Zumba,” she continued.

Sandora, 42, said she has mixed feelings in participating as one of the volunteers of the project.

“I’m happy to be able to interact, help the clients and make a difference in their lives. But I also feel sad knowing that there are so many special needs individuals who go through various challenges and require assistance.”

Assistant Director of Community Development Department Dk Siti Saihalina Pg Hj Mohd Daud said the volunteer project was established to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families.

“Volunteers of the project will conduct home visits to the clients to give them encouragement, love and make them feel appreciated,” she said.

The department has identified 17 special needs individuals who require assistance and care under the programme.

The clients were selected from those who cannot attend school or enrol in Pusat Bahagia, resulting in them having limited social interaction with members of the public.

Dk Siti Saihalina said through volunteers’ house visits, it is hoped that the targeted special needs individuals would build confidence and become comfortable interacting with the public.

“Through the visits, the clients will feel appreciated and therefore won’t be shy to open up to people other than their parents. At the same time, volunteers will learn how to care for these individuals,” she added.

At press time, 54 people have already signed up for the volunteering programme.

Most of the volunteers are students from higher education institutions in the country.

“We are targeting youth volunteers because we want them to care and understand the needs of special individuals,” the assistant director said.

Prior to the visits, the volunteers are briefed and given training on proper ways to interact and assist people with disabilities.

“During the first visits to the respective houses chosen by the volunteers, JAPEM officers will also be present to oversee and inform the respective village heads of the activities that will be conducted.

“Even though most of the volunteers don’t have prior experience in interacting and assisting people with disabilities, they have done an incredible job during the house visits,” she added.

The number of visits to each client’s houses varies depending on the volunteers and needs of the special individuals.

“If clients require more frequent visits, then it is up to the volunteers to organise how many times in a week or a month they can visit, Dk Siti Saihalina said.

Kamsiah Hj Kahar, a parent of one of the target clients, said her 10-year-old daughter Qysrina Qurratu’aini was comfortable interacting with the volunteers even though she could not speak or hear.

“My daughter has dysmorphism, she cannot speak, hear, sit or stand and requires 100 per cent support from us.

“During the house visits, our daughter is comfortable with the volunteers because she can feel their love and concern,” she added.

Kamsiah lauded the volunteers, describing their efforts as amazing. “Special needs children won’t feel isolated when they are out in the public.”

Sandora said volunteering for the project would make youth more aware of the importance of caring for special needs individuals who require moral and social support.

“Special needs individuals also play a role in our society, so as visionary youths, we should work together to guide them to become more independent and have confidence in themselves.”

The Brunei Times