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Monday, November 06, 2006

White Cane Day

Last Sunday I volunteered for an event which was organized by St Nicholas; the home for the visually impaired. My company participated as a corporate organization showing support by calling for volunteers among the employees.
I have always been looking forward to such events since at a very young age but had no opportunity due to the resources to link to such events/organizations and therefore, I jumped at the idea and signed up immediately. I got my T-shirt; which unfortunately they ran out of sizes and I had to settle for L size instead...haha...was a little large but it was fine; the attire is not the main concern here even if I had to practically "swim" in the shirt...haha (quoted by Tracy of my US camp).

Anyway, I arrived there early and soon after all the volunteers from my company arrived along with another group from an International school and then the folks from St Nicholas. AS soon as the roll call and registration were done, they handed out breakfast and mineral water and also, we were given the Volunteer bag (courtesy of my company) but also specific for our community only:p Anyway,the congregation gathered at Komtar; in front of KFC above the bus station. The location selected was to comply with the activities; which is basically a simple task - guiding a visually-impaired to a specified destination via the public bus and back to the original destination. Also, we were given a stack of pamphlets to distribute to the members of the public - mission is to finish distributing to the public. I was assigned to Group 8 (each group consists of 10 people; 5 volunteers with 5 from the home and a leader/supervisor from St Nicholas as well) and to guide a senior St Nicholas tenant; Mr Veloo. We mingled around with them and had a light banter; sort of an ice-breaking session.
As usual, the event officiated with opening speeches from their honoured guests which include one of the St Nicholas former. Then we proceeded to guide them downstairs to the bus station and I did learn how to guide them; to be at ease and pretty much they do not need much guidance - we only need to let them hold the elbow and they can feel their way around and of course, we tell them when there is a physical barrier ahead.

We boarded the public bus; sponsored by the bus companies and also, led by our group leaders - pretty relieved at that (you know me with public transport:p )
Then we got our seat and I started chatting with Mr. Veloo who joked all the way with me; teasing me and he is actually such a humourous and chatty person. He kept praising me that I am an optimistic person and that he can feel that I have a kind and generous heart with a charitable and genuine personality. Awwww....that was such an overwhelming compliment; something I'd never have thought of myself *blushing*
We reached our destination in a short time; oops, I forgot to mention that our group was directed to the Jelutong market and police station. Hafiz, our young group leader broke the group to two locations; 2 pairs to the police station and the remaining 3 will scout the market. So, Mr Veloo and I opted for the market and fortunately, I have been to this place before and thus it was not an easier feat to accomplish. Now, we came to the part where we have to distribute the pamphlets to the public. We started with a normal approach by greeting them but most of them ran away from us. I was kind of disappointed with the reaction from the public; guess there is still the lack of awareness and care for the less fortunate :(
In fact, Mr Veloo was a little worried that he was the one scaring people away with his disability and thus, on a positive note, I reassured him that this is the impact of the revolving society and the rise of crimes which put the public on the edge of alertness. Then I proposed to approach some of the hawkers and that we play a little game; by feeling and guessing who do we approach (hospitable and friendly folks). I managed to distribute most of the pamphlets through this method and even enlightened the public that all we want to do is to distribute this for information sharing and no donations are required; which most of them responded to obligingly - the typical Malaysian society which is also not to be criticized due to the rising number of frauds.
Then, Mr Veloo suggested that we make our task easier by dropping the pamphlets into mailboxes if there is any residential neighborhood. Well, I managed to lead him to the nearby residential area and he had the fun of participation as he dropped the pamphlets into the mailboxes. At least he was content with that...hehe, made him felt less guilty by playing his part.
We accomplished our mission and met up with the rest of the group at a soya bean stall at the junction in the middle of the market. Mr Veloo wanted a drink but he was not too fond of soya bean and so I requested a quick minute from Hafiz to bring Mr Veloo back to a coconut drink stall we stumbled upon during our quest. He insisted to buy me the drink but I paid for it and then we were on our way back; heading to a bus stop to wait for our bus to bring us back to the city centre.
This time, the bus was packed but most of them wanted to board and did not mind standing; since they are getting tired...hehe. So, we boarded our way into the crowded bus and pushed our way.
However, I must note that there were 2 good Samaritans (Indian ladies) who gave up their comfortable seats for the less fortunate. I am really impressed by the kindness shown by these ladies; kudos to you and may God bless your kind souls.
Well, not to judge but I think the young men on the same bus should be ashamed of themselves as they continued to stare at the blind with a weird expression (only God knows what they are thinking or not). But, really proud of those ladies...:)
I led Mr Veloo to the seat and also to Segar to take his place next to Mr Veloo. I, however, was pushed to the back and was next to Hafiz, standing on the bus. We had a nice conversation and I found that Hafiz was also a fresh multimedia graduate; last year's batch - my age and this was his second job. He only started his job in St Nicholas about 2 weeks ago and therefore, he is also relatively new to this. However, he enjoyed working with them and he learnt a lot despite his short duration. I was glad and actually took the opportunity to offer my voluntary services if needed or part time :)
Soon, we reached Komtar and lunch was provided. We took some photos; had our lunch (packed boxes courtesy of St Nicholas) and sat down on the floor. Everyone had a nice group chat and then proceeded with some group photos; pretty much ended the day. I also helped another girl; Nicole to the ladies as her guide was actually a guy so it was more appropriate for me to be the guide. She is amazing; she knows how to play the piano...:)
Anyway, after all the goodbyes and photo-taking, we departed home; me with a satisfied and contented heart that I have made new friends and learnt more about the disabled. In fact, this is an enriching and I definitely do look forward to more of this in the near(very near, I hope) future. Only thing I would like to mention is that I was saddened by the society's reaction towards the disabled and I find that not everyone is educated and sensitized to understand the plights of the less fortunate.
Of course, there is always a silver lining beneath every cloud; I did see some admirable role models by the public; for instance, the 2 ladies who gave up their seats (I have to praise them for their honorable action repeatedly; I mean, honestly, will you guys do that or anyone do that in a crowded and humid bus? So, KUDOS again and also another one I should mention is the bus driver on our way back. He made us push our way to the back and also at the subsequent stops. However, he yelled his way through to the boarding passengers that they should make way and not push the disabled. He may not say it in such a polite or speech-like manner; but I could sense his kind intentions to protect the well-being of the disabled. So, kudos to the bus driver too!
All in all, this is a wonderful experience and definitely a memorable one; nice to have met everyone. Ooo....did I mention I will be visiting the home again..haha, an invitation and a date with Mr Veloo.....God bless all the Good Samaritans and folks of St Nicholas :)