Reflections on Challenges College Buddy Programme is a series of self evaluation and sharing by the youth volunteers who participated in disability advocacy activities with Challenges Foundation. In this compilation, we share the thoughts of three youth namely Safwah Abdul Razak, Michelle Ho and Nur Sofiya Zahrin, who paeticipated in a social engagement project under Challenges Foundation in April 2018.
Safwah Abdul Razak, 20
On the 13th of April, the Austen’s Pride Jalinan Masyarakat project (Challenges Buddy Programme) had conducted their first session of Football and Fitness programme for special needs students at SK Taman Medan. My name is Safwah Binti Abdul Razak and I am one of the members for the Football and Fitness programme.
Before the programme began,I had a lot of mixed emotions. I felt scared and anxious as I had to teach special needs children to play football. What if they did not follow my instructions?
Moreover, I am not very good at handling children. On the other hand, I felt excited and happy that I am going out of my comfort zone as I had never handled a programme with primary school kids.
I also had some negative expectations in my mind. I thought that maybe they would throw tantrums and be difficult to handle since they are special needs children. Maybe it would be impossible to teach them basic instructions such as kicking or aiming. Furthermore, I did not know how severe their respective disabilities are. Such expectations lingered in my thoughts.
I didn’t really have many misconceptions about special needs children, though. One of my younger brothers has autism. Accompanying him to his speech therapy classes has taught me a lot about how autism has different levels of severity. Nevertheless, I do not really have that much experience with physically disabled children. I thought it would be quite impossible to teach them how to play football.
During the programme, my worries and anxiety dissipated. I had a lot of fun teaching them how to kick and aim. Even though I felt very tired, it was rewarding to see how the kids have improved their skills in playing football. The children there were mostly high-functioning and it wasn’t too difficult to teach them basic football skills. They were also very cooperative and well-behaved.
There were times when the kids got distracted and ran off on their own but it did not happen frequently. There were kids who had difficulty using their foot to kick the ball. However, they kept on trying and did not give up. Their resilience showed me that their disability did not stop them from doing physical activities.
In conclusion, being in this programme has taught me a lot about special needs children. My perception of them has changed into a more positive light and my misconceptions about them had cleared up. They deserve the same opportunities that other children have. I hope more programmes that empower disabled people will be held by governmental and non-governmental organisations.
Michelle Ho, 21
In my opinion, after going to the first session of my social engagement project at SK Taman Medan I felt that I gained a lot of new experiences that I never had before such as teaching kids to play football. I myself have never really played football before and on that day I am actually having flu so I eventually felt very tired. However, when I looked at those energetic kids, I felt energetic to teach them too. Playing with those kids also made me to have the innocent feelings back when I was a kid once and I felt grateful that I was given the opportunity to teach those lively kids football even though I felt that I did not teach very well, they still seemed to enjoy especially the group I took care of.
Initially, I expected our activity will be held in the school hall but due to another programme going on, we used the nearby football field instead. Even though it did not turn out to be what I expected initially, it still went on well. The kids still played along well even under the hot sun. I also expected the kids to be very mischievous but they turned out to be quite obedient. To my surprise, they are so obedient and respectful and they have the initiative to carry the balls and cones that were used for the football practice. It is indeed a new and surprising experience.
Lastly, I admit that the first thought that came to my mind about children who special needs to be passive and dull. I thought that they will be very hard to handle and mischievous but it is just my misconceptions. Even those who were proactive, they learned well and were obedient as they listen to instructions.
Nur Sofiya Zahrin, 23
To be honest, I was feeling very tired and sleepy because I was lacking of sleep. This week, I had my Diploma Convocation Ceremony and there were a lot of necessary preparation that I had to do. In addition, this week I had to commute from Putrajaya International Convention Centre to my university daily for convocation matters that have led me to feel very exhausted.
However, I pushed all these negative feelings and thoughts away when it was time to do the football and fitness activity. It was unfair if I didn’t do that because I was quite curious and have no idea what to expect when it was time to meet the students at Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Medan. From my past volunteering experiences, I know that it is important to have an open mind when facing the unexpected because there will always be a sweet surprise.
True enough, I was right and it really started off with something sweet when one of the students in my group gave me his fair share of his Skittles candy. Personally, I had never dealt with a ‘disabled’ student in my life. The reason why I put the apostrophe symbol because I had always hated this term. I feel that this phrase have a tendency to belittle the person more than it shouldn’t have. I feel that there is already a somewhat negative stigma about them and I know that they are much better human beings than I will ever be in this lifetime.
Earlier in the morning, I was told by the teachers there that some of the students have ADHD or other mentally challenged problems and reminded my groupmates to be patient when dealing with their antics. With the reminder from the teachers, I thought that the students would be like wild goose but they certainly proved me wrong. I was quite surprised and happy when I found out that the students were very supportive and took an active role in the activity. They were well behaved and did not show any tantrums when doing the football and fitness activity. Although, there were times they can be mischievous and wanted to do certain things in their own way, I was very happy with the student’s participation with me and my groupmates’ teaching
. I remember some of the students in my group kept asking me when I will return back to do football training, and I could feel myself teared up a little. I felt blessed and just couldn’t wait to meet up with the students for the upcoming activity next Friday.