Reflections on Challenges Buddy College 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 Azra Khalisa binti Azhar, Celine Woon and Hani Batrisya binti Nor Azman, who participated in a social engagement project under Challenges Foundation in April 2018.
By Azra Khalisa binti Azhar, 20
I had the most wonderful day volunteering for Challenges. I participated in the Challenges Buddy College Programme as one of the volunteers along with my other friends. We arrived at the school, nervous at the possibility of problems arising but we were also excited as it would be an amazing experience being able to help these kids play football. As we get to know the kids, I was overwhelmed by how polite and kind the kids were. It is clear how much fun they were having as all of us continue playing football together.
They were tremendous in playing the sport despite it being their first time in training. I was glad that they could enjoy themselves even though we were all being burned by the blazing sun. I feel grateful that with this experience, I could gain more knowledge about these kids and learn about their conditions. I learned that they are nothing like anyone has claimed them to be. People always associate kids with disabilities as unmanageable, challenging and overwhelmingly disordered. I would not deny that I too believe disabled kids to be difficult. However, on the day we were on the field, I realised that I had been wrong the entire time. They were the sweetest and the most diligent kids I have ever met. They understood our instructions very well and were very obedient. They followed our instructions without a single complaint.
The two training practice we had with them were kicking and aiming and even when some of them had difficulty to kick or aim, they never gave up but continued trying until they succeed. Those were the qualities I find very admirable about them. I regret being prejudice against them by simply believing the claims done by the society. I wish more people are educated about these kids and accept them without any partisanship.
By Celine Woon, 21
This programme has indeed open my view on the challenges faced by special needs children in our society. Previously, I was not aware of the plights of these children and have low understanding about disabilities. However, upon being a part of this programme, I was really able to comprehend on the situation that not only the special children faced but also their parents in a Malaysian society which does not focuses much on the needs of children who require special care.
Prior to this programme, I had mixed feelings about facing them as I was afraid I was not able to interact with them and due to their physical disabilities, I felt they were very fragile.
I was wrong. These kids were in fact really normal and they have capabilities similar to what a normal child could achieve! I was ashamed that I had such prejudice towards them and this program indeed baffled me. In terms of expectations, I was expecting to be facing troubles in organising the football activity because I have not conducted any physical activities with children, especially those with special needs. Moreover, my team and I were not really skillful in playing football and we were afraid we might let them down.
And I was wrong again. The children love to be outside and were happily playing in the field. They were also really supportive towards us. This made me felt somehow glad because there are still children who like playing outside and are not glued to their electronic devices. I have seen many able-bodied and normal children refusing to be under the sunlight and prefer to coop at one corner, staring at the screens of their smartphones.
I learnt that we must play our roles responsibly in building a community which benefits everyone from all walks of life. The presence of these special children are a reminder to us that we should not underestimate the power of humanity.
By Hani Batrisya binti Nor Azman, 20
Truth be told, I was very nervous about meeting the children at SK Taman Medan. I am generally not comfortable nor exceptionally friendly with children, let alone those who are disabled, be it mentally or physically. So, I was pleasantly surprised that the children were generally well-behaved despite being told by the teachers that the majority of the students are children with ADHD.
Another concern of mine before we departed for the school was whether there would be any physically disabled children participating and whether we will be able to accommodate them, seeing that my teammates and I were not experienced in matters of caring for the disabled.
Undeniably, I felt that not only did we lacked planning, but most importantly is the fact that we were so ignorant, or rather not well-versed in matters of dealing with children with disabilities. I expected hardship and struggle in containing or having the children to listen to our instructions because we were often told, or rather a common misconception that I believed, was that these children, especially those who are autistic are difficult to handle.
Of this, clearly, I am wrong. The children were anything but difficult. Yes, I did find that some of them were rather slow on the uptake when it comes to instructions, but what was more important was that they were happy to run around the field with their fellow classmates. Sometimes maybe we shouldn’t be too uptight on rules and instructions and having these children to conform, but rather to just let them play about.
What I’ve gained last week, besides the experience of having to play alongside these children is to just let them be and to listen. Listen to what they have to say for themselves because for all we know their ideas might seem simple and insignificant at the time but it is an idea that we might not have considered.