Caregivers and those they help bond over bands

A group of people with disabilities and special needs joined their caregivers yesterday to try their hand at making loom bands - but those were not the only bonds they formed.

The two-hour craft workshop, in which they learnt to weave bracelets out of rubber bands, was the brainchild of a team of students who were looking at ways to build stronger ties between carers and those they help - as well as bring together others in the same situation.

For at least one of the carers there, it was an "inspiration".

The team came up with the idea last October at the three-day Idea Jam - an event organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and The Straits Times. Participants learnt interview, research and presentation skills before pitching to an expert panel an idea to help a designated non-profit group.

Yesterday's event saw the beneficiaries of the BizLink non-profit organisation and their caregivers compete in teams to see who could make the most bracelets in half an hour.

Retiree Fauziah Mohamed Ali attended the workshop with her 20-year-old son, Mr Muhammad 'Irfan Ishak, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. "It's inspirational," said the 55-year-old. "I hope it spreads. I'm glad to know they are willing to organise such an event involving the caregivers."

Of the four-strong team which mooted the idea, three members - Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student Chong Hui Xiang, 24, and ITE College West students Lim Zong Rui and Benedik Tan, both 18 - carried it out. They were helped by ITE College West student Ruain Ramos, 19, and NTU student Tan Hui Xian, 21.

The team had to overcome a few logistic hurdles.

Mr Chong said of the differing NTU and ITE schedules: "We have totally different academic calendars. When they are having exams, we are free. When we are having exams, they are free. It's hard to find a time to physically meet but we have virtual meetings through Skype and WhatsApp."

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BizLink manager of vocational assessment division Lim Puay Tiak said yesterday's workshop will be good preparation for when the organisation attempts to set a national record for making the most loom bands in an hour on March 2.

He added: "It's a good example of how our community and young people can work with organisations like us. It's always refreshing to get new ideas and wonderful perspectives from these young people."

Zong Rui has become more confident through Idea Jam. "Helping people makes me happy," he said. "It's a great opportunity to step up, to enhance and build myself to be a more caring person."

ayiying@sph.com.sg

For more information, go to www.straitstimes.com/idea-jam