SINGAPORE - Teenagers and young adults with special needs now have a new space to learn and work in Changi Road, as a new wing has opened at My Inspiring Journey (MIJ) Hub.
Established in 2011, MIJ Hub is a non-profit organisation which provides educational services and programmes daily for those with special needs aged three to 30 years old.
It was founded by Mr Mohammad Ali Dawood, a senior sales and marketing director, and his wife, Madam Faraliza Zainal. The couple have a son with autism.
The roughly 3,000 sq ft wing was officially opened by President Halimah Yacob on Thursday (April 1).
The new space is on the fourth floor of Paradise @ Pergas, while the rest of MIJ Hub is on the third floor. The organisation also has branches in Woodlands and Jurong.
Madam Faraliza said that the new wing will allow the Changi branch to increase its capacity by about 20 students.
Before this, the 61 students had all been crammed into one floor, regardless of their age.
This was not ideal as some of them are more sensitive to noises, said Madam Faraliza. "Sometimes when a child cried, an adult (with special needs) would be affected," she explained.
With the new wing, 21 students and seven employees with special needs, aged 16 to 30, will finally have a space of their own.
Some of them work in a cafe in the building, while others do handicraft such as making leather key chains, sewing and laser printing.
Aside from more classrooms, the wing also has a kitchen, a room that simulates daily living and a 3D printer.
Madam Faraliza said the new wing will give the older ones a sense of belonging as they go about their daily activities.
"They're so happy - they have this sense of 'Hey, I'm coming to work, I have a job, and I'm working in this particular space.' They're not disrupted by kids or other programmes," she said.
In a Facebook post, President Halimah wrote: "I was happy to see that the children and young adults at MIJ Hub were enthusiastic and proud of what they were able to do despite the challenges they face."
She added that her visit had been held in conjunction with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.
Madam Halimah wrote: "Persons with autism are capable of many achievements and securing a place for themselves in the society. Moving towards a more inclusive society, Singapore has seen good progress in embracing persons with autism, but we need to do more to engage the community and create the right opportunities for our special friends to maximise their potential."