Inclusive model hunt goes online amid safe distancing measures

Vuitton Low, 16, who has autism spectrum disorder, posing for a catwalk class conducted through videoconferencing as part of an inclusive model hunt. About 60 children and youth have been taking part in the competition organised by social enterprise
Vuitton Low, 16, who has autism spectrum disorder, posing for a catwalk class conducted through videoconferencing as part of an inclusive model hunt. About 60 children and youth have been taking part in the competition organised by social enterprise Singapore Fashion Runway and about 25 per cent of the participants have special needs. PHOTO: SINGAPORE FASHION RUNWAY

Despite the safe distancing measures, about 60 children and youth have been taking part in an inclusive model hunt where they learn how to walk on the runway and dance.

Social enterprise Singapore Fashion Runway (SFR) is holding its third edition of Singapore's Next Top Inclusive Model Hunt, in partnership with YMCA Singapore.

It is a competition where participants are eliminated over several rounds, with winners in up to 12 categories.

But this year, the catwalk and dance classes, which began last week, have been conducted through videoconferencing.

About 25 per cent of the participants have special needs, such as intellectual disabilities or autism, and SFR hopes to boost participation rate to 40 per cent or 50 per cent.

"The beautiful part of this (event) is that those without special needs can learn to give joy and hope to families with kids with special needs," said SFR founder Eileen Yap.

"At the same time, the children with special needs feel confident, and find the runway format of the event very memorable," added the trainer at Mountbatten Vocational School for those with special needs.

The finals for the hunt will likely be in September or October.

SFR runs several programmes, such as arts and craft sessions and dance classes, to benefit about 100 people with special needs aged 13 to 36 and their families.

Prior to the Covid-19 circuit breaker period, the beneficiaries would go to SFR's centre at Marina South Pier MRT station every Saturday.

SFR hopes to train and develop their passions and build an inclusive society to support them.

 

During this period, the social enterprise has been conducting its programmes online, such as guiding the youth in writing encouragement notes for front-liners, a Mother's Day-themed session on ways to thank their mums, and video-editing and making posters.

 

Around 25 families have also been involved in designing and making face masks, available in adult and kid sizes, that the social enterprise is selling for $8 or $10 each.

The families receive a small income depending on the number of masks they make.

Sixteen-year-old Vuitton Low, who has autism spectrum disorder, helps out with the mask-making project by cutting the fabric to size. He is also a participant in this year's model hunt.

"I get to catwalk with lots of people, learn many things like being confident. I'd like to be a fashion model and work for Singapore Fashion Runway," he said.

Those keen to volunteer with SFR, or interested to find out more, can e-mail welovesfr@gmail.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2020, with the headline 'Inclusive model hunt goes online amid safe distancing measures'. Print Edition | Subscribe