Disability sports: Disabled programme gets $615,000 boost

President Halimah Yacob (far right) joins a group of people with disabilities in a game of sitting volleyball as part of the Temasek Foundation Cares Play-ability programme, while Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu provides encouragem
President Halimah Yacob (far right) joins a group of people with disabilities in a game of sitting volleyball as part of the Temasek Foundation Cares Play-ability programme, while Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu provides encouragement.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Three-year commitment of $615,000 to build inclusive relationships through sporting links

For the past five weeks, Jared Chew has made a weekly trip from his home in Clementi to the swimming pool at Heartbeat@Bedok.

There, he meets his "partner" - a person with mild intellectual disability - in the Temasek Foundation Cares Play-ability programme, where he helps conduct water-based coordination exercises in the pool. The 21-year-old ITE College West Student is one of 30 volunteers in the programme, which aims to offer greater support and opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in recreational sport activities.

He said: "Being involved in his programme has changed me a lot. Seeing people with disabilities trying to do their best makes me feel warm inside.

"At first, it was tough to communicate with my partner, but over time, we've formed a bond. I even feel as though he's like a family member to me."

The programme was officially launched yesterday by President Halimah Yacob and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

It is jointly spearheaded by Temasek Foundation Cares - a philanthropic arm of investment firm Temasek Holdings - and SportCares. The latter is run by national sports agency Sport Singapore and uses sports to help those who are disadvantaged.

A DIFFERENT DIMENSION

Sport is quite magical. It brings about not only a lifestyle, but gives an opportunity to overcome some emotional and physical (challenges). It can help build a society where we care for one another.

RICHARD MAGNUS, chairman of the Temasek Cares Foundation.

Temasek Foundation Cares has committed $615,000 over the next three years to support the programme, which has 46 participants but is targeting 180 by the end of the first year of the project.

Play-ability runs programmes for persons in disabilities in sports like badminton, basketball, boccia, sitting volleyball, aqua activities, table tennis and futsal.

Each programme will run on a cycle of between eight and 12 weeks to allow participants the benefit of regular sport participation, and build a lasting relationship between them and volunteers.

In addition to its main aim of getting more people with disability to play sports recreationally, Play-ability aims provide more chances for social interaction and relationship building with all in the community.

A survey in 2016 found that only one in 10 Singaporeans are confident of interacting with children with special needs.

Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin said: "It has been our experience that volunteers who step forward to run these programmes are themselves enriched by the experience.

"Many of them have come without previous experience of interacting with people with disabilities, and they're finding that they're very much like us, except with different abilities. But sport is for people with all abilities, and that's what Play-ability is about."

Added Temasek Cares Foundation chairman Richard Magnus: "Sport is quite magical. It brings about not only a lifestyle, but gives an opportunity to overcome some emotional and physical (challenges). It can help build a society where we care for one another."

Chew is convinced volunteering has had a positive effect on him.

"I would encourage people to volunteer," he said. "Having been a part of this for a while now, I feel as though my partner is helping me, and not the other way around.

"Some may think this is not a thing for them, but if you never try, you will never know."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 18, 2018, with the headline 'Disabled programme gets funding boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe