Persons with Special Needs Join Hands to Build Inclusive World for All
Special needs staff and clients from the YMCA of Singapore advocated by example at the YMCA Proms 2019, encouraging a paradigm shift from focusing on the limitations of disabilities to emphasising the unique talents and abilities of people with special needs. They shed new light on the capabilities and potential contributions people with special needs can bring at the carnival, which celebrates abilities and promotes inclusiveness, by being involved in every element of its operations this year.
The YMCA Proms is an annual event that celebrates diverse abilities and promotes inclusiveness, corporate social responsibility and volunteerism. This year, it was held at Gardens by the Bay on 20 July 2019, with President Halimah Yacob as the Guest of Honour. It featured the first-ever run of the YMCA Proms Makers’ Market, carnival game booths, and a concert, with special needs staff and clients volunteering in all three elements.
President Halimah Yacob launched the event through a symbolic ceremony involving the tossing of three big balloons with empowering messages towards the audience, consisting of over 500 clients and 700 volunteers. President Halimah Yacob also met clients from various SSOs, corporate sponsors and volunteer groups, toured the Makers’ Market, and participated in making arts and handicrafts with YMCA special needs clients.
This year, 25 Social Service Agencies (SSAs) participated, with about 10 agencies contributing to the Makers’ Market, where products made by clients from SSAs were exhibited and sold. These SSAs included APSN Tanglin School, Down Syndrome Association (Singapore) (DSA), SIA-MINDS Employment Development Centre and the Disabled People’s Association (DPA), which, collectively, serve clients with a wide range of special needs, such as physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities. The market served as a platform to raise funds and showcased their creative talents.
Apart from being treated to fun and games, a concert, and snacks, clients interacted with volunteer befrienders that were paired to them on a one-to-one basis, encouraging the forging of meaningful friendships and understanding between corporates and clients.
The concert starred performers with special needs including acts from SUN-DAC, Grace Orchard School, Mountbatten Vocational School, and the YMCA Special Talents, Arts and Recreation Society (Y STARS), among others.
“YMCA Proms is one of the highlights of their year that they always look forward to. Seeing the Y STARS perform always fills us with pride,” said Regina Aun, founder of Y STARS.
“The chance to interact with clients and raise awareness to the diverse abilities and talents of people with special needs is a valuable and important one. It is heart-warming to see volunteers from all walks of life coming together to promote inclusiveness and I hope an emphasis on the special abilities they possess will encourage the world to build a more embracing society,” said Mr Steve Loh, General Secretary & CEO, YMCA of Singapore.
The YMCA Proms is one of several YMCA programmes that strengthen the special needs community in Singapore.
The YMCA of Singapore provides employment and vocational training for special needs clients, improving their communication and social skills, and developing workplace competencies for long-term employment. They also provides a wide range of activities in encouraging holistic development, confidence and independence such as Y Arts Challenge, Y Photo Club, Y Camp Challenge and Y Sports.
The latest Y Camp Challenge will see 10 special needs climbers attempt to conquer Mt Fuji this August in the YMCA Inclusive Climb 2019.
Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang.