LAST Friday, a ground-breaking ceremony which was like no other, took place in Rawang, Selangor. Nearly 150 people gathered at Kampung Sungei Tambahan Dua to witness the laying of the first brick of a brand new building that would bring hope to the disabled community.
Nearly half of the crowd were people with physical disabilities. I was there, too.
With their wheelchairs, walking sticks and crutches, about 60 disabled guests braved the narrow roads and rough tracks leading to an empty site surrounded by thick grass, shrubs and trees.
It is here that the disabled centre will be built. The force behind this project is an NGO called the Independent Living and Training Centre (ILTC) which has been operating at a rented building about 2km away.
The new piece of land was given to the centre in 2005 by former Rawang assemblyman Datuk Tang See Hang. To date the ILTC has collected RM380,000 and needs another RM570,000 to make up the RM950,000 needed for the building.
The new disabled centre has turned out to be timely for the ILTC group as the owners of their present premises want the building back. It’s now a race against time to complete the centre as they have to move out by August next year.
The groundbreaking ceremony was a simple affair. It was officiated by Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar.
Set up in 2000, the ILTC currently has close to a dozen citizens. Residents stay at the centre for a period of time to learn independent living skills. These include taking care of themselves and picking up new skills such as driving, cooking and computer training. These services are provided free of charge.
ILTC founder and president Francis Siva, 50, has been paralysed from the neck down following a driving accident about 25 years ago. He spent more than five years in the hospital after the accident. He was depressed and suicidal until he met two other patients who taught him the value of life.
One was a terminally ill young man on the bed to his right. He had wanted so much to live but cancer took his life the week after. Selangor executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar (right) about to lay the first brick for the new building for the Independent Living and Training Centre.
The other, a patient on his left, was worse off than Francis because he could not move his body at all. And yet he remained cheerful throughout until he died.
It took Francis a good two years to fight off his depression. When he came out of it, he reorganised his life and moved on to form the ILTC.
Francis now runs the ILTC together with help from his secretary, Gurdip Kaur, who also uses a wheelchair.
With this new building in the pipeline, the disabled can look forward to another new chapter in their lives.
Those who are able to help, can contact Francis (% 019-338 5959) or visit iltcmalaysia. blogspot.com or e-mail: iltcmalaysia@gmail. com.