Volunteers at United Voice are not only teaching adults with learning disabilities self-reliance, but recognising them as unique individuals.
THE aroma of baking cookies wafted out the moment the door to the United Voice activity room opens. “Our members have just finished baking cookies for the day,” said United Voice lead coordinator Yeong Moh Foong as she greeted me at their office in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. I sampled their bestselling cookies and they were delicious. A volunteer smiled gleefully at my enjoyment of the cookies, and offered me more. The cookies are just some of many items made and sold by members of United Voice, apart from handmade items like paintings and greeting cards.
United Voice is a self-advocacy society for people with learning disabilities (PWLD). Established in 1997, Yeong said the society aims to help PWLDs develop independent living skills and acquire knowledge about their rights. Currently, the society has 190 members under its wing, from young adults in their 20s to early 30s.
“We also have members who are about 50 years old,” said Yeong.
According to Yeong, United Voice care for members with learning disabilities like Down Syndrome, Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cerebral palsy.
Bubbly Yeong started out as a volunteer eight years ago and now she’s a full-time staff member. The challenge for her these days is seeking employment for United Voice members.
“We started this Employment Project to help some of our members get jobs so they can start earning money. We carefully search for jobs they could do and inform their parents about them.”
Yeong said members are employed in various industries like hospitality, technology and retail. She also believes that being employed gives them an important sense of belonging.
“I always tell them, you have the right to be someone who can contribute to society. Sometimes when I take someone out for meals, I get questions like ‘Can I eat a burger for dinner?’ and I