Golden Foun­da­tion

An or­gan­i­sa­tion is giv­ing peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties the op­por­tu­nity to be self-re­liant.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By GAY­ATHRI NAIR star2@thes­

THERE is of­ten a mis­con­cep­tion that peo­ple with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties can­not be trained, let alone be gain­fully em­ployed.

How­ever, the vol­un­teers at the As­so­ci­a­tion of Learn­ing Dis­abil­i­ties (Gold)in Petaling Jaya, think oth­er­wise.

They work on the vi­sion and prin­ci­ple of GOLD, an acro­nym for Gen­er­at­ing Op­por­tu­ni­ties for Learn­ing Dis­abil­i­ties.

The non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion (NGO) aims to pro­mote eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment for those with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

Their mem­bers are 19 years old and above, and have dis­abli­ties rang­ing from Down Syn­drome to Autism.

Full-time staff mem­bers run it with as­sis­tance from par­ents and vol­un­teers. Their founder, Juairiah Jo­hari who is the SMK Ban­dar Sun­way se­nior as­sis­tant, finds ut­most joy in work­ing with these young adults.

“Many peo­ple ask me if I have ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties. Some even as­sume that one of my kids is dis­abled. I have three “nor­mal” grown up daugh­ters.

“One of my daugh­ters is a doc­tor, one re­cently re­signed from her job to spend more time with her fam­ily and another one is a phar­ma­cist,” she shares.

Juairiah says she feels com­pelled to help those with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties at­tain in­de­pen­dence.

It is im­por­tant for them to be able to sus­tain a liv­ing for a bright fu­ture ahead.

“My vol­un­teers and I want to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to sus­tain a liv­ing in our so­ci­ety. So, why not of­fer them an ac­tiv­ity that can bring them fruit­ful re­sults?” she says.

Juairiah also stresses that the ac­tiv­ity of­fered to the stu­dents at the or­gan­i­sa­tion has to ap­peal to their in­ter­est and meet their skills.

“We are not go­ing to of­fer them work that will harm them in any way, or chal­lenge them to a point of frus­tra­tion.

“This is why it has taken a lot of dedication, pa­tience and un­der­stand­ing from our vol­un­teers to iden­tify the skill sets of each in­di­vid­ual who comes to our school,” said Juairiah.

Some of the ac­tiv­i­ties at the cen­tre in­clude de­sign­ing book marks and cre­at­ing greet­ing cards.

Juairiah’s team has also re­cently started teach­ing their stu­dents to cre­ate de­signs on ce­ramic bowls and cups.

“We pur­chase the ce­ramic items in bulk from the fac­tory. My staff and I would come up with the de­signs to paste on these uten­sils. We then cre­ate the pat­terns and the stu­dents would ei­ther fill in the colours or cut out the pat­terns to paste them on the ce­ramic items.

“Through­out the process, we ed­u­cate them on how to use glue, cut out pre­cise shapes and to bake the ce­ramic so the pat­terns stay on. The kids also learn the sci­ence in­volved in com­plet­ing these items,” Juiriah con­tin­ues.

“It’s a very ed­u­ca­tional jour­ney for them and they have fun min­gling with the other stu­dents while learn­ing with each other,” she adds.

Gold is also col­lab­o­rat­ing with other NGOs such as Biji Biji, an up­cy­cling ini­tia­tive pro­gramme.

Us­ing dis­carded ma­te­ri­als found through­out the con­crete jun­gle, this NGO works to re­cy­cle and cre­ate new prod­ucts.

Biji Biji’s founder Azam Hisham, 26, is a jour­nal­ist who is pas­sion­ate about the en­vi­ron­ment, and he has been vol­un­teer­ing at Gold ev­ery­day af­ter work since April.

“My team and I are sim­ply pas­sion­ate about the en­vi­ron­ment and want to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture for to­day’s gen­er­a­tion.

“Hence, when Puan Ju (Juairiah) men­tioned a col­lab­o­ra­tion, we saw an op­por­tu­nity to come and ed­u­cate the kids at the cen­tre and also teach them how to re­cy­cle items for re­pro­duc­tion and sale,” shares Azam.

Their pro­ject be­gan in April and in­volved cre­at­ing bags out of re­cy­cled banners.

“When we found out about what they did here in Gold, we thought it would be a good op­por­tu­nity to lend our ex­per­tise and time to vol­un­teer here. Hence, we came up with this con­cept of ‘eco-friendly’ bags.

Giv­ing back to so­ci­ety: Vol­un­teers and the chil­dren at the as­so­ci­a­tion hard at work.

The op­por­tu­nity to learn could make so much dif­fer­ence in a dis­abled per­son’s self per­cep­tion and growth.

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