Wednesday, 21 April 2010

La Vida Parent's Resource Centre & Toy Library

La Vida is a parent's resource centre and toy library, where I volunteer about two Fridays a month. The center's mission is to care and give compassion to the community. The resources are available for loans to children with special needs and/or those who are financial needy. It is a non-profit company and the funds come from sponsorships.

The centre is opened on Fridays and Saturdays from 9.30am to 12.30pm and from 2.30pm to 5.30pm. It is located at #11, 1st Floor, Block D, Melabau Complex, K.g Serusop. The complex is a maroon-tiled building located at the roundabout along the street connecting Jln Serusop and Jln Berakas, not far from the mosque in Kg Serusop. The centre can be contacted at 2336391.

The resources come in the form of books, cds and toys. The toys on loan are all specially chosen for the child's mental, emotional and physical development. They have toys for gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination, speech and language, early mathematics, matching and sorting, imaginary play and also includes puzzles and jigsaws.

On a particular week, I was assigned to make the toys more educational for the children. Besides the lending services, the centre also think of more ways to play these toys. Here are some stacking toys which I was asked to design some activities on sheets of paper. After discussing with another volunteer, we came up with all sorts of grids on the paper for stacking, matching of colours, shapes and sizes and for learning counting. Each has varying levels of difficulty. Only one side of the blocks has nozzle to fit into the holes of the other blocks to hold them together. The colours of the grids are not filled in at the time these pictures are taken.

Stacks of coloured blocks

Grids still incomplete

Building blocks to match the shapes of the grids

List of activities with decorative symbols to make it more attractive

There are a combination of activities here. Matching of shapes and sizes (same blocks in different sizes and lengths)

Learning counting; how many blocks would make up the height of each bar.

This grid is for colour matching.

For stacking and matching colours

Monday, 5 April 2010

A Place of Inspiration: Pusat Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam

Last month, I visited Pusat Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam, which we usually called Pusat Ehsan in short. It is a centre of education for children and adults with special needs. When I learned of my job assignment to conduct a visit to the centre, I was thrilled. I've heard so much of the place but not once have I been there.

After a short meeting with the Head of Administration, he arranged for a teacher to accompany us on a tour around the centre. We were led into classrooms full of smiles and curiosity. The children and adults were happy to see us. It was all so inspiring to watch and learn from them.

I learned that they packed the sachets of ketchup, paper napkins and cutlery for KFC takeaways, which immediately took me back to the days of SSEAYP's Youth Development discussion group on Nippon Maru where I learned of MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore) members packing in-flight entertainment headsets for Singapore Airlines. In the handicraft room, they do tailoring work on curtains and dresses including toiletry bags and pencil cases. They also make bookmarks and notebooks. All of these products are for sale, proceeds of which go to the centre.

The greenhouse, which I am very much impressed with, grows vegetables by hydroponic technology. The vegetables are grown free from pesticides as the well-netted greenhouse keeps the insects out. They all look so big and healthy.

I am so proud of the members of Pusat Ehsan. In more ways than one, I saw strength and happiness in each and everyone of them. The lady at the handicraft centre was happy to demonstrate how she makes pressed flowers, which are to be used for decorating the bookmarks and notebooks. The gardener at the greenhouse told us how they grew the vegetables and even volunteered us a tour at the flower nursery, explaining to us the flowers and medicinal plants. It was inspiring to watch how every individual has so much joy in doing the arts they are skilled at.

At the back of the centre, there is a physiotherapy unit where a therapist is attending to a child. Adjacent to it is a new building with rooms built with funds donated by several companies such as BIBD, HSBC, Total, just to name a few. According to the teachers, volunteers from these corporations had come to paint the walls, which are now radiating happiness with flowers, bees and other adorable animals.

By the end of our tour, my hands were full with bags of vegetables and stationeries I bought from the greenhouse and handicraft room. Yes, anyone can drop by to buy the products of Pusat Ehsan and they would be so pleased to have you. We saw some school students touring around the centre on a study trip.

I managed a few pictures of the greenhouse and the flower nursery. My colleague purchased a plant from the nursery in addition to the veggies and stationeries.

If you're interested in helping Pusat Ehsan out, please find out here.

The greenhouse at Pusat Ehsan
White sawi which I bought from the greenhouse. They were sold $3 per kg.
The farmer of the greenhouse weighing the veggies
Purple flowers of water hyacinth at the pond in the flower nursery. As you can see there are many shelves of orchids in various colours. People actually buys them or orders arranged flowers from them!
I bought these for my Singaporean friends. The students at the centre painted these and they made them into circular notebook covers. wrote a lovely piece about Pusat Ehsan and included a video he made (embedded here below) about the lovely people at the centre.