It was a time of exploration, exercise and fun as 220 people and children with special needs raced through the stops by the Singapore riverside.
Contributed By Rebecca Tan
|CN PHOTO: Lee Lin Kai|
The sunny weather was welcoming as 17 teams of racers flagged off from at Clarke Quay via two routes in opposite directions.
RAYZ, a department of CHCSA catering to individuals with special needs, organizes a range of programs that promote social interaction and independence for their clients. Said Santhi Singaram, the event organizer, “We want to encourage them to take in the sights and sounds of this historical and popular landmark, while providing interesting educative information during the route and games. “
Both participants and volunteers were in high spirits as the race started. Some held on to each other as they made their way to the different stops. Max David, 32, exclaimed excitedly, “We are looking for a wolf!” as the station master asked the participants to find out the nationality of the statue of a wolf, which hails from Australia.
Each team saw nine to 22 participants, with two to five volunteers guiding each group. Said Efi Tjang, 26, a senior audit officer, “I have been with RAYZ since it started. They always bring a smile to my face.” She added, “It gets challenging sometimes when they wander away but this has not stopped us from helping them integrate into society. Our previous trips include visits to the organic farm, Bollywood Veggies, and recently to Bishan Park.”
There were a total of seven stops, with each team completing around five. The various tasks and challenges at each stop included getting everyone together to sing a song accompanied with actions for bonus points at the Chinese Opera House. Other stops included the gastronomic challenge of eating slices of bitter gourd, the sizes of which organizers had experimented beforehand so that it would not be too easy or difficult for the participants; taking a funky photo together in all sorts of cool poses and forming a letter of the alphabet with an item of their belongings such as EZ-Link cards and water bottles.
The games tickled the senses while encouraging teamwork and creativity. In particular, the Japanese chef station required participants to locate a huge advertisement board with vibrant pictures just nearby, to count the number of food and drink items and note down the telephone number of the restaurant. The participants were enthusiastic and supportive as the team leaders, whom they fondly call teachers, prompted them in the counting. Said Zhen Zhen, who is in her 20s, “I like the Japanese chef game.”
The love, patience and understanding that the volunteers had for the special needs individuals shone through as they walked alongside them attentively and spurred on those who were tired and contrary. Life’s lessons were learned along the way as well. One of the teachers, Li Sha, pointed to a piece of rubbish floating in the Singapore River and told her team members, “Do you see that yellow thing in the water? We must not litter in the river.”
It was an eye-opener for many participants who were exploring Clarke Quay for the first time and there were definitely many “Kodak moments” and personal achievements. This was best encapsulated by Singaram. “You may see that they are tired and are complaining towards the end but this is a good opportunity for them to get up, walk about and exercise as they lead very sedentary lives sometimes.”
With the completion of the race, everyone was in a good mood mingling and chatting while waiting for transport back. It was a heartwarming scene as the participants waved to the volunteers as they boarded the bus and headed for home. First-time volunteer with Rayz, Qu Zhengang, 30 aptly summed up the event, “It was a good race and a totally new but refreshing experience for me. I understand people with special needs more now; each of them has a unique personality whether more active or silent and they require a different way of approaching and befriending them. I will volunteer again if the opportunity arises.”