What drives a father of two young children to volunteer his time with Jesus For All Minds, the church service for the the intellectually-challenged?
Contributed By Jonathan Teo
Life is short. Love people and cherish them. Find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it—these are some mantras that Ryan Ng lives by.
The 41-year-old systems solution manager is a passionate individual who has been actively involved in community work, in particular helping people with special needs. A volunteer with City Harvest Community Services Association’s RAYZ outreach for nine years now, Ng works with individuals who are diagnosed with mental retardation, Down’s Syndrome, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
An attendee of City Harvest Church, Ng serves as a ministry volunteer in Jesus for All Minds, or JAMs—a ministry catered to people with special needs. Ng is a connect group coordinator of a bus in the ministry that plies the estates in Tiong Bahru and Redhill. He oversees about 25 individuals of various ages. A typical weekend sees Ng up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to prepare breakfast for his charges (in case one or two of them might not have had anything to eat that morning). He leaves home at 8 a.m. and heads to Tiong Bahru for the first stop.
During the bus ride, Ng would sit with each individual and chat with him about how his week has been; he takes the time to get to know each one on a deeper level.
Society, in general, views people with special needs as being different from the norm. But to Ng, they are simply people with a different set of needs. “People are people. We all crave for love and care. People with special needs are no different,” he says.
Ng was drawn to people with special needs because of an experience he encountered when he was young. He witnessed passersby shunning a group of individuals with special needs, calling them “mad people.” From that incident, Ng developed a compassion for the intellectually-challenged. When he first attended CHC and learned that the church had an outreach for special needs individuals, he was moved.
“It takes a lot of courage and patience to work with special needs individuals,” explains Ng. “They need a lot of positive affirmation and encouragement from us; and sometimes, all it takes is a little hug or holding their hand.”
The biggest motivation for Ng is to see the smile on the faces of his charges—especially when they get to go on excursions. “Sometimes, you can also see the relief on their parents’ faces as well,” laughs Ng. “We give them the assurance that their child is in good hands.” Trustworthy words, coming from this proud father of two young boys, aged 3 and 4. Ng is grateful to his wife, who is understanding and supportive in his passion to serve this group of special individuals.
Predictably, working with people with special needs brings with it many challenges. Ng shares that besides having to deal with different kinds of behaviors, volunteers sometimes have to endure tantrums thrown by charges who may have difficulty expressing themselves.
Occasionally, one or two charges would require assistance to go to the toilet, and that is when volunteers go beyond their call of duty to provide
aid as needed. The joy of serving the community, maintains Ng, outweighs the pain, especially when the beneficiaries display happiness whenever they see the volunteers, and improvement is seen in their behavior week after week.
Ng recalls one of his charges, 28-year-old Matthew Goh, as an example of someone who has changed for the better. When Ng first met Goh in 2005, Goh was very quiet and shy. When he did express himself, it was usually through an angry outburst. Goh suffered from low self-esteem and would call himself “stupid” and “good for nothing.” Ng reached out to Goh on a weekly basis and visited him at home to spend time with him. As a result of the friendship, Goh has grown to become a more confident person, to the point that he has even participated in two musicals staged by RAYZ of CHCSA, which gives people with special needs an avenue to express themselves creatively through the performing arts.
Besides organizing excursions and giving them the opportunity to perform in front of an audience, CHCSA provides emotional support, financial aid and physical assistance to improve the living conditions of people with special needs.
“Society can play their part in giving moral support to these individuals by being sensitive to them. A great way to do so is to make the environment conducive for them to learn vocational skills and have the opportunity to apply those skills,” says Ng, who hopes in time to see the individuals under his care gaining employment and being able to contribute to society in their own way.
“It is essential for them to learn to be independent.”