Charmaine Ong, 27, is a Lifeskills Coach at TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL). Prior to joining TOUCH, she pursued some training courses on volunteering and helping those in need with Youth with a Mission (YWAM), an international Christian missions organisation for about one-and-a-half years.
“Part of the training involved going for an overseas trip to East Asia where I volunteered at a Cerebral Palsy Rehabilitation Centre for children for three days. At the end of the trip, my compassion for people with special needs grew and I knew that I needed to do more to help empower them."
It was at that point where Charmaine made serving people with special needs her personal mission for her current life phase. That eventually led her to join TCIL as a Lifeskills Coach, as she saw it as a platform to fulfill her mission, and positively impact the lives of those with special needs.
Her job as a Lifeskills Coach is no easy feat. Charmaine conducts classes to help equip her clients with skills required for daily and community living, which can aid them to live more independently within the community. Some of these training classes range from “Time and Money Management” to “Self Care” and “Personal Social Skills”. She also plans further enrichment skills such as “Sports and Games” and “Music and Movement”, so that the clients can have fun and relax while honing their skills. Charmaine also brings the clients out of the centre every Friday for mobility training, where clients would sometimes go to shopping malls, special exhibitions, or outings organised by the volunteers.
“I really enjoy interacting with my clients and understanding them better through casual conversations or through conducting various training and enrichment classes for them. One of the things that makes this job rewarding is having the opportunity to directly impact the lives of my clients through the process of encouraging and working with them. It also warms my heart whenever I witness my clients genuinely caring for each other – and even the coaches! – through candid and simple gestures.”
Working at TOUCH for one-and-a-half years has provided Charmaine with many memorable experiences. A memory that stands out freshly would be the process of being involved in the Special Olympics* 2017.
“It was really unforgettable watching our clients really push themselves physically and mentally to train for the actual competition. They persevered till the end of the finishing line for the various categories and never gave up. It goes to show that despite their disabilities, people with special needs are also capable of pushing themselves to achieve their best.”
With such empowering moments, Charmaine is reminded to continue serving with love and compassion amidst the challenges that may come her way.
“One of the challenges I face at work includes deciding on the best intervention method to use for each client when they display certain behaviours. For example, certain clients may not have a regular class attendance. This may be due to a lack of motivation to attend the classes, or due to other unforeseen reasons. So, we have to think of the best way to encourage them to keep coming to the centre.”
Another challenge Charmaine faces is finding the most effective way to engage her clients in the various classes she conducts.
“As different clients have different strengths and weaknesses, they may not learn or register information in the same way. Many of our clients lack focus too and have a short attention span. So, it is quite a challenge to keep all of them engaged in class.”
Despite the days where work may feel more physically, mentally or emotionally draining, Charmaine is constantly reminded that each and every client is precious, and that they are all unique in their own ways.
“When it gets challenging to love them, I am reminded of this fact, and it really keeps me going!”
*The Special Olympics Singapore promotes and provides year round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.