Having been a volunteer at TOUCH Silent Club (TSC) since her polytechnic days, Charlene, who was born deaf, is certainly no stranger in serving the hearing impaired. Even when she found a job in the IT and sales line, doing programming, designing websites and developing products for autistic children, she would still be actively involved in volunteering with TSC. Her outstanding performance as a volunteer soon landed her a job with TSC as a Community Outreach Executive.
Says the youthful mother of three who was recently appointed as one of the ambassadors for disability awareness campaign, “See the True Me”, by the National Council of Social Service, “When I was volunteering back in December 2006, I was selected by TSC to be the volunteer chairman for an outreach programme that they had. In the midst of planning for the event, the manager of TSC offered me a job as a full-time staff!”
From being a volunteer to a full-time staff, Charlene has spent many years doing TOUCH’s work, and has many fond memories at work.
“We have a tuition programme for deaf children and one of the new children did not know how to communicate through sign language. So, I tried my best to converse with him through gestures and lip-reading. In the subsequent weeks, I saw him putting in a lot of effort to learn sign language so that he could communicate with the rest of us. I was very touched at the effort he put in, and even more moved when he made me a flower to thank me!”
Gentle and approachable, Charlene often finds her clients opening up to her and sharing snippets of their lives with her. That has enabled her to understand them better and make a greater impact in their lives. That has also led her to forge fulfilling friendships and close ties with her clients.
“I once met a deaf couple who was on the verge of divorce. It was heartbreaking when the wife confided in me with tears in her eyes. However, after a few meet-up sessions with her, she was encouraged and continued with a positive attitude to work on her marriage. I was so glad when I learnt that the couple eventually grew stronger in their relationship and that this family with young kids was not destroyed.”
Being deaf herself, Charlene fully understands the struggles that her deaf clients face, and is also determined to empower them to lead fulfilling lives.
“I came into contact with a few deaf youths through a three-day-two-night camp, and shortly became friends with them. When I got to know them better, I and invited them to join us as volunteers so that they could stretch themselves more to reach their full potential. They have since risen to be volunteer leaders, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Although Charlene’s journey with TSC has been deeply fulfilling and meaningful, it definitely isn’t without challenges.
“We had a client who would drop in only after our working hours. Seeing to his needs was challenging as I had to rush home to attend to my young children. However, I’m always reminded of one of TOUCH’s core values – to serve beyond compassion – which motivates me to serve our clients with a willing heart.”
Charlene also shares the inevitable challenges she face being a deaf person herself.
“It is challenging from the beginning to ensure that hearing volunteers who do not know sign language are kept in the loop whenever I meet them and the deaf volunteers. I also have to balance my attention between hearing and deaf volunteers, and I sometimes find myself helping as a translator for both sides.”
Although the going can get tough, Charlene always remembers that life is short, and that she ought to live it to the fullest.
“We wouldn’t know when our time here on this earth is up, so it reminds me to live my life to the fullest. This applies to both my work and personal life.”
About TOUCH Silent Club
TOUCH Silent Club (TSC) aims to help every Deaf person integrate into the society and empower them to be independent individuals by offering guidance in the areas of education, vocation, recreation and social development. Besides organising social and recreational activities for the Deaf, we also provide job placement, job counselling and lifeskills training under the Work Assistance Programme. TSC also organises sign language courses for the public to raise awareness about the Deaf and promote integration.