In a gentle but firm tone, 53-year-old Nasril Saat patiently explains to a flustered middle-aged man with intellectual disabilities why the behavior he displayed was wrong. The middle-aged man visibly calms down.
Nasril is a LifeSkills Coach at TOUCH Ubi Hostel (TUH) and coaches individuals with special needs in skills for daily living. He also oversees the daily operations of the Thriftmart which is a simulated training platform for the intellectually disabled trainees at TUH to develop good work habits as well as cognitive and social skills. Working in a controlled and supervised environment prepares them for employment in the workforce and total integration into the society.
Though a seasoned member of the workforce, Nasril is relatively new to the social service sector. Prior to joining TUH, Nasril worked in the Food and Beverage as well as hospitality sector for over 20 years where he managed multiple award-winning restaurants. As a veteran in the hospitality sector, Nasril exudes warmth and genuinely cares for the wellbeing of others. He longed to use that passion for people to serve those in need.
“It had been more than 10 years since I first thought about leaving the corporate world to do something more fulfilling but was unable to for various reasons. My two children encouraged me to do what I really wanted and I eventually joined TUH after a friend, and now colleague, introduced me to it.”
Since joining TUH in 2016, Nasril has experienced countless memorable moments on the job, but one stands out the most.
“We have a male client who was known to be grumpy and difficult to work with. He even scolded me on my first day at work! So, when I finally had a breakthrough with him, I was both elated and relieved.”
“It had been an especially trying day and that trainee was not being cooperative at all. I took him aside and spoke in a very gentle tone, because I didn’t want to scold him anymore. To my surprise, he started tearing.”
Explains Nasril, “He had grown numb to being reprimanded as he was always shouted at. I realised that he was more receptive to the ‘soft’ approach. He’s been better behaved and can even have conversations with me now. We can go out on outings or deliver food to the frail elderly without me having to worry about him disappearing or refusing to participate.”
Nasril (first from right) with his colleagues at TOUCH Ubi Hostel.
Seeing his trainees happy and learning to be more independent keeps Nasril going.
“Their smiles bring me joy. It helps me to go home happy and I am able to sleep like a baby,” he quips.
Nonetheless, every workday is a challenge as he tries to understand and manage his trainees even though they can’t articulate their thoughts and frustrations clearly. Experiencing emotional meltdowns from his trainees is a frequent occurrence.
“It is very trying when they breakdown, which usually happens after they experience an incident which triggered painful memories. My colleagues and I would need to spend a lot of time rationalising with them and helping them to process and manage their emotions.”
Like a big brother or a fatherly figure to the trainees at TUH, Nasril perseveres and gives them his best. He treats them as if they were his own children, even though they are adults.
“When they respond to me in a positive manner, it brings me so much bliss.”
About TOUCH Ubi Hostel
TOUCH Ubi Hostel (TUH) is a residential training facility for adults with mild intellectual disabilities. TUH is located within the HDB heartland, providing trainees an environment similar to where most Singaporeans are living. The hostel offers intermediate to advanced levels of training in home management, community and job readiness skills to enable trainees to live an independent life and be integrated into society. This is a continuation of the Basic Home Management Skills received at TOUCH Centre of Independent Living. TUH uses the Dynamic Assessment Intervention approach to promote a higher level of cognitive learning for trainees. Trainees also acquire basic work skills through 301 Thriftmart, a training platform set up to prepare them for open employment.