The Volunteer Principal of REACh
When Lion Lim Eng Chye, better known to us as Uncle Lim, began this journey to help children with autism 26 years ago, our intention was merely to create awareness and share knowledge on how to help these children. As we travelled the way, expectations from the parents rose. They wanted more help for their children. We began to provide guidance and training, and in these efforts we were strongly supported by the Main Committee and the parents themselves. As our programmes grew in numbers, we were joined by many volunteers and teachers. It soon emerged that it all boils down to COMMITMENT from everyone – the parents, the volunteers and the teachers.
There is hope for children with autism if we are able to diagnose them early, provide effective early intervention and diverse training to help them. The Centre is committed to work with the family in helping their children with autism, and family members must join the Centre in this commitment to participate in the training of their children and those from other families. We have only the goal of normalizing these children so that they can be included into mainstream schools for an education, join the work force to be productive, capable of looking after themselves, and being a part of the community.
Lions REACh is a vivid example of the process of community engagement wherein the family, the community, government, universities, colleges, schools, NGOs, and industries work together and collaborate to challenge the conventional wisdom that children with autism are disabled and will always be dependent and unproductive members of the society. This partnership and commitment has led to the successful achievement of our goal. Many of our children are complimented for behaving so well and many have been included into mainstream schools, found work and participated in the community. Parents, teachers, and friends in turn have learnt lessons on the true meaning of caring and sharing without expecting reward or recognition. We understood that we have been extending our help and care to a child who may not be able to reciprocate or appreciate what we have done for them.
As we journey along with these children with autism, whom I call my children, they teach us many priceless lessons about life. They teach us patience for our success with them is marked by tiny steps forward. They teach us humility and how to give of our time and effort for no returns. This leads us on to help anyone and everyone that needs a helping hand.
A young child who has been with us from the beginning would be now an adult. A few years ago we saw the first college graduate from among our children. We have seen them in full employment and recently we have seen another, a first, begin a foundation programme at a local university. Thus along this long journey, Lions REACh too has been growing our resources and commitment in the training of the adolescents and young adults for inclusion into the workplace and community so that they have the opportunity to become self-reliant and good citizens of the country. These successes bring new hope to and encouragement for parents at our Centre still on their journey and for new parents joining Lions REACh. They also bring great satisfaction to the many individuals, volunteers, teachers and friends of the Centre.