Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Teacher, Li Cheng

I left my job at Christian Outreach to the Handicapped in August 2011. I had worked for slightly over three years in a Christian charity organisation for people with intellectual disabilities.

Now now, I know what you're thinking, "Is it THAT kind of charity?"

I've been asked this many times before. After NKF, after Ren Ci, and now, after the City Harvest debacle.

So I guess you can say, I'm hurt.

I'm hurt because much of what they say is true.

I'm hurt because much of what they say is not.

It should come as no surprise, such opinions and viewpoints towards religion, charities and money have always existed. And yet, the ferocity of it always leaves me voiceless.

But no, it is not THAT kind of charity. We are the kind that has an annual expenditure of just over $1 million. And we struggle to raise funds to meet that expenditure. And when we do, we wipe the sweat off our brow and breathe thanks to God.

But I digress.

She calls me her teacher.
Today, one of the clients attending the day activity sent me a friend request on Facebook. Right after I accepted her request, I saw a post on her wall.

It said "My Teacher Daryl Goh".

You know, in life, there are moments so overwhelming and warm that you just have to stop what you're doing, centre yourself and say, "this is so precious."

Like watching dance. Like listening to music. The stuff that stirs your soul. This was one of those moments.

I would like to clarify. My job at Christian Outreach to the Handicapped was more like an events and volunteer coordinator. I was not her teacher. I would see her at the Toa Payoh Centre whenever there were volunteer events. Most of the time, I was based at the administrative office in Tampines.

Li Cheng, 35, has been with COH since 1990. She is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy messes with the body's nervous system, mixing up the signals for clenched and relaxed, making it hard to control her movements.

She is largely wheelchair bound, but I've learnt that she is strong enough to take steps on her own during her physiotherapy sessions. Her condition makes it difficult for her to speak, but I've learnt that she is able to communicate using a board with everyday words printed on it.

When COH was shooting their corporate film, I learnt that she is a bit of an actress and able to portray different emotions on cue.

When she communicates with new volunteers who find it hard to understand her, I learnt that she has tons of patience in pointing out the words on her board repeatedly until someone gets it. And then she's all smiles.

I've learnt that she has a wicked sense of humour, laughing whenever she overhears a funny story, or when she sees someone being clumsy.

On days when she looks visibly sad, I learnt that it doesn't change the way she treats others, beaming a smile whenever she is greeted.

I've learnt that her disability doesn't affect her generosity; she shares the treats she has.

I've learnt that a smile works in every situation.

I've learnt so much from the way she approaches life; her gratitude, her attitude, and her beautiful spirit.

So actually, Li Cheng is my teacher. And even now, using Facebook, she is teaching me that sometimes, we just have to focus on the moments.

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