A month after the successful implementation of the pilot English for Everyone* (EFE) project in Palembang which benefited 60 teachers and almost 7,000 students, Mercy Relief (MR) completed another pilot project in the capital of the South Sumatran province –this time the Special Needs Training (SPENT) project.  The 1-year project aimed to promote early therapeutic motor intervention, physical and mental stimulation for children with special learning and physical needs.

The South Sumatran education authorities had earlier taken the fundamental steps in providing proper facilities for educational and vocational training for children with special needs.  However, most of the staff were not adequately trained in the areas of therapy services, hence the lack of ability to provide comprehensive early therapeutic intervention nor physical and mental stimulations which could help the children to improve or better develop their abilities.

Partnering with Singapore’s CSM Academy International, the project’s objectives were achieved through the training on practical skills and knowledge for existing caregivers, including therapists and parents, to provide better care and supervision for these children. Thereafter, these caregivers would play the role of therapeutic care providers, training other staff in the respective care facilities and establishing a support network for other caregivers.

Commenting on the successful implementation and completion of the project, MR Chief Executive Hassan Ahmad said, “This is an area where MR feels it could add considerable value to the local education system.  In Singapore, the government and social groups have placed substantial amount of resources, including facilities and expertise, towards children with special needs.  Development disability is attributable to mental and physical impairments, and without appropriate intervention, it could be life-long.  With the guidance of trained caregivers, these children would be able to develop greater capacity for independent living, economic self-sufficiency, mobility, self-care and self-direction.”

He added, “While Mercy Relief continues to respond swiftly to regional emergencies, such as the one in the Philippines right now, we will also continue to bring in expertise from Singapore to help develop needy and diadvantaged communities in the region.”

The closing ceremony included performances by the special needs children, which allowed them to showcase their psycho-motor abilities. More than 1,500 children and caregivers from 10 special-care facilities across the province benefited from the project.

This is MR’s second run of the SPENT project since its successful inception in December 2010 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, benefiting more than 1,000 children and caregivers from seven schools.

The SPENT project is part of MR’s education emphasis, which is one of MR’s five focused sectors – water & sanitation,shelter, livelihood, healthcare and education – under its sustainable development programme.

Physiotherapist Ms Thilaga Govindasamy guiding the parents and caregivers with therapy skills which would help the special needs children to improve and develop their abilities.

A group of special needs children wrapped up the closing ceremony with a traditional South Sumatran dance.

MR Chief Executive Hassan Ahmad presenting a token of appreciation to the South Sumatran Chief of Education, Ade Karyana.

Another group of special needs children being received by the special guests of the closing ceremony.