Voices That Care

Hello ... from Greg

Every single person in Care2Run’s ecosystem is essential, and we’ve grown so much in three years thanks to all the different individuals who’ve played a part in getting us to where we are.

It is for this reason that we aim to hand this section over to our people – our participants, coaches, volunteers, parents, friends and loved ones – so they can tell you what Care2Run means to them.

This week’s edition of Voices That Care is a special Chinese New Year one featuring a senior mentor and coach who has brought a wealth of experience to Care2Run and continues to help us prosper.

Gregory Phua is a Singaporean who’s been residing in Malaysia for close to a decade now, and we proudly present his Care2Run story in the form of a letter from him to all of us — volunteers, parents, supporters and aspiring volunteers.

Dear friends,

When I was in secondary school, my teacher asked me if I was keen on raising money for a charity flag day. I agreed. Each Secondary 1 student had to shadow two seniors from the upper secondary level. It was an interesting experience and I enjoyed raising some money in my tin, though it was not a king’s ransom. In Secondary 2, I volunteered again, and it was for the then Blind Association (Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped). I had somewhat “graduated” from my first experience and was allowed to go solo. At 14 years of age, I raised the highest funds compared to all the other volunteers, earning me a treasured achievement certificate from the association (I still have it!). That surprising achievement set me off on my journey in giving back to the community. But I realised, while money worked wonders, it is time that many people are not willing to give.

I am a “backyard neighbour” in Malaysia, having moved to Selangor from Singapore nine years ago. And I am in Singapore every month to visit my parents and siblings. On the professional end, I have three jobs. Firstly, I work with corporate leaders and professionals at all levels and have over 30 years of experience in that area. The interventions are to improve their core behaviours, in turn enabling them to increase their performance in the workplace, or in their communities they serve. Behavioural change is the most fact-based evidence, and once embedded can do wonders for the individual and others in the place one works or serves in. Secondly, I am also raising understanding of a digital technology platform that learning and performance can be executed through digital facilitation and not always by means of a face-to-face class. And lastly, there is a business I started with two Indonesian partners in 2014. We operate two spas and five outdoor recreation centres on the island of Batam in Indonesia. In the outdoor space, we facilitate team-building and people-bonding activities.

Some of you may have heard of Leeds United. It is a team I have fervently supported all my life, and my car and I are easily recognisable in Leeds paraphernalia and clothing. It is a given that I watch Leeds play whenever they are on live! Marching On Together!

I got involved with Care2Run after speaking with a friend …

I was asked by a friend if I was keen to do volunteer work here. My answer led to a meeting with one of the co-founders, and I instantaneously said “Yes” without having heard the full pitch. It was support for youths that drew me. My current responsibility is to help with the design of a curriculum for youths, coaches and to eventually, develop a parents’ programme. I knew, when I started, that this was not exactly the same as what I would do in corporate programmes. And I knew the youths were differently-abled, some with differences I had no prior knowledge of.

We are all differently-abled …

I told one of the Care2Run co-founders of the word, “differently-abled” and felt that this is a most appropriate term. Why? Because it is my sincere belief that “all humans are differently-abled”. We have different levels of knowledge, skills, and experiences. A person might have greater analysis skills than mathematical abilities, or more silky skills in art and craft than computer skills. Therefore, right-sizing a person into an age-group” or into an academic or experience band, and expecting identical performances is not conducive for the esteem of anyone.

I first worked with youths from an orphanage in Singapore decades ago. I learned that each child had to be received, and treated differently since they had varying backgrounds. The children had different levels of academic knowledge and some had more practical understanding merely from reading in their past time! Some kids had been abandoned and left in foster care, or some parents just gave up their kids to the home due to financial difficulties. At one outdoor voluntary effort, I recall how a few of the kids from the home pitched in with volunteer kids to serve food and snacks to the kids from the home, and to invited guests, some children, some adults. This amazing partnership was a truly wonderful moment for me. There was no distinction between children. Every child exhibited kindness to each other, and partnership made the task easier and fun!

I hit the ground running – literally …

I partnered with Cavin, a highly interesting and clever 21-year-old lad. At our first meeting, we did a morning jog. He was fit, while yours truly was gasping for air! In working with Cavin through the Junior Leaders Programme or JLP, I realised I had to discover his comfort zones in what he was willing and able to do. As the programme moved along, I identified that he possessed skills in listening, taking instructions, and was well-versed at recalling and providing procedural steps. Cavin also was comfortable at stand up presentations, sharing his observations of some of the weekly practices. Cavin also pleasantly surprised me when, during one of our weekly practices, I saw a large group of adults “dancercising” to some rocking beats. I directed Cavin to the large group and started dancing to the tunes. And Cavin showed how adept he was in keeping up with the beats and the pulsating rhythm. A couple of areas for Cavin to be exposed to more is to engage more in conversation, one-to-one or groups of three-four youths; and for him to develop more focus and scope in sharing his thoughts and feelings.

Another outstanding individual I had the privilege to coach is Yen Yen. She is filled with energy and like Cavin, has shown flashes of brilliance in outrunning me, by sprinting! Yen Yen is also a listener and a thinker. She already demonstrated her ability to pace in a 3km run. And after one run, volunteer mentor Rachel and I took her to a stall in the run venue for some tau fu far dessert. I offered her the dessert, she refused. Rachel had a go, she refused. But still, Yen Yen stood firm at the stall. Even the coaxing of Yen Yen by the stall-holder to have a bowl of the dessert was met with firm rejection.

I sensed Yen Yen was thinking because she kept standing at the stall. It is times like these that we need to look deeper into a young person’s actions. I told Rachel that Yen Yen likely wants the dessert but we are not the ones to ‘unlock’ her. I reckoned her mother was the key. We beckoned her mum to the stall, and to ask her daughter. Yen Yen immediately said she wanted the dessert.

The learning from this was immense. While the relationship of running was intact, the relationship with food was not. There could be a myriad of reasons and I sense that Yen Yen needs the assurance of her mother when a food decision is made. This led me to a conclusion (one that I tell many corporate leaders when leading their team members): different strokes for different folks; yet different strokes for the same folks.

We need to employ different methods for the same person, and at times, we may not be the one to unlock the same person, despite how successful we may have been in the past.

Care2Run changes lives …

When I started with Care2Run, I thought many of the physical activities centred around running. And I discovered that there is more than that; there were simple yet dynamic games like Dodgebee Fun and Medallion Hunt, which allowed mentees to demonstrate their creativity, ability to play with others and leadership! I felt this was something interesting since it centred on behavioural change and forming desirable habits. It is habits that the youth will excel and find seamless; habits that parents could anchor upon as a “new possibility” that “my child is differently-abled” like the world’s population.

I devote effort to Care2Run because we can make changes, some small, and some massive. But my objective has to have clarity. I use my skills in behavioural design and change to develop new behaviours that the young person has not experienced or requires reshaping or improvement in. And this year, I hope to develop new behaviour models for parents to ally with their children. In many parents, I see renewed hope and confidence. And they have shared that Care2Run is indeed a leading global programme that can, and has transformed the lives of their differently-abled children. Some say that transformation has already occurred for their children. That is incredibly pleasing to hear from parents. Which adaptive physical activity programme in the world enables a differently-abled young person to help another differently-abled young person? There is none I know like Care2Run that places an unconditional effort in helping youths and parents in their transformational journey.

As I got more involved, I noticed coaches and volunteers also needed to fully engage their senses, and their interaction approaches to unlock the potential of differently-abled youths. It is a learning journey for many coaches and volunteers, and I do not shy away from helping them by seeking teaching moments or giving feedback in a tactful manner. The purpose is to have them think of their pre-patterned assumptions or even values. The coach or volunteer learns and goes on to differently-enable their behaviours for the primary beneficiary – the participant. This is the practice of double-loop learning.

We, humans, value our time, and it is this very time that we find increasingly hard to part with. Humans value our relationships, and it is this very relationship we do not give enough time to.

Is time the reason that differently-abled youths will have missed opportunities in benefitting from your skill, experiences, guidance, empathy, and love? Only you can unlock that answer and commitment by perhaps making a difference this new year.

I wish those celebrating the lunar new year, Gong Xi Fa Cai. And for those taking in the holiday break, enjoy yourselves with your families. Stay safe, stay united!



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