Voices That Care

Say Hello to ... Alicia

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 we say hello to …..  Alicia Foo, a volunteer mentor who acknowledges that her life has changed significantly since joining Care2Run.

WHILE it’s true that many volunteers join Care2Run with the intention of making an impact in the lives of differently-abled young persons, what few realise at the outset is how their lives too will change significantly.

Looking back at her growth since getting involved with Care2Run, Alicia – who joined us as a mentor for the 2019 Junior Leaders Programme – acknowledges that it was much the same for her.

“I’m not very outgoing. I’m also not a naturally a high-energy person. However, over the two months I’ve been with the programme, I do feel like I’ve become slightly more energetic.

“When I first started, I was usually just tired at the end of a three-hour session. Now, after a session, I’m thinking about how I can do more or what I can do differently,” she says, adding that a big reason for the change in her outlook is the bond she’s managed to forge with her mentee – a young person with autism.

Hello there, Alicia. How did you hear about Care2Run and what made you want to get involved?
Hey there. Well, actually I got to know about Care2Run from my friend Keith, who is conducting research into how sports improves the lives of differently-abled young persons. One of the first things he said, after explaining to me what Care2Run does, was that they were short of volunteers. I felt, from what Keith had said, that the Junior Leaders Programme (JLP) was different from other therapy programmes in the sense that it doesn’t just focus on one aspect for improvement, but looks at participant growing holistically. That’s what made me sign up as a volunteer.

What were your first impressions when you joined us for the volunteer orientation programme?
Well, I expected, from what I’d been told, that the volunteers were caring and empathetic individuals. And this was true. But what I’ve been impressed with most of all over the weeks is the way the facilitators are very quick to respond to concerns and suggestions from parents. That’s something you don’t see very often. It showed me that Care2Run is concerned not just with the growth of the young people involved in the programme, but also their parents.

You’re a psychology grad and currently work as a research assistant at a local uni. Were you already well-versed about developmental differences like autism and ADHD prior to joining Care2Run, and have your perceptions of persons with differences changed since then?
I wouldn’t say they’ve changed dramatically. Yes, I learned about autism, for example, in university. We were also taught about how to assess children with autism, and what to look out for. But our lecturer did caution us that every person with autism is different, and it’s something I’ve always remembered. Now that I’m involved in the JLP, I realise how true that is. Every person is truly different. There is no stereotype.

Has mentoring a differently-abled young person been challenging for you?
I think every mentor has different challenges, and that may have to do with many things, such as the participant him- or herself, or the goals set by the facilitators or the participant’s parents. For my mentee, his parents had shared that they’d like for him to be more sociable. However, my challenge, as I said, is that I am not very outgoing myself. So I had to come out from my comfort zone a little and I guess the result is that my mentee and I are both growing together.

Can you tell us what it’s been like working with your mentee?
My mentee is 26 years old – slightly older than me. I’m not sure whether he realised at first that I was his mentor. In the beginning, when I arrived at the park in the morning for the sessions and greeted him, he’d walk away. But over the time I’ve known him, he’s opened up. Now, he greets me when I get to the park and we walk together – he loves walking – and chat before the session starts. Before this, he’d say something and run away. Not anymore. Now, he waits for me to walk with him. It’s a small progression, but it’s significant for me.

What are your thoughts on sports as a means to facilitate positive change in the lives of differently-abled young persons?
I think for anyone – not just differently-abled kids – sports allows you to show improvement via non-verbal means. And I think that helps improve confidence overall. Furthermore, it gets people out of their comfort zones, and once they’ve achieved something they start thinking: “I couldn’t do this before, but now I can.”

What are your aspirations for Care2Run?
I hope that Care2Run is able to expand but that’s only possible if more volunteers come forward, which I hope will happen. I also hope that more parents consider Care2Run as an intervention programme for their kids and that they also come forward to help mentor other children.

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