Voices That Care
Say Hello to ... Eric
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 ….. Coach Eric Chong, a pioneer team member who’s played a key role in designing and implementing Care2Run’s many programmes.
COACH Eric has been an integral member of the Care2Run team from our earliest days. However, even though he has played a key role in designing and implementing many of the programmes over the years, Eric says that he feels he still has a lot to learn.
“I don’t think anyone of us knows everything there is to know. But I believe that we can continue to learn how to help differently-abled children grow through the programmes,” he says.
Eric, who is a full-time personal trainer, adds that as the years have progressed, the team behind the scenes has found it more challenging. But that, he feels, is because everyone involved is committed to make the programmes better for the benefit of the many differently-abled young persons who walk through Care2Run’s doors.
“A programme like the Junior Leaders Programme is like a ray of hope for some of these children and their parents. Many of them come here disappointed, with no confidence. So our mission is to do the best for them,” he says.
Well, let Eric tell you the rest …
Hello, Eric. You’ve been with Care2Run from almost the beginning. Were you part of the group that used to run at Bukit Gasing?
Hi there. Yes, I was. Most of the pioneer team that started Care2Run were initially all from the same running group. However, I was not around when they came up with the idea for Care2Run. I only joined later.
Was it challenging during the early days, in 2015?
Actually, I would say the beginning wasn’t very difficult and that is because none of us were 100% sure about proper standard operating procedures and things like that. There was a lot of trial and error. Even the early programmes were not really difficult to implement. However, once we’d approached schools and were attempting to get the Education Ministry to sign off on the programmes, it became more challenging. That’s when we had to be very clear about the processes and procedures.
After the initial programmes, Care2Run switched focus to differently-abled young persons, particularly young people with autism. Were you familiar with autism at that point or was the experience new?
I wasn’t. It was definitely a challenge to learn how to use sports to improve the lives of young persons with autism. The children we’d worked with before that had faced social and socio-economic challenges. However, they were not differently-abled. Fortunately, the team we had at the time worked really well together. And the support of the teachers and the parents we worked with also played a big part. After persons with autism, our next challenge came a few years later, when we started working with young people with Down Syndrome. That’s when we had to think differently about things like how to adapt certain sports and activities to accommodate the physical challenges faced by children with Down Syndrome.
Since those early days, you’ve attended many forums and workshops on inclusive sports, such as the 2018 Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability’s Inclusive Sports forum. You must have amassed a lot of knowledge over the years.
Yes, I have learned quite a lot. Attending something like the forum in Bangkok in 2018 allowed me to learn from and share ideas with coaches and parents from around the region. But I think you can never stop learning. It’s a life long process.
Care2Run has conducted many programmes over the years and I’m sure you’d agree that they’ve made a lot of difference to the young persons who’ve participated.
Definitely. I believe we have very good products, and you can see the evidence of that in the graduates who’ve come through the programmes. When you look at kids like Max and Seng Joon, for example, you can see how the Junior Leaders Programme (JLP) has helped transform them. But of course, we cannot stop just at the JLP. Some of these children still need support and we have to continue supporting and guiding them. “What next” is a question some of these children and their parents ask, and I think we have to ask ourselves that question also and work towards developing our graduates further, whether it is preparing them to be more employable or teaching them to be more independent.
You’ve also worked with some of these youths outside of the programmes, like helping Arun and Parthivan with their running technique. Has it been rewarding seeing how they’ve grown?
From time to time, a few of them have asked me to help them train for races, and I have. I would design small programmes for them to improve endurance and stamina. Personally, I’m really happy to see how kids like Arun and Parthivan have grown, not just in terms of their physical achievements but also socially.
What are your hopes and aspirations for Care2Run, Eric?
Well, hope is one thing, and reality is another. But I think one of my biggest hopes is for the programmes to get integrated into the national education syllabus. We have already made some inroads in certain schools, but we need more people to understand and appreciate the programmes and the aims. Another thing I hope for is that parents get more involved and form their own “cell groups” to support one another and spread the message. If we achieve that, then Care2Run can grow.