Voices That Care

Say Hello to ... Jaleha

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 …..  Jaleha Mohd. Isa, a full-time special education teacher who volunteers with Care2Run because she feels more should be done to help and support differently-abled young persons. 

ALTHOUGH we are the ones who’re supposed to guide them. I feel that, we, as mentors, really learn so much from the mentees,” says Jaleha. “We learn from them about what works and what doesn’t, or what they like and don’t like.”

Jaleha, a special education teacher, tells us that despite being well acquainted with young children with autism, she had very little experience with other differently-abled young persons. However, her journey as a volunteer mentor in Care2Run’s Junior Leaders Programme has opened her eyes to the different approaches in guiding differently-abled young persons.

Adds the Kota Kinabalu-born educator: “At my workplace, I’m only exposed to young children with autism, so I felt that volunteering with an organisation like Care2Run would allow me to grow and experience special education from different perspectives. I think it’s very important to know how differently-abled persons interact with their surroundings and society and that’s what I have learned about here.”

Here’s Jaleha with the rest of her story …

Hello there, Jaleha. Can you share with us how you got involved with Care2Run?
Hello. I’d attended a talk on autism a few months ago and Leena was there as well promoting Care2Run. I spoke to her because I was curious when I saw the Care2Run booth. And after she explained about the programmes, I was hooked. Everything – from the sports aspect to the fact it involved children of all ages – interested me and made me want to join as a volunteer.

That’s awesome! What has your experience been like since you joined as a volunteer mentor?
I would say that I’ve learned a lot over the past few months. The differently-abled children I teach are younger compared with the participants at Care2Run and they are on the autism spectrum. When I joined Care2Run, I became exposed to children with other developmental differences. Honestly, I felt so awkward on my first day with Care2run. I had trouble mingling with everyone and I didn’t know where to start and whether I was doing things right. I was paired with Anas and I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to help him. But Anas is a wonderful young man and in fact, he is the one who opened up first and made me feel comfortable. From that first game we played together he made me feel very welcome, and it was at that moment that I knew I was going to stay and volunteer my time.

Did you always want to be a special ed teacher?
It’s not easy to explain but what I can say is that I always wanted to do something that would benefit society, although it was not clear to me when I was younger or even when I was in university, what I was going to do. Then one day, during my internship with Persatuan Down Sindrom Kota Kinabalu, I bonded with a young person with Down syndrome and it suddenly hit me that I could help differently-abled young people, and perhaps, they too could help me find my calling.

Now that you’re a mentor with the Junior Leaders Programme, can you share with us what you like about the programme?
I think the programme is great. As a teacher, I do feel that differently-abled children benefit a lot from socialisation exercises and physical activity. The best part about Care2Run is that it’s not academic learning and it uses sports to reach these kids. I have a student I teach, for example, who used to refuse to learn in a classroom setting and even threw tantrums. But then his family enrolled him in swimming classes, and since then, he’s become calmer and more sociable.

You and Raja were tasked with mentoring Anas. What has that experience been like?
There are times when I’m not sure if Anas wants to talk to me or whether I am using the right approaches, but I look for eye contact with him. And I’ve learned that when he nods when I talk to him, it means he understands and agrees. It can be a bit challenging but I’ve learned that if you have to be patient with him. Anas understands the warm-up and warm-down routines, for example, and when I’ve asked him to show me, he can show me the right techniques. He is quite independent and he already loves physical activities. So he just needs someone to guide him. And I hope I can work together with Raja to help enhance those qualities in Anas.

What are your aspirations for Care2Run?
I think Care2Run needs more exposure because even though the programmes, especially the Junior Leaders Programme, are good, not many people know about what we do. More awareness may open the door to more volunteers and also more participants who could benefit from the programme.

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