Voices That Care
Say Hello to ... Jeya & Surita
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 ….. V. Jeya Kumar and Surita Doraisamy, volunteer mentors who’ve enjoyed learning and growing at Care2Run together with their two sons.
ALTHOUGH they didn’t plan on it happening when they first enrolled their son Visahan, the Junior Leaders Programme (JLP) has provided a platform for Jeya and Surita’s entire family – including their eldest boy Gajendra – to bond and grow together.
“Many people have different ideas of what a nice Sunday morning is. From April to July, ours was spent at Care2Run. And it was great because it was all of us together,” says Surita.
Her husband Jeya concurs, “It definitely wasn’t planned. But it’s nice how everything worked out.”
But most importantly, the couple has seen Visahan, who was the main reason they signed up for the JLP, improve over the course of the programme.
Here’s their story …
Hello, Surita and Jeya. Could you share with us how you got involved with Care2Run and what made you decide to sign up for the sessions as a family?
Surita: I belong to a WhatsApp group with Nanthini’s mother Darshini and just before the Junior Leaders Programme commenced, she’d posted something there about Care2Run. It sounded interesting, so after reading the posts on Facebook, and some articles on Care2Run, I gave Leena a call.
Jeya: Visahan had attended a similar kind of outdoor social intervention programme before. However, we dropped out of that after a while because we felt many of the volunteers there weren’t properly trained to cope with the various differently-abled participants. Visahan is someone who tends to wander around when he is bored and the volunteers and facilitators weren’t able to cope with that. At the time, Surita and I used to take turns attending the sessions with Visahan. But after we left that programme, we felt that in future, we should attend together. That’s why when Care2Run was introduced to us, we both decided to attend. It just so happened that Gajendra was also free at the time, having already finished his SPM. So we asked him to come along because we felt it’d be good for him to experience the programme with Visahan.
Have Gajendra and Visahan always been close?
Surita: Gajendra has always been very protective of his brother. There was a time, of course, when there was a bit of rivalry, but Gajendra’s outgrown that and now, they spend a lot of time together.
Gajendra was Visahan’s mentor during the JLP. Did you ask for them to be paired together?
Surita: No, it wasn’t our decision. Actually, after the first session, it was the facilitators – Prem, Mee Leng and Leena – who decided that Visahan would work better with Gajendra as a mentor. And really, the pairing was perfect because Visahan immediately responded. The concern was that Visahan may not listen to instructions and guidance because they were coming from his brother, but he actually responded very well.
You must have enrolled Visahan in many other intervention programmes over the years.
Jeya: He’s attended so many programmes from the time he was diagnosed with autism as a child. At one point, Surita even quit her job to stay at home and look into his development. We’ve tried many things over the years like music and art and craft classes. But besides school, he hasn’t really been involved in many group-type programmes.
How do you feel Visahan has grown over the course of the JLP?
Jeya: One of the things that’s been a real difference is the way he now interacts with others. He goes up to the friends he’s made to say hello, and that’s been nice to see. It also shows that the right programme and guidance can make a big difference.
Have you both enjoyed being a part of the JLP, both as mentors and parents?
Jeya: Definitely. I initially worked with Ryan before Oscar took over, and it’s been great to see how the boy has grown. The thing that struck me initially about Ryan was his fascination for visiting places and driving Grab. I enjoyed talking with him. But it’s been the way his confidence has grown over the entire programme and how he’s become focused on celebrating the achievements of others that’s been especially heart-warming. I believe he’s on his way to becoming a mentor himself. There was one instance during the programme when Prem announced that Anas had to leave early to visit his grandmother in the hospital. Ryan jumped up immediately and went to console Anas. That was really moving.
To be honest, all the participants have their special traits. And personally, I feel I’ve learnt as much from the programme as I have from participants like Ian and Ryan and Albert. We always tended to approach things with Visahan in a certain way, but our interaction with these other participants has given us more exposure and insight.
Surita: It’s been a really rewarding experience. Nanthini, who was my mentee, has motor coordination challenges. But over time, with Sanny and me guiding her, she improved tremendously. In the beginning, we helped her a lot, but towards the end, she could manage the exercise routines on her own with no assistance. Her demeanour also changed. From being reserved, she became more open and friendly with those around her.
Also, for us as a family, we wanted Gajendra to be involved and learn about how he could help not just his brother, but other differently-abled kids and I feel he’s enjoyed the experience. He speaks with Joshua and Ryan about football and it was good seeing him interacting like that.
What are your aspirations for Care2Run?
Surita: I feel there should be more programmes like this for youths as well as younger kids. There aren’t many programmes that target differently-abled youths, so having more programmes like the JLP would be great. I understand that it’s not easy to keep running programmes, but there is definitely a need.
Jeya: One of main benefits that I have gathered from the programme is how activities like sports, games, music and dance allow differently-abled persons to find a common ground with volunteer mentors and vice versa which in turn allows both to build a connection and to better understand each other.
I hope the dynamic and dedicated Care2Run team will be able to gain the necessary traction and support to take their novel and exciting programmes and ideas to a greater level, maybe even to have it introduced as an activity in the national school system, as I see it as a fun way of eventually enhancing understanding and integration between differently-abled persons and the general society.