Voices That Care
Say Hello to ... Karen
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 ….. Karen Teo, a volunteer who has supported Care2Run’s efforts from the very beginning.
WHILE it’s clear today that Care2Run’s programmes do indeed help young persons, especially differently-abled youths, build confidence as well as mental and physical agility, it was not always easy to see. In fact, Karen, who together with her husband Jimmy were pioneer volunteers when Care2Run began in 2015, acknowledges that she wasn’t always certain that the programmes would be successful.
Says Karen, “You know, when Care2Run first started, I asked Prem about how he saw the programme progressing and whether he thought children could be coached to coach other kids. He admitted that he wasn’t 100% sure it would work, but he felt that cultivating a positive and caring attitude with these kids and giving them focus through sports, could help inspire them to give back.
“Now, a few years later, you can see that he was right, and you can see how those children have grown and are able to help other kids.”
Karen also shares with us that even though she was more involved with organisation and planning behind the scenes, there were challenges there too in the early days. Here she is to tell you her story …
Hi there Karen. Could you share with us how you got involved with Care2Run?
Hi. I got involved with Care2Run the same way my husband Jimmy did. We were both a part of the KL Hiking Club and we got to know Prem through that group. I remember that even before Care2Run was set up properly, Prem and a few volunteers that eventually became part of the Care2Run pioneer team organised two standalone events – one at Bukit Gasing and another at Kota Damansara – which I volunteered for. Jimmy actually continued on with the pioneer team after that whereas, for me, it was more about helping with some organising and financial planning behind the scenes.
For example, sometime in 2016, we were looking at ways of working together with Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) to help breast cancer survivors. We met with the persons in charge at the sports medicine department (Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Nahar Azmi) and the head of breast cancer surgery (Prof Dr Nur Aishah Md Taib) to discuss steps and ways forward and I was the one who helped Prem and Mee Leng set up the financial budgeting model for that. I’ve assisted Mee Leng and Prem a couple of times since then with planning finances for the programme. One of the things I wanted to try and create was an adaptable financial model for Care2Run to be financially sustainable. But it wasn’t easy.
That’s amazing. Did you have any interaction with Care2Run’s participants?
I did. Early on when Care2Run’s focus was on underprivileged children, I would help with ferrying the participants from the homes we were working with and assisted during sessions. I found the kids to be very enthusiastic. They always had a lot of questions about running and stuff like that. And I also saw that positivity when Care2Run started working with differently-abled children. For example, I remember observing a young participant whom I’d been told had challenges with self-control. And yes, at the start, you could see he did have challenges. But as the weeks went on, I saw how he improved and was inspired. He even spoke after just a few sessions about how he wanted to lead Care2Run when he grows up. For me, it was heart-warming to witness that change. Something else I found really amazing was seeing the kids from the first cohort – kids like Parthivan – helping out the differently-abled kids and actually encouraging and motivating them.
Did you always believe in the power of sports to transform the lives of children?
I felt that the kids needed some warmth and acceptance but I didn’t really see how sports could have a direct influence on their lives. I was thinking maybe it could help a bit in terms of improving the way they interacted with people. But I admit I couldn’t see the whole picture then.
Do you now believe in sports’ power to effect positive change, especially in terms of improving the lives of differently-abled young persons?
Very much. When we started, differently-abled kids were not the focus. I wasn’t at the first session for differently-abled kids at SMK Kelana Jaya. But I remember after that first session, Jimmy and Elgy both relaying their experiences individually to me. Jimmy, especially, talked about how challenging he found it. It is definitely difficult. And it took many years for Care2Run to achieve what Prem, Mee Leng and Elgy set out to do. But you can see the results now in the kids from those sessions who have progressed and become junior coaches.
What are your aspirations for Care2Run, Karen?
For me, I hope the programmes can be sustainable so that they can have an impact on more people. However, having been involved in trying to make Care2Run a professionally-run, self-sustaining organisation, I know how tough the challenge is. But my hope is that Care2Run finds a way of sustaining so that we are able to touch more lives.