Voices That Care

Say Hello to ... Uma

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 ….. Uma Veloo, a volunteer mentor and mum who’s grateful for the positive impact Care2Run has had on her 16-year-old son, Sanjivan.

THE past couple of years have been challenging for Sanjiivan, his mum Uma says. Having lived in Brunei for many years, 16-year-old Sanjiivan found it hard when the family decided to return to Malaysia in 2017. And what made matters worse, Uma, a teacher of over 20 years, explains, is that Sanjiivan had few friends here.

Joining the Care2Run Foundation Programme in late September this year, however, has been a lifesaver of sorts. And especially as the young man immediately struck up a friendship with Junior Coach Ng Ian Chieh. 

“I love seeing the way they interact and connect. It’s unique. Especially during the first session when they did the Chicken Dance together with lots of laughter and joy,” Uma says.

“Sometimes, when Prem has called them both to the front to share their experience, Sanjiivan has struggled to speak. And then he’ll get nudged by Ian who’ll say something like, ‘That’s a question, Sanjii. You have to answer the question.’ And Sanjiivan will try,” she elaborates further.

We’ll let Uma share the rest …

Hello there, Uma. Sanjiivan seems to have enjoyed his experience at Care2Run these past few months. Have you liked it as well?
Hi there! Yes, I have. There are many reasons for that. For my family, for one, all of us joining the Foundation Programme and supporting Sanjiivan is the first activity we’ve done together as a family since coming back from Brunei. It’s not been an easy period for Sanjiivan, having to adjust to a new environment and surroundings. The fact that he was willing to let go of his precious red Brunei cap which he wore for five years and replace it with Care2Run’s blue cap says it all. This experience with Care2Run has been really positive for us.

Could you share with us a little about what the last couple of years have been like for Sanjivan?
Sanjiivan was not happy coming home to Malaysia. It was a rough time for him in the beginning, as well as for us. He’d always be stressed, anxious and aggressive. But slowly, with much patience and after working with him, he started to settle down. It was towards the tail end of that difficult period that my friend Izan introduced us to Care2Run. It’s been huge, seeing how Sanjiivan has thrived and enjoyed himself at Care2Run.

Raja, Sanjivan’s mentor, has two boys on the spectrum as well. Do you feel that it’s helped that he’s familiar with the challenges faced by persons with autism?
Definitely. We spoke about it, and Sanjiivan has expressed that he feels a sense of trust of the people at Care2Run. And he adores Ian as he doesn’t have many friends. Of course, there were days when Ian wasn’t in a particularly good mood and Sanjiivan would come home and tell me that Ian was sad, or not happy with him. And I would allay his concerns and tell him, “Don’t worry. Everyone has their not-so-good days.” They both took it all in their stride.

Sanjiivan recorded his experience during the programme in a scrapbook. Was that his own initiative?
It was my suggestion and he was happy to do it. Scrapbooks are how I worked with Sanjiivan to help him learn to express himself. He has scrapbooks on various topics. This time, as well, I thought it would help him. You know, all the sharings about Raja, Ian, and Care2Run sessions, are not things he’d tell me outright, but through his reflections while working on this book.

What has Care2Run meant to you, Uma?
First, as I mentioned earlier, is how it’s gifted Sanjiivan a new positive space in Malaysia. It means a lot to him besides bringing us closer as a family. Then, as a teacher, I’ve enjoyed the outdoor, inclusive nature of the programme. The four-walled, classroom-type of teaching is my least favourite teaching approach. This is inclusive education in the truest sense as it introduces the public, in a special way, to differently-abled persons. There’ve been many times, for example, when I’ve been in the park with my little mentee, Adika, and people have stared because I’m an Indian woman walking around with this little Malay boy and trying to get him to do things. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to explain and share with them about Adika and his learning challenges. Adika, my first mentee at Care2Run, will remain in my heart forever as the first student with ADHD I have handled. He taught me a lot and I learned as much with gratitude.

What are your aspirations for Care2Run?
Care2Run’s focus on the junior coaches is amazing, especially the emphasis on training them to lead and assist other mentees to do their best. However, some gaps in terms of communicating with mentees, especially in delivering instructions, can be improved with the use of AAC (Augmentive and Alternative Communication) tools for effective comprehension. But really, these are small things as I’m convinced that Care2Run is doing an amazing job in providing a fantastic training and support space through sports for differently-abled individuals. I believe it will grow and reach many more differently-abled individuals and their families in Malaysia.

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