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Circle of Life: Promoting Interaction with Wheelchair Bound Individuals

22 Jan 2019

It is undeniable that the physically disabled, especially the wheelchair-bound, are still being labelled negatively by society. The general public’s ignorance towards their daily struggles in life have made them emotionally challenged to be included within their communities as they feel that they are different from others. Damai Disabled Person Association Malaysia is an organisation that strives to bring the disabled back to society and to help them to become independent. Through collaborations with other NGOs, DAMAI has also been actively involved in advocating disabled persons’ rights. By raising awareness on the daily struggles of the physically disabled, specifically the wheelchair-bound community, it is hoped that participating university student can obtain a more personal and human perspective on the challenges that disabled people face. With this in mind, a group of enthusiastic Semester One medical students from AMSA (Asian Medical Student Association) IMU in collaboration with Damai Disabled Person Association Malaysia, organised a day-long event entitled ‘Circle of Life’. The project was conceptualised in the month of October 2018 with series of discussions among the team and AMSA-Faculty Advisor Dr Arun Kumar Basavaraj. Subsequently, a visit to Damai Centre and fund raising were held in the month of November 2018. On Saturday, 15 December 2018, a total of 30 participants from universities like IMU, Monash University and Perdana University along with 8 members from Damai took part in the day-long event held at IMU. The event’s main focus was to create awareness on disabilities, gain insight into daily challenges of wheelchair bound individuals, promote interaction between our students and wheelchair bound individuals to deepen understanding, nurture empathy and correct any misconceptions. The event comprised of four different sections- wheelchair basketball game, station games, an informative forum talk and stalls set up by wheelchair bound individuals. Mr David, a former wheelchair basketball captain of team Malaysia and Mr Raju taught the participants various techniques in basketball and a few friendly matches were played. All participants were given a chance to use wheelchairs to play the game and realise how wheelchair bound individuals rely more on their upper body strength to make up for the loss of their lower body strength. The station games were divided into two different sections; navigation and morning routine. Through these activities, participants were guided by the wheelchair bound individuals to carry out daily tasks such as changing clothes, moving things, setting the table and transferring from the wheelchair to chairs. Participants were also given first-hand experience on how mundane tasks for us could be a struggle to some. At the same time, they were able to see how the wheelchair bound individuals were independent in carrying out the task without complaining and depending on others. Their perseverance and determination motivated the participants. The final event was the forum talk featuring Mr David, Mr Krishnan, Madam Mahaboob Bee and Mr Ramesh. Each member from Damai shared their story, their struggles, how they managed to cope, the changes they are trying to bring through Damai and their hopes towards us and future doctors.

Stalls were set up by wheelchair bound individuals : 
Madam Kalaimani (handmade jewellery stall)
Mr Krishnan (watch business)
Miss Ainaa (handmade stationary).

AMSA IMU donated a total of RM500 to Damai Association. Overall, the event was a success and our partner, Damai were incredibly happy with the outcome of this event. Here is what our organisers, partner from Damai and participants had to say about the project!

Madam Mahaboob Bee, Secretary of Damai Disabled Person Association
This event was something different, usually it is our organisation that plans a day out with the students. This time, it is incredibly heart-warming to see students taking the initiative to come up with programmes that includes us, wheelchair bound individuals.
Sharrada Segeran, Project Leader for the Circle of Life
We wanted to come up with a project that would be meaningful to others and something that would leave an impact on them. To achieve this, a mere talk would not be sufficient, they needed to experience it, interact with the wheelchair bound individuals and understand them. This event took months of planning but seeing the smile from the Damai members and the participants, we knew it was worth it!
Muthukrishnan Vaishnavi, Head of External Affairs for the Circle of Life
Circle of Life truly was an eye-opening experience which benefited both the physically disabled and the participants of the event, helping them empathise as well as feel empowered. My fellow teammates and I believed empathy was truly an important step to understanding the struggles that the physically disabled go through on a daily basis, and this event was a testament to that.
Chia Xin Yi, Head of Finance for the Circle of Life
Planning activities to expose the participants to the daily challenges of the wheelchair-bound community was tough, but what was most difficult was executing them and taking all factors, which may affect the activities, into consideration. It was eye opening, as to how every little detail we never thought about in our daily routine could bring about such struggles, especially when one’s once useful legs are now nothing but a burden, and one can only rely on their arms.
Mathangi, Participant
It was great guys, could tell everyone enjoyed the activities and sharing session!

‘There is so much you can do for others, the question is, do you?’

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