Empowering the Differently Abled with Agriculture
Most of the learning centres meant for the differently abled provide skills training for their inmates. However, the welfare centre for the differently abled (Persatuan Kebajikan Kanak-Kanak Kurang Upaya) at Jalan USJ 18/7, Subang Jaya, Selangor, has gone one step further to equip them with agricultural knowledge.
The centre firmly believes it is a timely move to enhance the differently abled person’s capabilities to earn a moderate income and, above all, to lead an independent life. The aim of the centre has been realised through various forms of agricultural activities.
“The children and teenagers here not only learn to grow plants, identify plant names, water the plants, and harvest them, but also participate in the sale of their produce. Over the years, our farming activities have expanded and flourished, much to the benefit of the children here,” said the founder of the centre, Jessie Yau.
“The centre is a hub of activity, with students, parents, and teachers painting and decorating the garden; digging and mixing the soil; collecting kitchen and food waste; learning about the earthworm; composting and harvesting vegetables and fruits. The daily challenges that farming brings and the resultant solution are a good mental stimulator for the differently abled,” added Jessie.
The agricultural activities provide a suitable platform for the endeavours and resultant improvements of the students. Through farming activities, there is physical exercise, mental triggers, and, above all, actual contact with soil and earth, which contributes significantly to their overall cognitive development.
“Most of the centres for the differently abled, after a certain period of training, channel their students for an internship or job opportunity at various places.
The differently abled, despite performing reasonably well at work, face problems due to bullying from customers or grudging co workers for the special privileges granted to the differently abled at the workplace. So we thought, “Why not make the differently abled self-sufficient!” We found farming and related activities suit well to cater to their special needs,” explained Lee Jen Uyin, a city councillor of the Subang Jaya City Council (MBSJ) who has been instrumental in the burgeoning farming activities in the centre.
“We see farming as their future investment. We have seen many autistic children, as they grow older, seek shelter in old folks’ homes and spend the rest of their lives there without contributing anything to society. We feel this should change.
“The differently abled too can play their role in societal and economic development, and we strongly believe that farming is one of the appropriate tools towards that end,” said Lee.