Deep Justice Project : I Shine

by Alan Yeo . 11 November 2011



Using gestures and signs, the circle of boys were animated and excited to express to the group their personal highlights of the morning. One boy who was of smaller frame than the rest was quick to gesture with his hands that he enjoyed talking to his buddy who had every now and then scribbled notes on scraps of paper making small talks with him. Another jovially signed that he enjoyed shopping while another gesticulated that he enjoyed the MRT ride. Amidst the laughter and joy beaming from the boys, one boy remained listless and would shrug his shoulders when it came to his turn to share. However, a complete change came over him when his teacher encouraged him to share with the group his personal collection of sketches and artwork. His eyes lit up and he began to jump with excitement as he eagerly shared with his classmates and new buddies his artistic masterpieces of spaceships, monsters and his witty large format comic-book illustrations of the evolving stages of earth inspired by the “Ice Age” animation. He was obviously talented and one simply marvelled at his unique extravagant imagination and passion for art. His teacher lamented that she would love to have him enrolled in an art academy but was met with little success, as there was no art school willing to accept him due to his hearing impairment and autism. Having an enthusiastic audience who appreciated his artwork was, I believed his highlight that morning.


What started as a deep justice project for the youths of Region A in the first quarter of 2011 has resulted in a deeper partnership with Lighthouse School, formerly known as the Singapore School for the Visually Handicapped that has expanded its base to also include deaf and autistic children in their educational establishment. Over the months, our youth volunteers had been making regular visits to a small recording room at Lighthouse school to help with the production of audio books for the visually challenged students. Despite having no direct contact with the students, the youth volunteers had committed to participate and contribute to do their part in making a difference. However, our relationship with the school went a step further when our youth volunteers were approached to help organise a 2-day camp for a group of students at Lighthouse who would be graduating soon. Also, the students had eagerly requested their teachers to have a camp.


Camp “I Shine” was thus put together with a purpose to impart some life skills with elements of fun for the campers. For the group of volunteers who were there to assume the role of buddies to each individual camper, this was indeed an eye opener to the world of those who are visually challenged and deaf. The initial fear of the volunteers to connect with the students was quickly dispelled by the students’ friendliness and acceptance of the volunteers as buddies. Each youth volunteer was paired with a student to guide them to perform different tasks during the camp.


Blessed with a sunny morning, the groups of campers set out from Caldecott MRT Station to explore the neighbourhood of Toa Payoh. Accompanied by their buddy, each student whether visually challenged or deaf had to learn to navigate to use the MRT to get to their destination with the aid of questionnaires to facilitate their understanding. For many of the students, this was their first time taking a MRT train. Three of the campers who were blind had their questions translated in Braille to help them with their exploration. Students were also given a shopping list of things that they had to purchase at NTUC. They are required to work in a group with a collective decision-making for the purchase of their items to ensure that it is within their budget. The groups were then given time to reflect and share with others about their experience.


It was certainly a heart-warming experience to connect and engage the 14 campers to make it a memorable camp for them. If you have lingered on in the evening, you would have noticed buddies sticking together enjoying the evening of campfire.


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