A small speck in the universe
Being part of something bigger is what everyone’s experienced at least once in our lives, whether we recognise it then or not.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s part of every human’s DNA that we aspire towards being part of a greater cause that transcends ourselves, whether we believe it or not.
Don’t think so?
Ever stood on the edge of a wind-swept cliff overlooking an endless ocean and felt a sense of smallness, like you’re but a speck of dust in an infinite universe?
Or walked through a tropical, musky mangrove with the sounds of nature practically next to your ears, and experiencing new sensations that practically screams “you’re not alone”?
How about just standing in the middle of a business hub and looking up at all the skyscrapers surrounding you?
Getting that feeling of being a small speck in the universe yet?
That’s what I’m talking about!
Strength in numbers
That’s how I felt tonight as I joined a Zoom meeting of nearly 20 folks from different walks of life but who all had one common desire – to connect caregivers (of people with special needs) to one another, forming a strong support network across the nation.
Now in case you’re thinking 20’s a small number, how about 5,000? Cos that’s the actual number these folks tonight are capable of rallying together!
To what end you ask?
To create what might well be the largest advocacy group for special needs’ caregivers this country has ever seen in its history of advocacy.
A group simply called Caring.sg
And this is no mean feat, given the fact that it’s taken many months and years to pull together so many diverse groups into this one new entity.
Caring for Caregivers
For the longest time, these different groups of caregivers have advocated in their respective corners for the special needs of kids and adults in their care. This comes as no surprise, if you’re attuned to the realities of the special needs communities in Singapore, and everywhere else in the world.
You see, such communities are as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as diverse as the marine lives in the ocean. For special needs include but are by no means limited to the following visible and invisible disabilities: ASD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Down’s Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Global Developmental Delay and various learning disabilities.
And within each of these, there are spectrums that can range from mild to severe. Comorbidity (having more than one of the above simultaneously) leads to even further fragmentation, resulting in the myriad of caregiver advocacy groups we find in society today.
But all that could change next year in Singapore as this new, fledgling network comprising of all these factions of volunteer caregivers come together as one collective (and hopefully coordinated) group to serve other caregivers.
It’s hoped that together, our voices will be louder and stronger, and our advocacy will better reach the ears, hearts and minds of our country’s political and influential leaders. All for the sake of uplifting and supporting caregivers of those looking after special needs people. And also removing societal and structural barriers that currently stymie and frustrate numerous ground-up efforts to creating a more inclusive society for everyone.
Be everywhere everytime for everyone
Ultimately, I believe that the near-20 of us in the call tonight also hoped to effect sustained and permanent change of mindset, and a deeper sense of empathy and grace in our predominantly-neurotypical countrymen.
That way, our special needs kids will feel a sense of belonging and never feel ostracised.
And we their caregivers may leave them behind with a sense of peace when our time comes, knowing that they live in a caring and inclusive society that doesn’t disparage them, but will step in to help them when we no longer can.
The heartbeat of any parent in this world is that their child will be fine on their own after they’re gone. What more for parents with special needs children?!
If we can connect caregivers everywhere to each other through this concerted effort, then we would have achieved something big in our lifetime.
Hence the feeling I had at the start of this writing, the feeling of being a small part of something larger.
It’s a scary feeling, but also a thrilling one for me cos I’ve felt alone as a special needs parent for a long time. So much so that it pushed me more than a year ago to start this blog.
Just think: if each of us in this new grouping does what little we can, what a difference it could make for the sake of our children, and fellow parents and caregivers?!
So here’s hoping 2021, and this new advocacy group, will be the start of something that will make Singapore a kinder and more gracious and inclusive place for me, and other parents/caregivers like me, to raise our kids!