15 April by Esperanza Ng CM –
I recently had the opportunity of visiting a special place tucked away in a quaint yet very accessible corner of Melaka. Established in 1998, Wings Melaka is now a haven for children and young adults with learning disabilities. When a group of Christian parents from different churches all over Melaka decided that they were no longer going to sit around and wait for someone to help their children, they got together and started their own center which has since then changed numerous lives.
Recognizing that it is a safe, healthy, and loving place, parents and family members of individuals with special needs are confident about sending their loved ones to Wings, as they can rest assured that anyone who goes through their programmes will be treated with utmost care and respect.
Beginning with the Early Childhood Intervention Programme, which caters to children from birth to 6 years of age, the staff will work with students to improve the development of their fine and gross motor skills, language, reading, writing, and early number skills, as well as self help and social skills. Before enrolment, every child is assessed to determine his/her level of competency, and an Individualized Education Plan is then custom made to best meet his/her needs.
Those who graduate from the Early Childhood Intervention Programme are then eligible to join the School Aged Programme, which is meant for children ages 7 to 12. This programme prepares students for school, and also acts as a supplement or support to those who have already been enrolled into special needs or mainstream schools.
The curriculum at Wings is designed in such a way that it is both fun and practical for the children. From classroom settings with multimedia whiteboards and one-on-one sessions to playing with water and all sorts of games that would aid in their development, these children are able to learn while enjoying their activities.
Thanks to the local community’s support and generosity, the center is fully equipped with a wide variety of toys and games that can be used as teaching and coaching tools. As a matter of fact, they have been blessed with so many resources that their library of materials is now open to the public for loan.
Finally, there is The Young Adults Programme: The newest and most exciting programme at this point! Many of the children who went through the Early Childhood Intervention and School Aged Programmes were left with limited options after they left Wings, and so in 2012, the center started a new programme for young adults from age 18 to 25.
The programme focuses on life skills, and aims to bring these young adults to a point of independent/assisted living. After hours of careful experimentation and recording of steps, the instructors have come up with several different step-by-step instructional recipes that these young adults can follow, and cook with minimal supervision.
Every day, they make their own lunch, clean up the kitchen, and then sit down together to eat.
The Young Adults Programme has also started a car wash. People of the public can send their cars in for a full vacuum and wash for a standard price. By teaching and equipping them with practical skills like cooking and cleaning, Wings hopes that these young adults will eventually be able to seek employment outside the safety net of the center.
Even as the programmes continue to take off, Wings is looking into expanding and becoming a self-sustaining organization. With the likely possibility that the Young Adults Programme will continue to do well, Wings is looking into partnerships with other organizations that could result in financial benefit, or to open up an actual café or car wash business so that these young adults are able to not only make a living for themselves, but bring in enough to eventually support the center.
The center is also looking to close up the gap that currently exists, as there is no programme for teenagers from 13 to 17 years of age. One main reason for this is the lack of manpower. While the need is great, the laborers are scarce, and so the staff and committee members have been reaching out to the community in search of committed and passionate individuals who have been called to work with individuals with special needs—either to volunteer or to join their team on a full-time basis.
To say that my time at Wings was a blessing would be an understatement. While I have known about this center since it’s incipience, seeing it for myself was a whole other experience. As the staff continues to live out their vision to reach, empower, and transform, anyone who goes through their programmes will continue to receive the kind of attention and education they deserve. It truly was a joy to see them be productive with their time and energy, and to see them carry out their activities with unmasked smiles on their faces!
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