Mr Brian Jenner, 64, the current President of COH, is an Englishman who is a self-professed ‘half-Singaporean’. However, one would almost think that he is fully one, considering that two of his favourite things about Singapore are the ‘warm, comfortable’ weather and spicy food like Char Kway Teow and other Malay and Indian delicacies. In fact, when Brian is not being the resident chef at home whipping up recipes ranging from English to Japanese and Chinese food for his family, he can be found tucking in at local hawker centres, where he declares the food to be affordable and extremely flavoursome.
Brian has been a COH Board member for the past 20 years, with the last 12 as its President. Ask how he got started and thrived through all this time, he chuckles and attributes it to a forthright manner and his vocal opinions on how COH can improve. Since his early days of involvement, he has certainly changed much and learned how best to work with Singaporeans.
Brian’s early life saw him travelling the world as a seafarer. He eventually decided to settle in Singapore back in 1976, with his wife, Lorna, a Singaporean. Despite his current full-time work as a professional Marine Consultant, he remains upbeat and passionate about his role at COH year after year, balancing his heavy work and family commitments with a cause that he feels strongly about and readily gives of himself and his time to.
In fact, Brian is an avid supporter of social causes and when he cannot avail his time, he contributes financially. He supports 6 children from various parts of the world via World Vision and travels to meet with them.
Being involved in COH keeps Brian grounded in the local community, where he makes a difference with his skills and experience. He remarks that helping COH clients has always been a fulfilling experience in itself, and they never fail to leave a deep impression on him with their lack of self-consciousness, pretension and inhibitions. Whenever he visits and talks with them, the COH clients shower him with expressions of affection through their smiles and hearty handshakes. Knowing that they are happy and gradually improving at their daily living skills, uplifts and encourages him personally.
In describing his role in COH, Brian sees himself primarily as a bridge-builder. It is the strong connection between COH, the government, and the community, and the forging of an understanding and unity between people from diverse backgrounds, that helps to advance the interests and welfare of the handicapped.
Convicted that community acceptance is vital for COH’s work and ultimately social integration of the handicapped, Brian describes COH’s move from a small one room in 1997 to the busy Toa Payoh and Tampines neighbourhoods where they are today, as one that has allowed clients and community greater opportunity to cross paths, interact and understand each other better. He appreciates how community acceptance and support that the ministry has received has enabled the work at COH. He is also heartened to see public sentiment towards the disabled improving greatly over the years.
Brian believes that giving love and care is the way to bring hope to clients and inspire a positive change in their behaviour, and this forms the core of COH’s mission. His vision for this VWO* is for it to continue to be a beacon of love to the clients, staff, caregivers and community.
He remarks how the COH staff embody the love and care expressed in COH’s mission, and shares how he has been personally touched by the love and dedication of the COH teams in the care they take in performing their duties for the clients, many of whom come from difficult backgrounds. For the staff and regular volunteers at COH, much of their reward is simply the affection that their clients have for them.
For the immediate future, Brian wants to invite more members of the community to take up the challenge of serving as committee members or volunteers. He warmly welcomes one and all to make a difference, whether it is by influencing policy, or through showing care. Ultimately we have the power to inspire hope in others as we join in meeting the needs and showing love to the handicapped, in ways both big or small.
VWO is short for “Voluntary Welfare Organisation
COH would like readers with backgrounds in psychology, law and psychiatry to know that they currently have a need for such expertise in this ministry.
About the Author: The COH Resource Team comprises volunteers, content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals.