To Bring People into Community
It was in the late 1980s that Mr Brian Jenner began serving on the COH Board. In the 1990s, he became its President. Journeying with COH for nearly thirty years, he is an important individual in an unbroken line of committed volunteers who have served faithfully at the organisation from its infancy till today.
One constant theme rings through for Brian and COH-To bring people with special needs out of isolation.
First, they reached out to the neighbourhood wherever they sojourned -Ang Mo Kio, Seng Poh Road, Owen Road, and Jalan Tembusu.
When it was time to move into the HDB heartlands, they were ready.
Setting up an Emmanuel Activity Centre in Tampines in 2008 during Brian’s tenure as President, was a significant milestone for COH. It brought people with special needs even closer to the community.
COH’s Development and Brian’s Dedication
This timeline celebrates COH’s development through the years and Brian’s dedication to helping people with special needs find acceptance in society.
Founded in 1979, COH was a pioneer in reaching out to people with special needs. It set up a humble Children Activity Centre within Ang Mo Kio Social Service Centre in 1983, offering immense relief to many families. For the first time, their children had a life outside the home, and peers to interact with.
From the 1980s, COH grew in capacity and developed new services wherever it shifted to–first Seng Poh Road and then Owen Road. In order to meet the evolving needs in the special needs community, it started programmes for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, and other conditions.
In 1988, COH opened Emmanuel Activity Centre -its first centre for adults with special needs- at Owen Road. It was housed in an old school building, near a public housing estate.
In 2008, Emmanuel Activity Centre moved into Tampines, bringing it in close proximity to the average HDB flat dweller. Entering the heartlands was a significant step for COH. It allowed the clients to be more fully integrated into a community. Besides attending the Centre, they visited nearby coffee shops with the Staff, went for walks in the park, and borrowed books at libraries.
Unfortunately, some residents in the estate were initially resistant to having special needs adults around. They were unfamiliar with how the clients behaved and did not know how to interact with them. At times, shopkeepers and stallholders got frustrated with the clients for holding up queues.
But, everyone at COH worked together to win over the neighbourhood. Together with community partners, COH held outreach and advocacy events. In the course of their work, the staff chatted with anyone willing to listen and dispelled myths about special needs adults. More significantly, the residents were touched by the way the staff took care of the clients. As they were loved, the clients blossomed before the residents’ eyes.
The clients pitched in too. Some of them participated in community activities and art programmes. At times, they went as volunteers to teach residents craftwork using recycled materials. In partnering schools, community organisations and corporate volunteers, more people got a chance to interact with COH clients.
In 2009, another Emmanuel Activity Centre was opened in Toa Payoh.
By 2016, COH was planning for another centre.
At the end of 2016, Brian will be passing the baton to a new President. He will remain on the COH Board as the Immediate Past President to ensure continuity in COH’s development.
The good work at COH will continue.
“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”Shannon L. Alder
Visit COH’s Website (About page) for a complete timeline.
About the Author: The COH Resource Team comprises volunteers, content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals.