The year has been extremely difficult for me. On 16 February 2009, the day COH moved into our second day activity centre at Toa Payoh, my wife left this earth to be with Jesus. Without the grace and love of God, I would not have pulled through the year.
It has been a busy year too, as we continued to settle into our new premises at Toa Payoh town and Tampines town. Being in the heart of the community brings us greater visibility but it also comes with both advantages and challenges.
Suddenly, some in the community objected to our presence. Stemming from prejudice and misunderstanding, such responses are as old as the history of mankind. Nevertheless, these issues must be addressed to achieve understanding and satisfaction for all parties, in order for a sense of equilibrium in the community to prevail.
How do we deal with issues like these at COH?
I wish to be forthright and say that it is extremely delicate as we were founded as a Christian organization with the intention to do good works, alleviate hardship and suffering. Our vehicle is love, and we need to listen to the objections hurled at us – even the most unfounded ones – with a spirit of love, without a hint of confrontation or antagonism.
In humility, we present our case for mutual understanding and co-operation. Peace and harmony are the outcomes we desire. The bridge to these is – follows an old adage – to love neighbour as self.
Crossing into 2010, COH completed 30 years of compassionate care to people with intellectual disabilities. We remain committed and focused (like our founders) on serving people in the lowest end of the spectrum of disabilities.
The way forward for COH (perhaps for the next 30 years) is to stay relevant, and continue to contribute to the collective effort put in by all like-minded voluntary welfare organisations in this big social service family.
We strive to build acceptance across society, removing the divide that still exists between ‘normal’ people and those who are disabled. The wall of separation must be demolished because then only can we talk about offering hope to the disabled and their families.
To make inroads at building acceptance, even if at a very slow pace, we must acquire qualities of inclusiveness and guard against breakdowns in communication, whilst remaining true and faithful to our beliefs. May God help us here!
Let us remain relentless in our pursuit to be outstanding in providing hope and acceptance to people with special needs in Singapore, through God’s Love.
For this we need to have faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is still love!
Message by COH Executive Director, Samuel Koh
First published in Courier of Hope 2009.