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Sometimes all you have to do is give your time.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, local non-profit ABLE Singapore is resuming weekly swimming lessons for stroke survivors.
The social service agency, which was founded in 2010, strives to help physically challenged people in Singapore live with dignity and enjoy productive, meaningful, and self-sufficient lives.
It has programmes to aid beneficiaries in their recovery journey and regain independence on their own.
But these programmes need volunteers to function effectively.
Its Stroke Survivor Swimming classes, for example, which started in May 2019, aim to help stroke survivors with their balance, strength, pain management, and recovery process.
“The aqua activities are done to help clients with their balancing, strength, pain management, and serve as a good cardio exercise. As a special-needs coach, I find it very meaningful hearing client testimonies on how this programme has improved their daily lifestyle,” explains swim coach Michael Soong.
Michael is ABLE’s only swimming coach for the stroke survivor class. He spends one hour per person in the pool with clients to know what is the best treatment process for them.
Coach Mike, as the clients call him, was personally recommended by ABLE’s previous partner agency and is certified to work with persons with disabilities.
For now, ABLE has three clients enrolled in the swimming programme but hopes to increase it to six per cycle if more volunteers come forward.
These swimming classes are part of ABLE’s I’mcapABLE programme, which focuses on re-engagement and recreation for clients who have no prior experience of the sport or want to re-learn it.
Aside from I’mcapABLE, ABLE’s Rehabilitation and Training Centre runs two programmes catered to the needs of the physically challenged.
The first is the Return-To-Work Programme, which teaches clients how to be independent and reintegrate into the community through gainful employment; and the Day Rehabilitation Programme, which aims to help clients maximise their independence in caring for themselves at home and navigating safely in their surroundings.
All these programmes run with the help of volunteers.
“Our clients are happy that we started this (swim) programme. The coach is trained to work with people with disabilities and our clients and their caregivers are relieved to know that a professional is equipped with the skills and has patience to help them,” ABLE Singapore programme executive Stephanie Bracken tells The Pride.
The only issue is volume, and while there is no shortage of potential clients, there is a shortage of volunteers. The more volunteers there are, the easier it is to schedule swimming sessions. That’s why ABLE Singapore is making the call for others to chip in.
You only need the heart to help as training will be provided, says Stephanie.
What volunteers will do
Volunteers have three main roles: To accompany clients one-on-one in a learner’s swimming pool; assist the coach in delivering instructions, and mirror these actions for clients.
These volunteers are important as this would give clients the confidence to get into the pool.
Simply being present would encourage these stroke survivors to dare to attempt something new; something they wouldn’t be able to accomplish on their own. A helping hand or a nudge goes a long way.
You are not required to know how to swim as the lessons will be conducted in the learner’s pool. Before you start, you will undergo an induction talk with the swimming coach to prepare yourself to work with the clients.
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Ideally, volunteers would be attached to specific clients to encourage a closer partnership, so there is a certain level of commitment required. ABLE Singapore plans to have four cycles a year, consisting of ten sessions per cycle.
Says Stephanie: “The achievement, at the end of the day for us, is the delight on their faces when they realise how much the lessons have helped them.”
She adds: “Many clients have voiced their excitement to return to the pool as it has helped them in their rehabilitation journey. Some even note that their walking has improved since their stroke.”
Sign up details
For the month of June, volunteers are needed every Thursday from 10am to noon at Pasir Ris Swimming Complex. ABLE has plans to expand the classes, depending on the availability of volunteers.
For more information on volunteering, email [email protected]. This class is specifically catered for ABLE clients. Stroke survivors who would like to attend the classes will have to enrol in ABLE’s rehabilitation services to participate.