George the giraffe has been parading around school in the last few weeks, as a group of dedicated Victorians tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness for him and the Special Needs. But did you ever wonder how George was born (no double meaning intended here) or how Project Endurè came about?
At the end of last year, two Interact members decided that they wanted to take their commitment to helping the Special Needs to another step. They swiftly drafted a proposal, contacted the relevant organisations in APSN and Connectuz and recruited 5 other members into the team; concrete planning for the project started as early as in February this year. The name Endurè was meant to signify endurance and perseverance exemplified by those with Special Needs, who face many problems in their daily interactions with the environment and others around them.
Of course, there were numerous obstacles which the team themselves had to surmount, such as one of the two original members having to withdraw from the project owing to external commitments and issues, and the fact that APSN was not a recognised beneficiary of VJC meant that the team did not have the luxury of open support from the school committee. The numerous limitations in place ensured that the journey was full of ups and downs as ideas had to be continuously refined and altered.
However, the Endurè team have worked extremely hard to make their campaign a success, stepping up efforts in publicity and planning of events. In the midst of this process, one fine Saturday morning, a part of the team was at the house of Soh Je Yeong (15S43) working on the billboards which would be carried around school in subsequent weeks. Benjamin Chew (15S44) suggested giving the giraffe a name that would allow Victorians to relate better to, and Germaine Lee (15S61) suggested that he be called George. Thus, George the giraffe was born.
So, just who are the Special Needs?
“We have seen numerous VIA (values in action) and community involved projects aimed at helping the elderly, families with lower income or children with troubled backgrounds. This makes the initiative by the Endurè team all the more unique as too little attention are being dedicated to the Special Needs, so let’s support this project together,” says Mr Jonathan Liew of the GP department. Indeed, the rather cryptic term of “special needs” does not help others understand more about this particular group of beneficiaries.
“The Special Needs are a group of people with under average IQ usually below 70, and some also suffer from other forms of intellectual disabilities, such as Autism and Prader-Willis Syndrome,” commented Je Yeong, the project leader of Endurè. “We want this this project to be something special for both the Special Needs and Victorians. Beyond just simply raising awareness for this group of people amongst the Victorian community, we want to empower the Special Needs, and show people that if provided sufficient support and encouragement, they too can find their roles in society and help to contribute to it.”
But even by its standards, Project Endurè stands out in the goals it sets for itself. “For most VIA projects, the key feature is in the experience itself, but that vanishes very quickly immediately after the interaction with the target group. The main idea behind this project is to empower a core group of Victorians, or ambassadors, that can continue helping the Special Needs specifically for generations of Victorians to come,” Jolene Chia (15S39) added.
Project Endurè comprises 3 main stages: Experience, Embolden and Empower. The first stage, Experience, took place during the first and second weeks of May, planned punctiliously by Jolene and Fiona Lee (15A11) . Approximately 60 ambassadors were recruited through a google form disseminated to the school via email. 2 separate trips were made, with Victorians working with the Special Needs on both occasions to interact with the elderly at 2 separate elderly care centres. Termed the ‘VIA in a VIA’ by Fiona, Experience aimed at not simply helping the elderly, but also the Special Needs in hope that they too can realize the importance of contributing to the community and helping others.
Another ambassador, Dexter Low (15S39), said that, “It was a very interesting event that managed to put two diverse at need groups together, and bond them in simple but fun activities. Initially it was slightly difficult because I couldn’t understand certain words and phrases, but over time it grew better as we used hand gestures and other methods to try and communicate and overcome that barrier. In my case, I actually managed to connect with this elderly through origami. So it’s through simple gestures that we can connect.”
We talked to Elycia Lu (15S63), on her experience working with the Special Needs. “After interacting with the clients and seeing how they interact with the elderly, I was surprised by their ability to work in a team and communicate well with others. The APSN clients were also friendly and approachable, which made me change my perception of them. It would be great if more people could have the opportunity to interact with the APSN people, because they would realise that these people are very much just like us. People with mental disabilities aren’t crippled. Although they may need some assistance in performing certain activities, they still strive hard to do their tasks to the best of their abilities and I find that really admirable.”
The next 2 stages of the campaign, Embolden and Empower, will take place in the last week of May and after the June holidays, where a collaboration with Victoria School will also be carried out. Embolden, the second stage, aims for Victorians to push themselves to the limit in completing a plank challenge, with 100 hours of planks accumulated the target. Donations will be made by sponsors to APSN for each milestone reached at particular accumulated durations of planks by the whole Victorian community. Empower, meanwhile, is a donation drive aimed at raising funds for donation to APSN; drawstring bags with the Endurè logo will be sold, with the price still tentative.
The Victorian Press wishes the Endurè team all the best in their present and future efforts to raise awareness for the Special Needs and inspire other Victorians to empower them to give back to the community!
Check out the awareness video by the Endurè team here:
Follow the Endurè instagram account @endure_2016 and check out their website here:
Benjamin Chew, 15S44
Ajay Nair, 15S63