Never had I envisioned that I could do so many things within the span of one year. 2006 will go down in my annals as a year of getting educated and one that was never short of excitement. It had been one wild ride from day one into the new year. It was also one of many firsts and the initiation into new concepts of rights and self-empowerment.
This year has seen me travelling more than I have ever done in my entire life. I was in Tokyo for two weeks under the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) Counterpart Training for Independent Living Programme for People with Disabilities in January. Barely one month after returning from Japan, I spent three weeks in Bangkok attending the Training of Managerial Personnel of Independent Living Centres (ILC) and Peer-Counselors for People with Disabilities organised by the Asia-Pacific Development Centre on Disability (APCD).
Apart from that, I have lost count of how many times I commuted between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. While Penang is still where my heart is, I have been in Kuala Lumpur ten of the twelve months of this year. Apparently, my affection for the island is gradually fading as many facets of my life have slowly taken root in the city. Friends have asked if I were going to settle down in Kuala Lumpur but my answer invariably was always the negative. Yet, in back of my head, I knew there will come a day I can no longer deny the calling of the metropolis.
The trainings in Tokyo and Bangkok sufficiently prepared me to become a Resource Person on Independent Living and Peer Counsellor Trainer. With that knowledge I assisted two resource persons from the Human Care Association Japan to conduct a five-day Independent Living and Peer Counselling Workshop in Kuala Lumpur in June. Subsequent to that, I conducted further trainings in Penang with a group of disabled persons with the intention of establishing a Centre for Independent Living. In August, Sin Chew Daily organised one three-hour seminar in Penang and another in Kuala Lumpur where I introduced the concept of Independent Living to disabled persons, their families and non-governmental organisations.
In July, New Straits Times and Jaring collaborated in a project that gave birth to Monster Blog. Malaysian bloggers writing on diverse issues were invited to contribute to the blog. I was given a slot on Tuesdays to write about Independent Living and disability related issues. As I wrote in the introduction, it was a journey of self discovery as I explored through my writings how disabled persons are viewed by society in general. Judging from the responses to some of the posts, Malaysia is still far away from being an inclusive society where disabled persons are treated as equals.
July was also the month an article I wrote entitled “Enabling Technologies” was published in PC.COM. Many thanks to Erna, the editor of the magazine, who gave me the opportunity to share how technology could enhance the life of disabled persons. Another article I wrote featuring fellow blogger Tony Pua was published in the August – September issue of Surf. This writing assignment came about after Oon Yeoh wrote about me in 2005 in Sun2Surf, the online edition of The Sun newspaper.
2006 is also the year that I began to reclaim back my life after giving up many parts of it to spinal cord injury. Wuan is instrumental in this endeavour. She egged me on to dress up more fashionably. From three pairs of specially tailored baggy trousers, I have began to add pants of various hues to my wardrobe in addition to long sleeved shirts that I gave up wearing because of the fuss in putting them on. However, the biggest challenge that she had thrown at me was to drive a car again. This is yet an unrealised dream but she made the dare easier by getting a car and installed a hand control kit adapted to my needs.
When I posted an entry about the wheelchair that I would love to own, I received an email from Grace, a Malaysian who has been staying in the USA since 1986. She offered to pay for the Kuschall Airlite Pro. That proposition touched me deeply but I could not possibly accept such an expensive gift. Truly, the world needs many more angels like Grace to make it a better one. Grace, may God bless you abundantly for you to pass on your generosity to those who are truly in need.
The wraping up of the year cannot be complete without mentioning the people who have touched my life. First off are William and Cynthia who got married in May. Congratulations again. I have known them as long as I have known Wuan. We all started as IRC buddies in 1998. They have never failed to respond to our call for company or silly adventures. They have been our movie companions on many Saturdays at 1-Utama’s GSC and TGV. One word aptly describes this couple – trustworthy. They can be counted on no matter what the situation.
Kuan Aw, Christine, Wing Hon and Kenji are very recent friends who have given me an opportunity to realise my potential. Likewise, I would also like to credit my friends from the Human Care Association in Japan, namely Shoji Nakanishi, Emiko Nakahara, Hiroko Akiyama, Aiko Tsutsumi and Hiroaki Furihata for my growth in this field. These people are all my mentors in disability issues. They were the ones who had taken the time and effort to nurture me and made me understand why it is important to advocate for a better future for disabled persons in Malaysia. Without their patience in guiding me, I would not have gone as far and done as much. Thank you. Arigato gozaimasu.
This has been an extremely busy year. Below is the list of conferences and events that took up much of my time:
Two trainings organised by JICA and JKMM (How To Conduct A Seminar Effectively and Training For Participatory Workshop)
Two events organised by the Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga dan Masyarakat (Family Strengthening Workshop and Real Access For Life Roundtable)
Two events organised by BAKTI-MIND (Launching Of The MIND Website, BAKTI-MIND 2nd Annual Conference)
Two events under BEAT (Accessible Public Transport Awareness Campaign and International Day Of Disabled Persons Rally For Accessible Transport)
Charter 2000 – Aliran Roundtable on Internet Media
Meeting with Datuk Dr. Ng Yen Yen at Parliament House under BEAT regarding accessible public transport
2006 has not only been a fruitful year. It is a year that has witnessed me developing from a neophyte to a maturing activist in the field of disability issues. I still have a lot more to learn and even a lot more to do. Thank God for Wuan who had patiently drove me around to participate in all the events. Without her, I would not have been able to do much. I can foresee that 2007 will be an even busier year as I will be going full steam to promote Independent Living and establish a Centre for Independent Living. Nevertheless, I know it will be a year that I will enjoy more as I will be doing things that I love and believe in. Truly, his has been a year of many answered prayers. The direction going forward is very clear now. All this is only possible with His blessings. Gloria in Excelsis Deo.