MIRI: Sarawak Oil Palms Bhd (SOPB), through its partnership with Get Equip’d – an Australian-based non-profit organisation – has launched a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme slated for children with special needs.
The ‘SOPB-Get Equip’d Rehabilitation Programme’ started off yesterday with the donation of 20 specially-designed wheelchairs to the Association of Parents of Children with Special Needs (Pibakis) here, and another 10 to patients at the occupational therapy ward of Miri Hospital.
According to SOPB chief operating officer Eric Kiu, the programme aims to enrich the lives of children with special needs and also to help take the burden off their parents who cannot afford the wheelchairs.
Moreover, it also encourages professional development in the area of paediatric disability here, with the help from the experts from Australia.
“We intend to supply the equipment and at the same time, Get Equip’d will provide its expertise in this area of healthcare, which will include the training of local talents to give treatment to the patients.
“This CSR programme is a first for SOPB; however, we have been working with them (Get Equip’d) for more than five years. They have been here often over the past several years (providing expertise) to both Pibakis PDK (community-based rehabilitation centre) and Miri Hospital.
“Therefore the next thing in our pipeline is to bring them in to stay on much longer – perhaps between two and three months – so that they could impart their knowledge on the techniques and share their expertise with the local communities here, whom we hope could catch up with some of the latest information relating to occupational therapy,” Kiu told reporters here, adding that another long-term objective would be to get all members of the public to integrate individuals with disability into society.
“Nowadays, many people tend to stay at a distance from individuals with disability. Therefore, our plan is to send out positive messages that we, the able-bodied people should not only help them, but also encourage them to live a normal life just like everyone else.”
Meanwhile, Get Equip’d chief executive officer Dr Dayna Pool said Get Equip’d was established in 2011 with the aim of improving the mobility of individuals with disability through innovation and training.
“When we first came to Miri, we realised that a lot of children with mobility disability did not have wheelchairs – they simply could not go anywhere. So over the few years, we have been thinking on how we could address that,” said Dr Pool, who is also a physiotherapist and a clinical director at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth, Australia.
Adding on, she stressed that among the key focus areas for Get Equip’d was to build partnerships with local hospitals and PDKs, as well as major corporate sponsors, in providing the necessary equipment for the children with special needs here.
“Our aim is to have an equipment programme that runs here to ensure that all children would be able to get the necessary equipment to help them in their daily lives and at the same time, to provide training for students from Australia, especially those majoring in physiotherapy and occupational therapy as well as the medical students.
“The idea is to build a partnership between Miri and Perth and of course, we hope that by coming here every three to four months, it would help raise the awareness. We are also looking for sponsors to fund the equipment.”
Dr Pool said it had been ‘extremely difficult’ to observe the hardship of parents with disabled children.
“Parents have to do everything – carrying the children everywhere and looking after their every need – that they (parents) just couldn’t do things for themselves any more. So we hope that through our small effort in providing mobility equipment and therapy, it could help improve their quality of life.”
Dr Pool recently led a team of volunteer physiotherapists and occupational therapists in conducting a two-day seating clinic with Pibakis Miri and Miri Hospital’s occupational therapy unit. The programme was among many run by the SOPB CSR Team – in addition to the ‘Vision Care’, ‘Young Achievers Awards’, ‘Student Adoption’ and ‘SOPB Blood Donation’ programmes.
Miri Hospital deputy director Dr Alice Tiong Min Lee, occupational therapist Leonardo Gnavi who is also Get Equip’d’s equipment specialist, Get Equip’d logistics officer Edward Pool and volunteers were present at the handover of the wheelchairs yesterday.