Hope and jobs: Ipoh NGO's help to those with learning disabilities for past 20 years

Sylvia Looi
The Ray of Hope cafe provides sheltered employment to trainees who suffers from learning disabilities. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Nov 12 — For nearly two decades, a non-governmental organisation at Bercham, Perak has been a beacon of hope for people with learning disabilities.

From early intervention programmes for students as young as six months, the NGO aptly called Ray of Hope (ROH) has many programmes including training and sheltered employment.

Sheltered employment is typically work arrangement for people with disabilities in a self-contained work site without having to integrate with non-disabled workers.

Among those who have benefited from its good work is Jason Ng Foo Guan, who has been with the organisation for the past 19 years.

He started with its supplementary programme and the 28-year-old graduated and is now a supervisor at a sheltered employment cafe run by ROH.

Jason Ng Foo Guan says he's s happy and proud to be working at Ray of Hope cafe, where he is the supervisor. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Ng, who has learning disabilities, says he was happy and proud to be working at the cafe.

“The customers encourage and praise me for my work. This helps in reminding me that I am a capable person and one day I will be able to be a part of the society,” said the soft-spoken man.

ROH chairman Datin Mary Lim said the organisation aims to provide hope for disabled people.

“We aspire to integrate them into the society. Our main purpose is to provide training for the disabled but the training emphasises more on fun and play,” she said.

She added that the organisation wanted to impart living skills to the students as many of them were unable to carry out basic tasks when they first started in programmes run by ROH.

Ray of Hope chairman Datin Mary Lim (right) says the organisation wants to impart living skills to students who are certified with learning disabilities. — Picture by Farhan Najib

She said it was also the organisation’s intention to train them to the point where they would be able to obtain the Allowance for Disabled Workers under the Welfare Department.

This amount is a RM400 monthly allowance for disabled people, who are employed.

Since opening its doors in 2001, ROH, which takes in children who have conditions such as Down Syndrome, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or brain damage from a lack of oxygen, has trained 347 students.

Besides helping people with special needs, the organisation also enables individuals like Ng's mother, Shareen Ng to bond with him.

Shareen, who volunteers at the cafe, said she was able to witness the students progress during their time at ROH.

“They get praises and encouragement from customers. The students have become disciplined and cheerful,”added the 62-year-old.

In conjunction with the coming Christmas celebration, Ray of Hope will be selling biscuits, pastries and cakes. — Picture by Farhan Najib

In conjunction with Christmas, the organisation will be selling biscuits, pastries and cakes made at its bakery, to raise funds.

The bakery is also part of the organisation's sheltered training programme.

Items that can be purchased include biscotti, gingerbread, cranberry, chocolate chip cookies, shortbread, fruitcake and gelato.

These can be packed as corporate gifts using personalised handiwork or artwork of trainees.

During the Christmas week, the cafe will also have special grills and inhouse made gelatos with local fruit flavours.

“Apart from in-house meals, our cafe also caters to corporate events complete with buffet set up, utilising crockery and cutlery that are environmentally friendly,” added Lim.

The bakery and cafe are halal certified. The cafe is open daily from 9am to 5pm, except for Sunday.

For details, contact ROH at 05-5488796 or email: ray.of.hope@gmail.com or visit its Facebook page Ray of Hope Ipoh.

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