Dads in the Special Needs Community – Khor Tuck Kuan

Fe met with 2 trailblazing dads, Khor Tuck Kuan and Roland Tay, who have been lighting the path in the Special Needs community, to build acceptance, respect and a voice for people with disabilities. Here is Khor Tuck Kuan’s story.

Khor , father of one, Creative Director in Advertising Agency, Timmerman and Tan is the man behind the Tree of Life Project, an innovative recycled art initiative by the Christian Outreach to the Handicapped (COH), that platforms advocacy for the handicapped. Read more about his personal dad story here.

DFL: Tell us about the special needs organisation you are involved with

Khor: I’m working with the handicapped clients in COH. This is an organisation that was set up in 1979 and currently serves around 100 handicapped clients, all of whom fall within the lowest range of the disability spectrum.

DFL: Why did you decide to volunteer with that organisation?

Khor: I started with them because there was a need to identify new ways to engage the clients, with the objective of bringing variety, new challenges and a fresh outlook to some of the program activities. I pondered on how I could make a difference and struck upon the idea of using readily available plastic bottle discards that, in the hands of the COH clients, could be turned into displays of art.

It ultimately turned into a surprisingly powerful advocacy vehicle for the handicapped themselves, to address schools and corporate entities with their message on disabilities, using the platform of recycling used plastic bottles and turning them into art.

The handicapped clients from COH have been invited to address around 40 schools and 30 different corporations to date. Their message has been generating an increased awareness about people with disabilities and their potential to be useful citizens, conditions notwithstanding. School children begin to understand the need for the community at large to accept them and assist in providing them with opportunities to contribute and shine in society. Children and teenagers, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are inspired with the message the COH clients so naturally carry with them, that is: “If people with intellectual disabilities can overcome difficulties to make a difference to their communities, so can you.”

It has been a very rich and rewarding experience for me.

The COH clients have become good friends and they are close to my heart.

DFL: Is your family involved in the work?

Khor: They are not directly involved in working with the handicapped as I am. But I would not have been able to do it without their support. My wife allows me to store used plastic bottles and other materials needed for the work, in our home! The time I spend working on the creative as well as teaching aspects of the project is time away from the family. I deeply appreciate that they are with me and for me in this effort.

DFL: What are your hopes for the people you are helping?

Khor: I hope that community will come to realize that the handicapped are no different from anyone else. They have the same humanity as us, regular people, to feel, laugh, cry, love as well as contribute to society.

It’s really all about yardsticks. If the yardsticks currently used to measure a person’s worth and success were changed, from the current marketplace drivers of efficiency, productivity and profitability, to a person’s ability to touch hearts and change lives; then the handicapped ones such as those in COH would rank on top – above many of us in the “able” world.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 14-08-2013