14 November 2017
By Wong Jeng Teng
As a familiar name and an inspiration to many persons with disabilities in Singapore, TeamSG Long Jumper Suhairi Suhani was invited to attend the inaugural SUN-DAC Walkathon last Sunday, an event centred on the spirit of social inclusiveness.
SUN-DAC, a local organisation set up to serve and care for persons with disabilities, organised the three-kilometre long walkathon to bridge stronger levels of understanding within the community.
TeamSG Long Jumper Suhairi Suhani joining Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Desmond Lee
“We wanted to hold this walkathon to promote social inclusiveness, because we serve people with disabilities, so we wanted everyone to come in and interact with them, to understand what they go through daily, and also get to know one another,” shared Peng Hai Ying, executive director of SUN-DAC.
“A lot of times, persons with disabilities may be put down by others, and the public don’t understand them. Here, we are trying to do it very differently. We’re trying to tell them that if you try, you can [understand each other], so let’s try together,” she continued.
Peng added that having Suhairi at the event certainly helped to inspire others taking part, showing everyone that persons with disabilities can achieve excellence in the things they do.
“(Suhairi) is the pride of Singapore! We’re all very proud of him, and to have him come is actually our honour. He’s an inspiration to everyone here,” she said.
The Paralympian kicked off the day’s events by leading participants in an enthusiastic dance warm-up, before flagging off the walk alongside guest-of-honour, Minister for Social and Family Development, Desmond Lee.
L to R: Executive Director of SUN-DAC Ms Peng Hai Ying, TeamSG Long Jumper Suhairi Suhani, Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Desmond Lee and Chairman of SUN-DAC Mr Peter Low
When asked how he felt about attending the walkathon, the ASEAN Para Games silver medallist said: “I feel grateful to SUN-DAC for giving me the opportunity. It was a very good morning session!”
As an intellectually-disabled athlete, Suhairi was also keen to spread awareness of just how capable persons with disabilities could be.
“It’s important because some Singaporeans do not know what intellectual disability is. That’s what I love to do, to talk to people and tell them what is intellectual disability, and what we are capable of,” he said.
“It’s good to be [here at this event as] a role model to people with disabilities, to tell them not to look down [on themselves] because of what those in the mainstream [might think or] say, to be brave, and to just continue working hard for their future,” said Suhairi.
Suhairi leading the dance warm-up on stage
The walkathon also marked the official opening of SUN-DAC’s third centre in Upper Thomson, where Lee unveiled a plaque alongside SUN-DAC Chairman, Peter Low.
“The new centre has raised the bar for the quality of programmes we are able to offer,” Low shared.
Touring the Upper Thomson centre, Suhairi got to see the facilities in the new compound, which included a mini rock-climbing wall, a gym, and even a mock-up living room to help persons with disabilities learn everyday functional skills.
Leading the tour, Peng shared that SUN-DAC was trying to promote higher health literacy for persons with disabilities and their families, and to encourage more physical activity at their centres.
“In our centre, we have fitness programmes and weight-loss programmes – we do Zumba with our clients! Now, we also have a gym, so we can really [get] them to exercise,” she said, adding that many clients have asked to be more active as they have been inspired by Suhairi.
Suhairi posing for a photo with a SUN-DAC Walkathon participant
“Some of our participants have been coming to me and asking [about] what Suhairi does, [as they hope to] do something similar. [His accomplishments are] something for persons with disabilities to aspire towards,” Peng pointed out.
With Suhairi and other TeamSG athletes, there is certainly no need for persons with disabilities to look far at all for inspiration or conviction in their abilities.
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