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A home for the abandoned, the mentally and physically challenged
April 2, 2005

KUALA LUMPUR – As we, the members of AsiaWorks Leadership Program 94 began that morning, clad in our bright green LP t–shirt, a few things ran through our minds. One was, 'can we create anything worthwhile for these people?' As we realized much later, it wasn't about what we could create to make them happy or how we had planned the day for them. It was indeed about whether THEY would allow us into their lives, into their little worlds they have guarded for so long. For most of them, it was not easy to trust anyone anymore.

We started with breakfast with them. We fed some of them and started talking to them, creating conversations. At this point, it was very much just a one–way communication. They were still reluctant to let these 'strange people in green t–shirts' into their lives. For some, it was a long–awaited excitement, but for most it was just another day. We went on with tai–chi after breakfast, painting t–shirts, and then massages. We could see that some were delighted to get to paint – perhaps this was the first time in years that they were allowed to do anything creative, perhaps it was their first time.  A few more smiles appeared.

It was at the height of the day when the most exciting things just happened. Our karaoke machine did not work, and we were left to our own devices without the comfort of machines and plans. And now the day actually began. Fiat, our in–house musician played his keyboard like never before, Nurul, our in–house entertainer, sang with the special people and then, only then, we saw life! We witnessed that the moment we were 'into' them, they opened up to us. They sang, danced and some even held on to the microphones and wouldn't let go. It was a standing ovation all around.

We gave them massages and they thoroughly enjoyed it. To see Napoleon take the socks off one of them astounded some of us – no inhibitions, just love in action. From then on, everything just went well. There was laughter, conversation, holding of hands. Sometimes we just sat there waiting to learn from them – and there was so much to learn. It wasn't about what we could teach them at all...they taught us about trust, giving, and most of all about how lucky we are to be able to be the ones in the green t–shirts. We take our lives so much for granted that we forget there is another side to it, a side most of us refuse to look at.

As we went around asking them about their dreams and wishes, we learnt that they feel the same things as we do. . They miss home. They miss being with their families. They want sunglasses. They want to go out and be like other people. They want love. They want respect. As we wrote it down on pieces of paper and tied it to the balloons, some of us cried. It was just like them telling us to look at them as normal human beings. Most of the time, we don't. We think we are better. But – we know better now – we are not better than them until and unless we look at them las we look at ourselves. We must treat them how we would treat ourselves and our loved ones. We must love them as we would love ourselves...

As we ended the day with the release of hundreds of wishes tied to the balloons, LP94 hugged each other and told each other that we did well – for them. . It meant much more than just balloons in the air. It was love freed from our inhibition.

Thank you Lovely Nursing Home for being our catalyst for the change we want to see in this world. Love is not love until you give it away.

 

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