Saturday, September 12, 2009

WEEKEND VIEW: 900 Dogs + 3000 People = Fun Day Out In UPM

ALTHOUGH nearly a month has passed since I participated at a special event that was held on the grounds of Universiti Putra Malaysia in Selangor, I still can’t forget how much fun I had there.

And it wasn’t just me alone who had such a roaring time.

All of my friends – numbering more than a dozen guys and gals mostly in wheelchairs, and some with walking sticks and the elderly – had a whale of a time too.

We were specially invited to a dog-event called Dogathon with more than 900 canines and 3000 people.

The organisers who were the veterinary students of UPM went to great lengths to play excellent hosts to the handicapped.

We had reserved car parks, a wheelchair-accessible mobile toilet, free coupons and meals that included breakfast, brunch and even lunch.

The best treatment yet was that each disabled person was assigned a volunteer to take them around the carnival-like environment.

I don’t recall seeing my pals being happier in any other similar outdoor event.

The volunteers were made up of veterinary students who were beaming from ear to ear as they went on their special mission.

Many of them flooded my email inbox with feedback of their experiences after the event.

Last week, I managed to put them together and thought that I would share with you, my readers, some of the best responses I received.

The feedback serves as testimonial of the fact that doing something good for others does not only benefit the person being helped. The helper also gets blessed in return for his or her kind deed.

Department of Veterinary Science Year One Student Lee Yee Cheng writes:

“Although I’ve helped handicapped people before, I was still nervous about helping people in wheelchairs.

“My main worry was how I was going to push and manoeuvre the wheelchair on the grass as the surface was not particularly difficult for wheelchairs.

“In such a circumstance I wondered if it would be better for me to just ask them for guidance first as I did not want to make my guest feel uncomfortable by my 'over-helping'.

“Luckily everything turned out for the best in the end though I wished there were guide or service dogs around as it would have been interesting to see how our canine pals would have tackled such problems.

“After all, that’s what these incredible dogs do for their disabled owners in overseas countries.”

  • Aisyah, Year Two:

“I don’t know why some people react with pity towards the disabled. For me it was an incredible honour to be able to interact with them just as I did with other people on Dogathon day.

“I think the handicapped ought to be encouraged to keep dogs as pets too, considering the amazing things that canines can do for them such as guiding them around or pulling their wheelchairs.

“I can’t wait to volunteer again next year!”

  • Chan Jia Xin, Year Three:

“It was a tremendous educational experience.

“I managed to learn the proper way of offering my assistance to the disabled and making them happy which also made me extremely happy in return.”

  • Mohd Hafez Bahadom, Year Three:

“Through my interaction with the handicapped, I discovered that the best thing we can do for them is to treat them the way we ourselves like to be treated.”

  • Wendy, Year One:

“I was assigned to take care of a man who was paralysed from his neck down. I was afraid at first as to what I was going to say to him.

“But he surprised me and did all the talking.

“I pleasantly discovered that the disabled are just the same as any other people. They like to talk and share their opinions with anyone who cares to take time and listen.”

  • Lya, Year One:

“The disabled were just as excited as we were to see all the dogs and pat and play with as many as they could. The gentleman that I was assigned too was very nice and friendly. It was very easy to talk to him.

  • Purshyla Manikam, Year Three:

“What a splendid eye-opener. I didn’t know what to expect at first because I had never met or spoken to a disabled person before.

“I never knew how challenging and unfriendly the environment was for people in wheelchairs until I was there with one of them and struggling with the wheelchair.

“Everything in our path seemed like a never-ending obstacle course, especially when little thought is given to the needs of such people.

“And yet, despite the often insurmountable difficulties, the disabled often take things in their stride and carry on with their lives.

“I think that is certainly something we all as non disabled people can learn from them.”

The End

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