By Yeo Jing Wei
Mr Danny Ong, one of our longtime volunteers for swimming, won the Rotary Club of Suntec City’s “Inspire” Volunteer Award this year. In this exclusive interview, he shares more about his volunteer experience and his feelings towards winning the award.
Currently, you are a swimming instructor at Aquafins. So what is your greatest satisfaction gained from teaching people with disability to swim?
“To see one suffer the pain of movement from point A to B on land, saddens me a lot. The greatest satisfaction I get is to see them move freely in water.”
How would you like your students to apply the skills you’ve taught them in their daily lives after the completion of the swimming lessons?
“The programme offered by AquaFins, is not just about swimming. In AquaFins, we build up the confidence level of swimmers. Once the confidence is built by instilling upon them that they have control over their body, the person will excel in other fields as he or she will feel more at ease in performing tasks. We also impart moral values in class. For example, children with a disability must be grateful to their parents. At the end of each lesson, we will want to see our students hugging and giving a kiss to their mummies or daddies.”
Given your experience as a volunteer for 7 years, do you think that there is anything else that can be done more to help the physically challenged, especially in the sports area?
“It is a definite YES. Singapore can rank first in airport, port or banking. But why can’t we work towards a friendly environment for the physically challenged? This dream can come true.
Transportation is always the greatest challenge for the physically challenged. If this can be solved, more of them will be able to participate in sports. As an ex-special education teacher, I feel that the knowledge that can be imparted during P.E. (Physical Education) for people with special needs is limited. There should be many more dedicated P.E. teachers in Special School in order to improve the quality of service in the area of sports for People with Disabilities.
Coaching people with disabilities in sports like swimming requires more knowledge other than sports. The coach needs to consistently update themselves with knowledge in order to assist them in learning. ”
If you had a chance to redo everything or change your fate, would you change your occupation as a sports instructor?
“I had made that change after 4 and half years of trying to assist People with Disabilities in their needs as a special education teacher and an operation executive in a sheltered workshop. I am now a full-time aquatic trainer for people with special needs. Working on my own is the only way to assist them in improving the quality of their lives.”
I’m sure many of your students want to thank you for your willingness to sacrifice. Given a chance, who do you want to thank?
“I would always express my gratitude to my mummy, my wife, my mentor - Dr Lok from NTU and all my past and present students. Without them, I will not be who I am today. I want to thank my family for supporting my decision for staying in this line. I will not be volunteering if not because of Dr Lok. You might wonder why I thank my students. Without them, I would not learn so much or be so innovative in creating different ways to coach, teach and communicate with them. They are not only my students, but also my teachers. Thank you and I love you all.”
Did the award come as a surprise for you? What were your initial feelings/thoughts when you first realized you attained the award?
“Yes, as I never expected any return for what I had done. I’m glad that my efforts are recognized and I wish to dedicate this award to all my past and present students. Without them, this award is meaningless.”
Any special plans in the future or are there any new initiatives for the physically challenged in the making?
“Well, there is currently a lot of unfinished work in this area. I would like to continue to educate the public on the disabled, and work with more students to expand my learning.
I would like to quote Mother Teresa who once said, “We can’t do great things, we only can do small things with Great Love.”
We must do things with love and passion, this will lead to a greater height than you can even imagine.”
A swimming instructor who has had rich experience coaching people with disabilities, Danny understands the needs and methods of teaching people across different types of disabilities. This knowledge comes from not only his relentless learning of various overseas programmes that focuses on adaptive swimming, but also, arises from his real-life experience from teaching young kids to adults of all abilities.
As an instructor for SDSC’s Learn-to-Play (Swimming)
programme and several swimming workshops, Danny has been praised frequently by swimmers and parents for his patient teaching that put even the shyest young swimmers at ease.
SDSC congratulates Danny on his award win and wishes him the best in enabling more people with disabilities to uncover their talents.