Adrian Heok | SPD - Singapore

Ways to help

adrian heok



    Volunteer English tutor Adrian Heok shares with us the story of his friendship with his buddy Wesley Wee, a client with cerebral palsy in this article published in the April 2007 issue of ExtraPage.


    Photo of Adrian with WesleyI would have been the last person on earth to volunteer my time for any cause other than those for my own happiness. Recently freed from the restraint of a regular work schedule, I was hell bent on satisfying the many pleasures of the senses, pursuing every conceivable distraction to its wretched end. Although indulging in the decadent lifestyle of a student again, I was plagued and trapped in the numbing purgatory of inanity. Something was missing somewhere and I could not put my finger on it.


    One day, an ex-colleague said she too was tired of the mindless existence she was leading in the office and sought to find something more meaningful to apply herself to. She had given up a brilliant career where we used to work and I wanted to find out what could be better than where she was at.

    Presented with an invitation to visit her at her new work place, and not one to willingly pass up on the chance for a free meal, I found myself heading towards the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) one balmy afternoon.


    For any who enters the quiet estate of Tiong Bahru, surrounded by Art Deco style shop houses and apartments, verdant foliage and the occasional call of local birds, an immediate sense of serenity descends and engulfs them in its charm: Transporting those who seek solace to a sanctuary far removed from the maddening crowd.


    The walk from the MRT station to SPD takes one through the oldest public housing estate in Singapore and one of the most delightful settings of architectural forms. Sheltered by the lush canopy provided by giant trees, I strolled into the heart of the estate, past coffeeshops that seem trapped in time, recalling my childhood when life was not as hurried and mercenary.


    My friend took me to the Specialised Assistive Technology Centre and it was there that I met Wesley for the first time. He is 28, has cerebral Palsy and greeted me with a big smile. Pounding on the keyboard attached to his wheelchair called the Pathfinder, we chatted for some time. I found out that he wanted to take an English exam and needed a coach.


    Thoughts of my growing workload and struggling with my own inadequacies, I prayed I would not take up what I could not finish. I returned to SPD a week later to register myself as a volunteer and plunged myself headlong into what was to become a beautiful friendship.


    Our session was simple enough – I run through grammatical rules before we work on exercises from the textbook. In the course of our interaction, I learned love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, qualities that seem to come so naturally to him. It was like osmosis – these virtues permeated my thick skin and numbed skull and even I noticed the difference. Not that I am totally reformed from the wretched creature that I was, but for the first time in my life, I saw how these qualities can manifest themselves and the impact it has on another’s life. It ignited hope that I too might become a better person.


    In time, Wesley showed me the other side of his life in the Cheshire Home, a rehabilitative and residential safe haven. He has many friends there and found great comfort amongst them.


    We stay in adjoining estates in Punggol, and take the occasional romp around the neighbourhood. We visited each other’s family during Chinese New Year and had a great time trading stories and enjoying the cool breeze in the playground. I was happy again.


    On the way back to his home, Wesley made me stop in the middle of an open field and asked if he could call me brother. My reply was a resounding and jubilant “YES”! As we continue our trudge through life, I hope he will see me as an encouragement, as much as I have found him an inspiration.