Tucked in a residential area in Jalan Kelapa in Sibu and unknown to many is a workshop for spinal cord injury patients.
For three days in a week on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, family members of patients who are paralysed waist down would send their loved ones to the centre.
Arriving at the centre, family members — sometimes volunteers — help to push those on wheelchairs to the one-room centre.
Tiong Hui Kiong, 37, has found that life has become more meaningful since the setting up of the workshop.
Before that her only world is her family’s home where she has no one to talk to except her family.
“Before the opening of the centre I had no place to go. I was always at home and life was very boring.
“At this place, I have friends whom I can talk to and share my problems with. It is a good place to spend my time on,” she said.
Tiong was an able person before tragedy struck. She was then a staff of a prominent bank here for eight years.
One day in 2004 she woke up from her sleep and was unable to stand up. Then it dawned on her that she had become paralysed from an incident that happened seven years before that day.
On that fateful day, her family’s wooden house suddenly collapsed, the wooden cupboard with her clothes inside fell over and landed on her while she was sleeping. Except for some pain in her body, she was okay, not until seven years later.
Tiong found a friend at the workshop — Ting Huong Hua, also 37.
Ting was once a worker of a manufacturing plant in Singapore. That time he was only 17 years old.
One day he came back to Sibu for a break. As luck had it, he met with a road accident and was paralysed.
At the workshop, the two of them, along with several others, would talk the hours away as they made toys and mouse traps. Initially they were taught how to go about the task until they are truly skilful.
Before the setting up of the workshop, these wheelchair-bound citizens had nowhere to go, often confined to their own world and feeling dejected and depressed.
They would lay in their beds all day long, thinking how cruel life was to them.
As the years passed, their plight dented their confidence level, so much so that most of them even gave up the hope of living a decent life.
With what little hope they had having turned to despair, some even considered suicide.
Then came a ray of hope when Liu Bee Sang came into the picture. To the wheelchair-bound folk, it was like he was God-sent.
Liu, 42, was born a normal person. When he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Japan, the world was at his feet.
He had a promising job, but his world turned upside down when he met with a road accident more than two years ago.
He was driving his family to Kuching when an accident with another car changed his life forever. The accident criticaly injured his spinal cord and he became paralysed.
He woke up from his hospital bed and was shocked when he could not move his two legs. They were senseless.
However, he was not throwing in the towel, as he believed the numbness on his legs was only temporary and he would walk normally one day.
Liu and his 41-year-old teacher wife, Amanda Ting, flew to Taiwan to seek treatment to help him get back to normal.
“In Taiwan, I tried to get an answer to my problem, but no one could give me one. Then I saw that there were 20 to 30 people who were like me. It was then that I knew I was paralysed for good,” he recalled.
In Taiwan he learned a useful lesson that instead of feeling down and out due to his physical incapability, he must fight on his own to survive.
He thought this through and through, and learned not to be depressed.
He gathered all his strength to be positive and when he had all he wanted, he came back and formed the Sibu Spinal Cord Injury Association.
Liu went round meeting people of his kind and got them to join the association.
To date, he has managed to get 30 wheelchair-bound persons to become association members. The oldest member is 72 years old while the youngest is just five years old.
His intention of forming the association is to help wheelchair users to not become too dependent on others.
The association gives counselling services to the members to help build their confidence, and to organise skills training courses with the view to making them financially strong.
Of his association members, Liu said they were born normal, but confined to wheelchairs because of accidents. Some were paralysed after falling from trees and buildings.
“Seriously, before we set up the association, most of our members were just staying at home waiting to die,” he said.
Liu said the first thing he did in his crusade to help them was to convince them to get out of their cell. He told them to mix with others so as to get rid of all their negative thoughts.
He said he even encouraged them to attend seminars as he often did, hoping to learn things he needs to bring his three children — a 12-year-old boy and two girls aged 13 and 15 — up.
“They need all the positive vibes to see the world in a good light,” Liu said, adding that setting up the workshop was perhaps his biggest achievement.
At the workshop, they not only can earn some money from making toys and mouse traps and cages, but are slowly gaining their confidence in life.
Liu feels the workshop is something of a rehabilitation for his fellow members.
Each toy sells for RM15. On average, each person can make two toys a day.
“The income from the sale of the toys and mouse traps might not be that big, but it does keep them hopeful, always looking forward to another day,” Liu said.
Liu said his next move was to get employers to hire them in any job that they can do.
He said his dream now was to set up a nursing home so that he could take in several more wheelchair-bound people.
“I have a request from 20 others from Sarikei. I really hope that I could get a bigger place to accommodate them one of these days,” Liu said.
He said he had submitted an application to the local authority to give him a piece of land to construct a building for a nursing home.
He said he was not thinking of renting, which would be expensive in the long run, besides renovation that could cost a bomb.
Liu is also looking for volunteers to help members move around and hoping that someone or a corporate organisation would donate a van for their use.
His other task is to get government departments and agencies, including shopping complexes, to make their premises friendly to all disabled.
“In Sibu it is difficult for wheelchair-bound people to move around as most buildings are built for able persons only. Buildings here do not have ramps for wheelchairs except for an international bank.
“My other request is for the local council to give more parking spaces for the disabled,” he said.