BEING wheelchair-bound does not stop Chong Ming Hong from practising an active lifestyle.
He suffers from spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth.
Besides working as an accounts assistant at Johor Baru Shuang Fu Welfare Association, the 28-year-old also heads a “satellite farm” project at a charity home for the disabled.
“My daily tasks include tending to the farming project, which kicked off in late September last year, and going over the home’s expenses.
“There is never a dull day here as I also teach the occupants subjects such as Mathematics and Bahasa Malaysia,” he said at the home in Taman Jaya Mas, Skudai, Johor.
Rather than staying indoors daily because of his condition, Chong who has a degree in commerce accounting said he was not afraid of getting his hands dirty to ensure that the home’s latest farming project runs smoothly.
Chong said the satellite farm concept included growing greens such as perpetual spinach, Brazilian spinach and red watercress using an aquaponic system, and rearing fish in a small pond below.
“With good water and sunlight, we can harvest the vegetables in 10 to 14 days.
“We have about 70 red tilapia growing in the pond, which fertilises the vegetables growing in the aquaponic system,” he said.
He added that the project started after they were approached by a social enterprise called PWD Smart Farmability from Kuala Lumpur.
He said under the guidance and sponsorship of the social enterprise’s founder Dr Billy Tang, the home also grows vegetables in boxes using a terrarium system, which self-regenerates for months without fertilisers, developed by the latter’s team.
Chong also hoped that one day the home could expand the farming project to distribute fresh vegetables and fish to other underprivileged groups in surrounding communities.
“The ultimate aim is for us to become a social enterprise where we can package the fresh produce for sale to generate income.
“The home runs on the goodwill of public donations and sponsorships.
“For now, the crops and fish are harvested for the consumption of the home’s 20 occupants who have various disabilities such as cerebral palsy and learning difficulties.
“The occupants, aged 11 to over 60, were also given the chance to get involved in the project where they took turns to harvest and maintain the filter system.
“It helps them to remain active as well,” he said.
Aside from classes and Bible studies, the home operates a second-hand items shop and recycling unit, which provides opportunities for its occupants to earn allowances.
“We also have an art gallery at our main office where we run themed exhibitions to display our occupants’ masterpieces,” added Chong.