MANY people with disabilities may shy away from trying new things for fear of troubling others.
However, 29 differently-abled individuals not only had the rare opportunity to dive in the open waters of Salang Beach in Tioman Island, Pahang, but also made it into the Malaysia Book of Records for the most number of disabled participants in a scuba diving expedition.
Called the OKU Marine Discovery Dive MBR 2014, the event was organised by the Society of People Support People (PSP) Selangor and co-organised by Special People Association of Teluk Intan (SPATI) Perak and the Society of Independent Living For The Disabled Selangor.
OKU Marine Discovery Dive MBR 2014 organising committee chairman Ling Wang Ming explained that as a safety precaution, all participants had learned basic swimming skills prior to the dive.
The participants, who have different disabilities, trained for six months prior to the event.
“Initially, many struggled and panicked in the water but showed a lot of courage to persist in the endeavour,” said PSP chairman E.K. Lim, who added that the participants trained twice a week for approximately two to three hours per session.
“Although this is the third time that we are organising a dive for the disabled, it is our first attempt at making it into the record books,” said Ling.
“The dive presented the disabled with a platform to participate in an activity not usually accessible to them,” added Ling.
During the feat, participants spent 30 minutes in the water, diving to a depth of six metres.
Certified dive instructors accompanied the participants at all times.
Teoh Peng Siang, 62, who walks with a limp, was the oldest participant to join the dive.
The former journalist was thankful to the volunteers who were nice and helpful to the participants.
“The dive was very exciting,” Teoh said, adding that it was spellbinding to see the scenery and different fishes under the water.
The youngest participant, wheelchair-bound Siti Maryam Alewi, 28, described being underwater as a “wonderful” experience.
The dive proved to be an important milestone for her as diving was in her bucket list.
“After the dive, I no longer panic in the pool,” she said, adding that her asthma had improved since she started her swimming lessons with the NGO.
Lim said many appreciated the dive experience, feeling fulfilled and satisfied.
One of their main priorities was ensuring that the participants enjoyed themselves in the water.
“They need the opportunity (to try new things) and not pity from people,” said Lim.
Volunteers played a significant role in teaching the disabled to swim as the NGO could not afford to hire professionals.
According to Ling, more than half the volunteers were new to coaching. They were trained by experienced volunteers in how to help the disabled in the pool.
Among the challenges faced by organisers were finding enough participants for the dive and raising money for the trip.
“Some of our participants are not working and depend on government subsidies,” Lim said, adding that it cost almost RM800 for each participant to dive.
However, subsidised rates were given to the NGO to conduct their swimming practice at a local pool and at the dive centre in Pahang.
PSP, a non-profit organisation that supports the disabled, was founded by eight people, including Lim.
Established in 2012, the NGO aims to support the disabled to be independent through various means including carrying out recycling programmes.