MIRI: Despite hard times, blind masseurs are determined to earn an honest living.
They have been hit by the weakened oil and gas sector here, with fewer of its workers going for massages.
Their situation has been made worse by the mushrooming of massage parlours offering “China doll” services not just in Miri but in urban centres throughout Sarawak.
Such services are said to include more than mere massages by foreign women.
One man, in particular, is undaunted in his effort to get the blind to help themselves.
Isak Ngau, 40, of the Kayan ethnic group from interior northern Sarawak, is taking a leading role in organising skills training for fellow blind masseurs.
Blinded by an eye disease at 14, Isak was in Kuala Lumpur for 20 years to hone his skills in massaging. He later became a recognised trainer and set up a massage-cum-training centre there.
The chairman of the Sarawak branch of the Society of the Blind in Malaysia is back in Kuching to operate a massage centre as well as train blind masseurs.
“While we need welfare assistance from the Government, we must also help ourselves by equipping ourselves with more advanced massage techniques,” said Isak, who is married to visually impaired Christina Nyohen.
The couple’s sighted son, Emmanuel, is in Form Two.
Isak said the Human Resources Ministry offers the community a lot of technical assistance through its skills development department.
“The Sarawak Labour Department and Welfare Department are of great help too,” he added.
Isak has been organising skills training for the blind with the ministry and labour department not just in Miri but also in Sibu, Kuching and Kuala Lumpur.
“Blind masseurs struggle to survive every day.
“I heard that the China dolls get many clients.
“We need to constantly upgrade our skills to remain relevant,” he said.
He called on the public to use the services of the blind.
“We try to earn a decent living and not wait around for government aid.
“We are professionally trained and our massages have proven beneficial for physical therapy and health,” he said.
Philip Asui and wife Diana Lai, in their late 30s, said their business was affected due to stiff competition from massage centres that offer young women with “extra deals”.
The blind couple were among those who underwent training conducted by Isak here recently.
They commended Isak for his years of dedication towards helping the blind.
“Isak often organises training and activities for the blind, which help to foster ties among us,” said Asui.