MIRI: When Isak Ngau became totally blind at the age of 17, his world came crashing down on him.
But since then, Ngau, who is one of the 10 winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award this year, has not only turned his life around but helped others who are visually impaired to help themselves.
“When I was 14 years old in Form 2, I started having problems with my eyes due to glaucoma,” he recalled.
“First it was one eye, and then both eyes. Within three years I could not see anymore, even though I tried everything to save my eyesight. It was hard trying to adjust to a dark world.”
Ngau’s courage and determination to earn a decent and honest living deserve respect and admiration. He and other blind people struggle every day just to have enough to survive, but they are determined to beat the odds.
Ngau is taking a leading role in organising skills training for fellow blind masseurs.
He learnt how to massage at the Sarawak Centre for the Blind in Kuching, after coming to terms with his fate.
“I had to accept my blindness,” he explained. “I went to Kuching and then Kuala Lumpur to upgrade my skills.”
Spending 20 years in the federal capital, he became a recognised trainer for blind massage and set up a massage centre cum training centre there.
Today, Ngau is the chairman of the Sarawak branch of the Society of the Blind in Malaysia.
He now lives in the state capital and operates a massage centre there which also offers training courses in blind massage. He is married to fellow blind person Christina Nyohen, and they have a son with normal eyesight – Emmanuel, who is in Form 2.
Ngau said the blind must help themselves. “While we need welfare assistance from the Government, we must also help ourselves by equipping ourselves with more advanced massage techniques,” he stressed.
The Human Resources Ministry offers a lot of technical aid through its skills development department, while the Sarawak Labour Department and Welfare Department are of great help too, he added.
Ngau has organised skills training for the visually impaired with the Ministry and Labour Department in Miri, as well as in Sibu, Kuching and Kuala Lumpur. “We blind need to upgrade our skills constantly to remain relevant,” he said, calling on the public to utilise their massage services.
Instead of patronising massage centres that do not offer genuine massage, he urged members of the public to seek out blind masseurs for good physical therapy while at the same time helping these blind folks to earn a living.
“We are trying to earn a decent living everyday instead of sitting around waiting for government aid,” he pointed out. “We are genuine and professionally trained, and our massages are proven to be beneficial for physical therapy and health.”
A blind couple here, Philip Asui and Diana Lai, both in their late 30s, are also struggling to survive in their massage business as their clients are limited due to stiff competition from massage centres that offer young girls for other types of “massage” deals.
Ngau recently provided skills training to them. He came to Miri and presented certificates to the couple.
Ngau said the certificates were issued by the Human Resources Ministry’s Department of Skills Development.
“Our certs are advanced-level certs equal to the certs issued by other government training institutes,” he said.
Ngau thanked the Human Resources Ministry, the Labour Department, Welfare Department and those who had organised programmes for the blind. He hopes that all blind masseurs in Sarawak will sign up to undergo similar skills training to boost their qualifications.
Asui and Lai, in turn, thanked Ngau for his years of dedication towards helping the blind.
“He has been of great service to the blind community,” said Asui. “He often organises training and activities yearly for the blind to enhance our relationships.”