Khairy plays ‘father' to niece with Down’s
Helping the less fortunate is something dear to Umno Youth Vice Chief Khairy Jamaluddin, as he has to play ‘father’ to his three-year-old niece, who has Down’s Syndrome. “I know what it means to be dealing with children with special needs. My niece Aishah has Down’s Syndrome and I am very attached to her; I am like a father to her, so I do understand the importance of early preparations for people with disabilities,” said Khairy. The Rembau Member of Parliament stressed that despite the children’s disabilities, there are abilities and potentials that they can achieve. “It is important for the people to stop the stigma towards the disabled people. Given proper education and training, they too can achieve greater heights and reach the highest potential,” he said. “I do believe that Malaysians nowadays are more exposed to the needs of the disabled people, but there are still cases where those in the rural areas would keep their children with special needs away from the public; they are ashamed of the children’s disabilities, thus depriving them of basic knowledge and skills,” he said. Khairy said that without exposure, skills and education, these special people will not be able to realise their potentials. “We must provide them with empowerment and spend time with these people so that they can be independent citizens in the future, and probably one day, contribute towards the nation’s growth. “My sister, who is a single mother, has devoted her time entirely to Aishah. Her daughter is her world. And we must also do the same so that these special people will be able to progress in life,” he said. Khairy was in town yesterday to present Umno Youth’s RM5,000 contribution to Seri Mengasih Centre in Tanjung Aru, a non-profitable organisation that provides educational, social and economic developmental programmes for people with special needs. Also present was Sabah Umno Youth Chief Datuk Japlin Akim. “It is a noble thing to set up Seri Mengasih Centre. Today’s event is not a charity programme, we must stop thinking this Centre as a halfway house where we carry out welfare works today and forget them tomorrow,” he said. “We must change our mindset and accept the Centre as a place of opportunities, where children with special needs are taught basic living skills so that one day they would be able to live like any normal people,” he said. The Centre was set up in 1981 by a psychiatrist, Dr Sarbadikaj, with the collaboration of Rotary Club. To date, the Centre provides education and training for 130 special people, comprising 90 children and 40 adults. Since 1995, the Centre has provided job emplacement for 30 people and employment for 33 others, of whom 15 became teachers, supervisors (nine) and another nine are administration staff. According to the Centre’s Management Committee chairman, Datuk Safari Manan, they need at least RM5,500 per student annually to train them in basic knowledge and skills, which could be beneficial to them in the future. “We utterly depend on funds from private individuals, community groups and any organisations,” he said. He hoped more people will come forward and lend them a helping hand.