Every year, 4,000 children are diagnosed with special developmental needs in Singapore. Runninghour offers support to persons with special needs through physical recreation, and provides them opportunities to enlarge their social network.
“My wife and I love adrenaline and are both educators. I am trained in Adapted Physical Education, which is PE for learners with disability, and I enjoy swimming, biking and squash. Jan is into aerial silk and pole dancing. In 2009, we formed an informal running group of 10 members simply for the love of the sport.
“Jan and I met when we did our master’s degree in Special Education at the National Institute of Education (NIE). One project I worked on made me realise that sports can be a sustainable platform for people with intellectual disabilities to be seen and understood through our buddy system. So we set up Runninghour in the same year to promote exercise and social integration for the intellectually challenged.
“Runninghour was registered as a co-op in May 2014 with the help of the Singapore National Co-operative Federation’s Central Co-operative Fund. This means that everyone has ownership of it and has the power to vote on decisions affecting the club.
“We have since expanded to include runners who are hearing- impaired or visually- or physically-challenged, and our activities range from dragon-boating to zumba. The joy derived from exercise helps to improve their quality of life. Before this, there was a lack of understanding towards persons with special needs (PWSN) and insufficient opportunities for them to participate in mainstream activities.
“We did not expect the co-operative to grow so big, so fast though! One Runninghour initiative closest to my heart is our annual Run for Inclusion. A part of its Empathy Run segment features participants running in pairs, one blindfolded and guided by the other. This helps members experience the everyday difficulty of the visually challenged. Through this event, we hope to get more people from the PWSN community involved with Runninghour, as well as people interested to join us as volunteers and guides. “About 25 percent of our members join our weekly run practice sessions, which shows us that we are on the right track. At Run for Inclusion 2018, we offered 700 complimentary slots to PWSN and their caregivers; this July, we gave out 1,000 slots. We not only made the route wheelchair-friendly but also included a 20km cycling segment for single and tandem cycling.
“My greatest satisfaction is seeing PWSN become comfortable going to public spaces and participating in mainstream activities. Jan thought of the tagline ‘Run to bond’ and it’s truly apt as we see our guides forge friendships with our PWSN runners who are no longer just beneficiaries. Some of them have in turn become committee members, helping organise training sessions and even the annual race!”
This story first appeared in the August issue of A.