“THE GUIDING HAND”
At age six, Melinda lost her right hand in a freak accident. She stuck a piece of wood into the rice huller and it was sucked up along with her hand. Her father, who works at the rice mill, rushed her to the hospital where her severely damaged hand was amputated.
The limb loss brought lifelong physical and emotional scars to Melinda. Being right-handed, she had to re-learn how to do things with her left hand. She was also bullied and discriminated by kids in school and their neighborhood.
“It was tough as I was growing up. Some children can be so mean without them realizing it. I cried buckets of tears and had low self-esteem for quite some time.”
As she grew older, she learned to live with her disability and tried hard not to be affected by hurtful jokes and comments.
Looking back, she said that it would have helped if there was a support group in their community or she had been part of an organization that helps children with disabilities. “It would have been amazing to be able to talk to and be friends with children going through the same experience.”
It’s been four decades since the rice mill incident. Melinda has accepted the fact that she can no longer change what happened in the past. But then again, she can help shape the future of her fellow persons with disabilities, especially the young ones.
Melinda is currently the Federation President of the Disabled People’s Organization in the town of Caramoran which SIMON helped organize in 2016. She is aware of the tremendous responsibility that rests upon her shoulder as a leader and disability advocate.
“I’m both excited and scared of what my role entails. We have to confront decades-old disability issues and make our voices heard. I know it will be a long and tedious process but if we act now, things will happen.”
A dedicated community volunteer and service worker, Melinda also takes on the role of Early Intervention Project (EIP) Facilitator for children with developmental delays.
“At first, I was hesitant to become an EIP Facilitator. I thought that such an important job is beyond my capacity. However, after we paid a visit to Galilee Resource Center and I personally saw how the condition of children under the center-based Early Intervention Project improved tremendously, I was more than convinced.”
Melinda underwent training on Early Intervention and Home-Based Portage Management System that enabled her to identify, communicate and conduct home-training activities and other appropriate interventions for children with development delays.
She fell in love with her work despite the fact that it’s a thankless one – long treks for home visits, endless paper works, minimal allowance and uncooperative family members.
“Seeing the children make some headway in the five developmental areas and perform even the simplest tasks makes everything worth it.”
She’s particularly proud of the fact that one the children under her supervision has been rehabilitated and is now enrolled in regular school.
“I was once a child with disability and I know how it feels to be vulnerable. I felt both ecstatic and humbled to be able to work with children with disabilities and make a world of difference in their lives.”
Melinda may have lost her hand but it has not stopped her from extending a guiding and nurturing hand to persons with disabilities across all ages.
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