The bubbly smile on Seah Jia Zhen says it all.
The nine-year-old bespectacled student is now ready to lead a normal teenager life, thanks to early intervention from Canossian School, a programme funded by Tote Board Social Service Fund and supported by Community Chest.
“I want to be a policewoman when I grow up,” says Jia Zhen , with distinct confidence.
Tote Board Chief Executive Mr Tan Soo Nan said the TBSSF (Tote Board Social Service Fund) provides grants for critical and strategic social service programmes, new programmes, capability enhancement and capital funding for the social service sector.
"It aims to alleviate the fundraising burden of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) and enable them to focus on service delivery, service standards, and the outcomes for the clients they serve,” he says.
"Jia Zhen's success story with Canossian School is one of many heartwarming examples of how productive the TBSSF has been in recent years."
The Seah family’s world was shattered when her parents realised that Jia Zhen was unable to hear and was diagnosed with profound hearing loss at birth.
Life was difficult as the family of five has to survive on the sole income from Jia Zhen’s father, who works as a bus captain. Her mother, a homemaker, takes care of Jia Zhen and her two older brothers, aged 16 and 14.
The family appealed for assistance from Canossian School in February 2003 to cope with the ongoing medical and educational needs of Jia Zhen.
Canossian School provides a language-enabling environment where hearing-impaired children are exposed to the normal speech and language models of their hearing peers.
Jia Zhen was fitted with a pair of hearing aids and had a cochlear implantation done the same year. The cochlear implantation is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound for persons with severe hearing loss.
“I was scared when I first put on my hearing aids. But my parents and brothers talked to me and comforted me,” says Jia Zhen of her initial psychological fears.
With her hearing restored, Jia Zhen was enrolled in the school’s parent-guidance programme to help her develop speech. Jia Zhen’s family is not conversant in English, so this limited her exposure to the language.
Special attention by the teachers helped Jia Zhen to improve her reading and speech. Through her hard work and sheer perseverance, Jia Zhen is now able to speak confidently.
“I am coping well at school,” Jia Zhen says, as she is encouraged to develop her oral communication skills by talking.
“I can hear very clearly with my implant and I’m now confident in speaking English.”
What is your best message to those with similar hearing loss, Jia Zhen was asked.
“Learn to speak,” she replies confidently. “It is important to speak and be understood.”
* Canossian School at Sallim Road, off Aljunied Road, provides a comprehensive educational programme for children with hearing impairment, from birth to primary school-leaving age, using the Natural Auditory-Oral Approach, where spoken language is developed. Through its inclusion programme with mainstream school, pupils like Jia Zhen are given more opportunities to learn alongside their mainstream classmates.
* Community Chest was established in 1983 with a simple yet vital mission: to raise funds for the nation’s many charities. It is about raising funds from the community for the community in need. Charities supported by Community Chest are then able to do what they are best at – providing critical social service programmes. Community Chest raises funds on a yearly basis to meet the needs of the social service programmes that we support. These programmes help to nurture children to succeed, dignify the lives of the elderly, keep families together and help people with disabilities lead independent lives.
**Tote Board contributions towards Tote Board Social Service Fund (TBSSF) have been $322.8m for the FY 2006-2012.