It takes an iron will, tremendous tenacity and an indomitable spirit to register and complete the Singapore 200 Miles Ultra Challenge. But Dawn O'Dowd, a Quality Engineer and Emergency Medical Technician, will be taking up this challenge fuelled by the sole purpose of fundraising for the residents of the Red Cross Home for the Disabled (RCHD), who have become her friends. Dawn has pledged to run, walk (or even crawl) 200 miles (321.87 km) from 17 to 20 November to purchase two tablet devices for her friends with disabilities.
Back in May 2022, Dawn O' Dowd, a Quality Engineer and Emergency Medical Technician, was checking her personal emails when she stumbled upon an email calling for volunteers to help out at the Red Cross Home for the Disabled (RCHD). It was a proactive initiative by RCHD to develop a contingency plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in the event that the caregivers (nursing aides) fell ill.
Extending a Helping Hand
"My husband encouraged me to register because of my role as an Emergency Medical Technician and my personality. Though I had some initial reservations about my inexperience in dealing with people with severe disabilities and the language barrier, my intuition told me to register for it, so I did!" said Dawn.
To prepare for the role, she underwent online training, and another training in person at the RCHD, where she donned the full Personal Protective Equipment gear.
She was warmly welcomed by the employees and the residents.
"RCHD is the residents' home. It means the world to me to be warmly and kindly welcomed into their home. As soon as I stepped into the dormitory, I knew RCHD was for me!" she quipped as she recounted her first visit to RCHD.
Though there were a handful of isolated COVID-19 cases at RCHD, thankfully, it was not widespread. She was not deployed for that role.
Bringing Joy to Her Friends
However, Dawn took the initiative to register as a volunteer befriender with RCHD. She has not looked back since.
As a volunteer befriender, besides interacting with the residents, Dawn engages them in drawing activities and listening to music. She visits the residents twice or thrice weekly.
"I have forged friendships with both male and female residents, who have become my friends. Through my interactions with them, I see past their disabilities. I learnt that they are humans like the rest of us. We all want happiness, and not suffering. Though we think differently, these are no longer barriers when we accept and respect our friends the way they are. I am lucky to have found RCHD. I feel my friends bring more joy to me than me to them," Dawn said.
Over time, she has also overcome the language barrier in her communication with the residents.
"Most of the residents understand English. For those who don’t, I leverage Google Translate or engage the help of an employee to translate and convey the message," she said.
Finding Joy Through Volunteering
Dawn enjoys interacting with her friends and witnessing their playful interactions among themselves.
"I enjoy meeting my friends! It is lovely to see them having fun together!" she said.
Besides her visits to the residents, Dawn would also join one of the residents and her parents monthly at a local hawker centre for lunch.
"We are both big fans of Kopi!" she quipped.
She has gained much through this volunteering experience.
"Besides developing empathy and compassion, I have become more patient and understanding of those who need a little help. Sometimes, they just require a listening ear,"
Running for a Good Cause
Dawn had registered for the Singapore 200 Miles Ultra Challenge spurred by the sole purpose of fundraising for her friends at RCHD.
"I will run, walk (or even crawl) 200 miles (321.87 km) from 17 to 20 November for my friends. By participating in this challenge, I fundraise for the residents while raising awareness about the Red Cross Home for the Disabled," said Dawn.
She hopes to purchase two tablet devices for my friends, one tablet for the male dormitory and another tablet for the female dormitory.
"Though the residents have multiple and severe disabilities, they still can communicate and learn. The usage of these devices will enhance their learning and interaction with us, volunteers. It also gives us the opportunity to interact one-on-one with each resident as opposed to merely group therapy. Quan Yao, one of my friends, is working his way through a puzzle book I brought for him from my recent home trip to Ireland. He is a very smart and caring young man. I believe Quan Yao will be the key user of the tablet," Dawn said with a smile.
When asked if she would continue volunteering as a befriender at RCHD, she said, "I love visiting my friends. I will keep visiting them as long as I am here in Singapore."
Your altruistic contribution to the fundraiser will enable Dawn to purchase tablets for RCHD's residents, who have become her friends, bringing them joy and uplifting their lives.
Lend your support by making a contribution to Dawn's fundraising campaign. Your magnanimous contribution will inspire her to keep going the distance amid the adversity she faces in this gruelling challenge.
By Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications
Red Cross Home for the Disabled (RCHD) is one of a few homes in Singapore that cares for persons with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. Besides tending to their activities of daily living, RCHD's team of dedicated nursing professionals, therapy and healthcare aides, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists engage close to 100 residents in therapeutic and recreational activities that ensure their physical, social and emotional well-being.