PUSAT Ehsan Al-Ameerah Al-Hajjah Maryam (Pusat Ehsan) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) looking out for the welfare of individuals with special needs in the country, ensuring they enjoy equal rights as well as an active, meaningful life.
Under the leadership of its patron, the centre continues to work towards providing physical and spiritual support to these individuals, allowing them to reach their full potential. This is no easy feat and requires commitment from all levels of society. Also a crucial element is sensitivity from the public.
Building on the vision of being a centre of excellence, Pusat Ehsan devotes itself to enriching the lives of individuals of all ages with physical and learning disabilities, throughout their lifetime. It is also committed to providing quality education along with rehabilitation services.
In ensuring these objectives are met, the centre has implemented the redevelopment project, just beside its older buildings.
The centre was established in 2000. Two years later, plans were in the pipes to expand, and thus began consultations with stakeholders, with the centre setting its sight on improving the quality and range of services and programmes for the special needs community.
To realise this, the centre needed a new purpose-built structure to support a host of specialist services, deemed more appropriate in meeting individual needs. This plan took into consideration that the facilities and services must not only meet the current needs, but can also meet future requirements of the special needs community.
The first phase of the project began with the foundation-laying in June last year, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess ‘Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah as the Chairwoman of Pusat Ehsan.
The first phase involves the construction of the rehabilitation block, which will feature a lobby area; gym; hydro, electro, physio and speech therapy rooms; common treatment room; multisensory room; plant room; earl years classroom; sports hall and a swimming pool.
Through the redevelopment project, Pusat Ehsan hopes to stay relevant and better meet the needs in providing effective services to special needs individuals.
The project carries a $2 million price tag, most of which were contributed by the patron and the chairwoman. The building of the new block was also made possible with cooperation and contributions from the public and private sectors through charity campaigns as well as direct donation, among others.
Speaking to the Bulletin, Board of Trustee (Policy and Planning) member Haji Ahmad bin Abdul Rahman disclosed that the second phase of the project is at its drawing (conceptual) stage, and is awaiting sponsors. It is hoped that works can commence in the last quarter of the year.
The plan includes a Surau equipped with classrooms for the learning and carrying out of religious activities, as well as a vocational complex with vocational training rooms to serve as a training ground to get into various services industry.
It also includes a café to sell food items made by the students, a tuck-shop and an al fresco eating area for students and staff of the centre – all dependant on the allocated funds.
“This will not be the last component. Phase 3 will feature the administration block, multipurpose hall, resource centre and nursery for the students’ agricultural training. We will also be holding our charity bazaar at this area. Work on Phase 3, Insya Allah, will be able to begin when Phase 2 is at 80 per cent completion,” he added.
The multipurpose hall and Surau will also be open and rented out for members of the public keen on holding events such as solemnisation, weddings and so forth.
Meanwhile, at the existing buildings, maintenance works are being carried out.
The centre also hopes to upgrade its capabilities in helping the government care for special needs individuals in the area of rehabilitation, learning and career, where
apart from classrooms, the new block is also equipped with a gymnasium, swimming pool and garden for therapy, several physical training machines and modern
equipment to provide comprehensive and effective therapy services.
He explained that apart from physical development, the project also covers strategic capacity building, for which Pusat Ehsan has completed the designing of a special curriculum for its special needs students, with the assistance of a consultant from Singapore.
Networking with other government and corporate agencies, including international organisations, are also being made to ensure the services at the centre are able to meet the current needs, and to allow for experience and resource sharing.
“As we are a charitable organisation, and with our costs increasing, we need the public and the corporate sector to continue to support us, without which it would be very difficult for us to finance the programme. Aside from making direct donations, we also welcome student sponsorship,” he said.
The cost per child being in the programme is $400, however, to encourage more sponsors, the centre welcome a sponsorship of $200 per child for one year. This sponsorship programme is ongoing to cover the centre’s cost of approximately $55,000 per month.
“Darussalam Assets has generously stepped forward to become the first sponsor for our students with an allocation of $10,000. We hope more corporate bodies or individuals will follow suit,” he added.
Although the operation cost of the centre continues to climb, it will not get in the way of the strive towards acquiring the centre of excellence status. Aside from organising charity projects, the centre has also formed a Teachers Adoption Scheme.
Through this scheme, the public or corporate bodies will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the centre to help with paying the teachers or therapists salaries.
Haji Ahmad expressed gratitude to all who have lent support to the centre, one of which is the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah which has over the years provided annual contributions.