Stories

White Cane Users

Amanda Chong

I cherish the freedom to travel on my own

“I craved the ability to travel and move about independently and without always having to be dependent on friends and family members to bring me to places I wanted to go. GDS has taught me valuable cane techniques and skills to keep myself safe when I am walking about outside on my own. Their classes have boosted my confidence and allowed me to feel empowered as I can travel to work on my own now.”

Amanda Chong, 20s
Annie Mok

Overcoming the stigma of using a white cane

“Due to my loss of vision, I have fallen and broke my arm a few times; I also often knocked onto people and got scolded. My doctor at SNEC advised me to get training and use the white cane but I was reluctant and embarrassed to use it. I finally relented and contacted GDS to get training. I am now more confident going out alone with my white cane as people avoid me or even offer help. I now realised the benefits of using the white cane and have not regretted it.”

Annie Mok, 60s
Lionel Tan

A part-time student and gainfully employed

“Before enrolling myself with GDS, I had to depend on others to get around. Now I can navigate and use public transport (buses and trains) by myself. The training also helped me appreciate the use of a white cane, such as detecting the staircase, kerbs and obstacles. I am now holding a full-time job at Apple and studying part-time in Republic Polytechnic.”

Lionel Tan, 20s
Ms Sakinah

Crossing the road is possible now…

“Orientation & Mobility training has equipped me with the skills to get around independently and safely, especially crossing small roads (without traffic lights) and traffic junctions which can be daunting. I also learned techniques to solicit or reject help in public when appropriate. Blind people do not always need help. If I’m in a familiar place, I know my way around and I would reject help from kind strangers.

In the past, when I was alone in a public space, I used to ask “Hi, is there anyone around?” and no one would respond. GDS Specialist taught me to be specific with my question in order to solicit help. Now I ask “Hi, can someone tell me where the bus stop is?”

Ms Sakinah, White Cane User in her 20s

Letting go of over-protecting my daughter

“I never allowed Sakinah (GDS Client) to go out alone because I was worried about her safety. After she completed the Orientation & Mobility training at GDS, she travels to work and meets her friends on her own and I’ve also learned to let go slowly. She is happier now with her new found confidence and freedom. I encourage parents not to be afraid and give their children the opportunity to be independent.”

Mr Zainal, Ms Sakinah's father
Mr Ng Cheng Teck

I can go out and go home on my own, no more restrictions!

“After receiving Orientation and Mobility training from GDS Specialists, I can now travel around via MRT using the Downtown Line and the North-South Line. I have become more confident and happier because I can go out and go home, and take part in social activities on my own. No more restrictions!”

Mr Ng Cheng Teck, White Cane User

Guide Dog Handlers

Sophie Soon and Orinda

Sophie & Orinda (2020)

Sophie and her guide dog, Orinda, is GDS’s seventh guide dog team. They were successfully paired in the beginning of 2020. Sophie is a para-swimmer for Team Singapore, and employed as a Marketing Specialist at Toyota Motor Asia Pacific (TMAP).

Her condition of cone rod dystrophy has not stopped her from juggling both music and sports, and she dreams of becoming a Paralympian in the future.

“I’ve always wanted a guide dog since I was eleven years old. In 2018, I called GDS and about a year plus later, I was matched with Orinda. While the white cane has been helpful in many ways, it slows me down. With Orinda, she is very confident in weaving through crowds and has helped me walk a lot faster. But she is also much more than just a guide dog, she reduces my anxiety, brings joy to my family and I, and now our family is even closer. Our lives are so intertwined I can’t imagine living without her.”

Sophie Soon, Guide Dog User
Hong Sen and his guide dog Clare

Hong Sen & Clare (2017)

Hong Sen was born with Retinal Dystrophy; he only has the perception of light and shadow, and can differentiate colours to a certain extent. After his doctor suggested for him to get a Guide Dog, he explored the possibility. The strong desire to live a truly independent life propelled his decision to get a Guide Dog. In 2017, he was paired and matched with his guide dog, Clare.

Today, Hong Sen holds a Degree in Management and Digital Innovation and is working at GDS as an IT Consultant and Trainer where he trains and equips other visually impaired clients with skills on using assistive technology to use mobile phones and other devices.

“Clare is the best mobility aid, enabling me to travel more safely and efficiently – but she is so much more than that. She is now my closest companion and best friend, and she empowers me with greater freedom and confidence every day. Clare is now an invaluable part of my life.”

Hong Sen, Guide Dog User
Loolan and her guide dog Ria

Loolan & Ria (2016)

In Loving Memory of Loolan:

At the peak of her career, Loolan was diagnosed with a genetic vision condition that led her to leave her job as an architect designer. To remain mobile and independent, she learnt to use the white cane through GDS’s Orientation & Mobility training and applied for a guide dog.

Her guide dog, Ria, was more than a mobility aid. While Loo Lan was fighting breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, Ria was there to support her by providing companionship, sparked happiness and empowered her with the confidence she needed to walk with her head held high. She was able to regain the active lifestyle she had longed for.

Ria is now retired and has been adopted by a loving family friend to live the rest of her life.

“I love animals, and a guide dog brings me companionship and joy. More importantly, it has enabled and allowed me to regain the active lifestyle that I longed for again.”

Loolan, Guide Dog User
Gary and his guide dog Jordie

Gary & Jordie (2015)

Gary was diagnosed with Glaucoma and began losing his sight in his thirties. He became fully blind in April 2016. In 2015, his friend referred him to Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd. He received Orientation & Mobility training before being assessed on his suitability to be a guide dog handler. Thereafter, he was officially paired with Jordie on 5 May 2015.

“Life with Jordie has changed things for the better. He can be likened to a biological white cane, enhanced with affection and emotions. He has made a positive impact in my life and brings a lot of joy not only to me, but also to my family members. I feel a sense of pride after being paired with him as he is an amazing dog who is also highly intelligent. Jordie has been my source of encouragement and motivation and he makes travelling a whole lot easier now. He is indeed my best friend!”

Gary Lim, Guide Dog User
Dennis and his guide dog Melba

Dennis & Melba (2014)

Dennis developed Retinitis Pigmentosa, having only light perception. As his vision gradually worsened over the years, it became increasingly difficult for him to function independently. The biggest challenge was when he lost the ability to move around on his own.

Dennis was paired with his guide dog, Melba in February 2014. While being blind was not by choice, he feels fortunate to have been given the opportunity to have a wonderful guide dog like Melba.

“My life has improved tremendously. With a guide dog as my trusted companion, I can travel even faster and safer. I can again lead an active lifestyle and rebuild my career as a Financial Services Manager.”
Dennis, Guide Dog User
Alvin Ng

Alvin & Seretta (2012)

Alvin Ng lost his eyesight at 31 in abrupt and unexpected circumstances, due to complications during his coma suffered from a rare auto-immune disease.

He first encountered and learned about guide dogs in 2006, and it was six years after that he got the opportunity to be paired with one. In November 2012, he boarded a plane to Melbourne, Australia, and met Seretta, then an 18-month old Labrador-Golden Retriever cross. Seretta is both his guide dog and companion and Alvin intends to keep her as a pet upon her retirement.

“She is my travelling and emotional companion. With her walking by my side, I will never walk alone.”

Alvin Ng, Guide Dog User

Independent Living Skills

Ms Wai Yee

Loss of sight does not stop interest in sewing

“I learnt sewing so that I can eventually mend my clothes or repurpose some of my older clothes. So far, I have learnt how to sew buttons, and if they come loose I can fix them back on. I hope that one day I will be able to make a dress, or sew some of my old t-shirts into a bag or something.”

Ms Wai Yee

Client-Centric Activities

Chia Zhe Hui

This camp changed my perspective and I have gained courage!

“Overall experience was great, trying new things I never did before, like abseiling and high elements. I was afraid before due to my sight loss, so I dared not try. But this camp changed my perspective and gave me courage to do them!”

Chia Zhe Hui, Client for 2019 Client Camp
James Chiang

Such activities allow me to be more active!

“Thanks Guide Dogs for always organising outings and also getting befrienders and volunteers to come along to the outings. Such activities allow me to move around more, encouraging me to be active. I hope that GDS would organise more!”

James Chiang, Client for 2019 Bicentennial Experience

Instructors

Christina Teng

Seeing our clients become more independent with the help of guide dogs

“To see the dogs that I train acquire proficiency in their guiding skills and being matched with their users; and then to see the dogs bond and progress with their users into a fully fledged team is a job satisfaction like no other. Especially so when I see clients move to greater independence and fuller life with their dogs.”

Christina Teng, Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Cheryl Yeo

I’m able to encourage clients and push them to their fullest potential

“I’ve always wanted to work in Rehabilitation Services and help people who are having difficulties in their daily life return to their full potential. Being an Orientation and Mobility Specialist allows me to meet new people, solve unique problems, and encourage clients through their journey. I’m quite allergic to doing paperwork so teaching mobility skills outdoors and navigating through Singapore with them is a dream job for me.”

Cheryl Yeo, Orientation and Mobility Specialist
Simone Oh

Happiness is when I see clients grow to become more independent

“Being an Orientation and Mobility Specialist has made me discover my passion for teaching. I enjoy being on the go, going to different places and meeting different people. For me, the greatest satisfaction comes from clients’ effort in wanting to improve their mobility skills and watching them grow to become independent travellers in their own time and capacity. I am thankful to be able to enjoy what I do.”

Simone Oh, Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Volunteers

Ching Hui Ru

I get to learn more about the Vision-Impaired Community!

“Volunteering with GDS has been a really awesome experience because I not only got to learn more about the vision-impaired (VI) community, I also met many like minded individuals who have a passion for this community. Together, we get to raise awareness about the VI community and get to see the change of the public towards them. I also learnt a lot from the staff of GDS and their warmth and friendliness are something I will never forget. Most importantly, having worked with GDS has confirmed my interest and passion in the disability sector.”

Ching Hui Ru, Long-term Volunteer from SUSS

We should spare our time and resources to build more awareness to society

“I have volunteered with GDS a few times. Believe it’s a good initiative as GDS helps people with vision impairment be independent and gain life skills. GDS is not just limited to guide dogs, but training those with white cane as well. Entire charity is self-funded, so believe we should spare our time and resources to help and build more awareness to society. It’s really a good cause.”

Choong Wei Hing

The experience has also been enriching

“I have been volunteering with GDS and I enjoy helping them as their work is very meaningful. The experience has also been enriching. Their events are great ways to meet new people and get to know the organisation better. Everyone has been very helpful. My experience volunteering with GDS has been very good and they make the whole volunteering experience very great. Thank you to all the volunteers and staff I have met. I’ll join again!”

Jerry Ling, Long-term volunteer

Sponsors

TechnipFMC

Inspires our employees to bring the awareness back home to their family and friends

“At TechnipFMC, we are proud to be a partner of GDS and to have had the privilege of witnessing the meaningful social impact they have brought to the community all these years. The partnership and personal engagement also inspires our employees to bring the awareness of this social cause back home to their family and friends. From Kendra to Seratta, we look forward to making friends with many more GDS clients and their guide dogs.”

Ganesan Alagappan, Human Resources Director, Singapore & Surface International, TechnipFMC

Outreach

National Gallery Singapore Outreach Talk Guide Dogs Singapore

We’re able to understand more on how to assist people with vision impairment better now

“We have received a lot of good feedback from our colleagues and many of them are now more aware of the different types of vision impairment and how they can better assist Vis and their guide dog, not just in the Gallery but also when they encounter them in the public.”

Ms Alicia Teng, from National Gallery
Kheng Cheng School

We’ve learned a lot about vision impairment and the community!

“It was our pleasure to collaborate with GDS and invite them to Kheng Cheng School for an outreach programme. The students were appreciative and learned a lot about vision impairment, the vision-impaired, and how guide dogs are able to help.”

Aloysius Fu, Teacher from Kheng Cheng School

Corporate

IHS Markit

I would recommend Guide Dogs Singapore as an excellent organisation to partner with

“The session conducted by the outreach team was both informational and engaging. The team shared information relating to the Guide Dogs Programme starting with the initial phase of training and matching, the ways guide dogs assist their handlers and finally legislation related to guide dogs in Singapore. Our colleagues found the tips that were provided on guiding a person with vision impairment especially useful.

Colleagues also had a great time interacting with a vision-impaired client and his guide dog. The experience shared by the client provided colleagues with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the role of guide dogs, and of the challenges faced by persons with vision impairment in our community.

I would like to express our deepest appreciation to the team for taking time to conduct this session and I would recommend Guide Dogs Singapore as an excellent organisation to partner with in creating an inclusive community.”

Dessi Berhane-Silassie, Vice President. APAC General Counsel and Global Head of IP Legal, Global Divisional General Counsel, Regulatory & Risk, IHS Markit
Horsburgh Lodge

I wanted to nominate a charitable cause to assist those with vision impairments

“Why we choose to donate to GDS? I have a vision impairment (optical atrophy) and have been blind in my left eye since birth. This condition almost always affects both eyes and I feel fortunate to be blessed with the sight I do have. As the head of Horsburgh Lodge this year, I wanted to nominate a charitable cause to assist those with vision impairments and the brethren of Horsburgh Lodge and of the District of the Eastern Archipelago responded with their usual charitable vigour. How would I encourage others: Guide Dogs Singapore is a home-grown charitable organisation who work tirelessly providing services and support directly to the vision-impaired community here in Singapore. As a relatively small organisation, donations to GDS can have a significant impact, directly benefiting individuals in our community.”

Mr Dustin Wilburn, Horsburgh Lodge

Individuals

Dawn Sim

My support for Guide Dogs Singapore comes from the desire to help make a difference to somebody else’s life

“My support for Guide Dogs Singapore comes from the desire to help make a difference to somebody else’s life and world and in this case, being able to bring more light to their life as they are able to move around beyond just their familiar surroundings with the assistance of a Guide Dog. I think that is something that we all need to try and do a little bit more of, to be able to lend a hand to those who need it, and make the world a better place.”

Dawn Sim, Long-time supporter of GDS

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