Who says that people who are differently-abled need to live a life of limitations? A Diveheart Malaysia event in September, the first of its kind to be hosted by a local private island resort, definitely proved otherwise.
Text by Majidah Hashim
Photos courtesy of Kids Scuba Malaysia
Nestled on the beautiful Perhentian island of Kecil in Terengganu, Mimpi Perhentian Resort was built not only with comfort, but also accessibility in mind, making it the perfect location for the Diveheart event.
According to Resort Manager Mathew Sangilos, when his team sat down to consider what corporate social responsibility activity to organise this year, it was only natural to play to their strengths and do a dive event. When the idea came of reaching out to the national school of special education, Sekolah Kebangsaan Pendidikan Khas Kuala Besut, the wheels were set in motion for a powerful event set to forever change the lives of children with hearing impairments.
Ten differently-abled children from a local school for the hearing-impaired participated in the event, which included an introduction to scuba diving, quizzes and various beach-related activities. While most of the children appeared shy on the first day when they first arrived at the resort, their shyness quickly disappeared when they got into the water with their Adaptive Scuba buddies.
The children were exposed to basic scuba diving skills such as breathing through a regulator underwater and finning techniques in Mimpi Perhentian Resort’s pool, before being introduced to a shore dive by the jetty. After this exciting experience, the difference in the confidence level of the children was like night and day, with a definite confidence boost!
Diveheart & Kids Scuba
Diveheart is an international non-profit organisation founded in 2001 to provide and support educational scuba diving programs that are open to differently-abled children, adults and veterans. By opening up the world of scuba diving to these individuals, Diveheart is on a mission to build confidence, independence and self-esteem through scuba diving, scuba therapy and related activities.
Diveheart Malaysia Ambassador and Kids Scuba Dive Center founder Syed Abdul Rahman Syed Hussain hopes that this event inspires many others to open their doors to this very special community. “I am thrilled to say that events like this not only builds bridges between us, but also reinforces our hope in humanity,” he said.
A diverse team
The Diveheart Malaysia team spent months training for the event, assembling a diverse team to undertake the responsibility of bringing the experience of scuba to the differently-abled community. They even brought in a “specialist” from the hearing-impaired community. In a heart-melting moment, which caught everyone in awe, Gary Goh—who is deaf, mute and a certified divemaster with over 3,000 logged dives—expertly explained to the children open water scuba techniques in sign language, proving to them that their disability does not stand in the way of them becoming dive professionals someday.
To bring gender balance to the event, three young, differently-abled women were also invited to participate in the event, including Nooraishah Arshad, who is an amputee; Ereen Pasbullah, who is visually impaired; and Nurul Fathiah, who is a paraplegic. All three women undertook several boat dives in which they could enjoy seeing a variety of marine life, for which Perhentian Island is world-renown.
In a world that tends to take people who are differently-abled for granted, often underestimating their capabilities, it is certainly an amazing sight to see them have an “astronaut moment” underwater. The smiling and joyful photos say it all, relaying the wonderful experience participants and even the Diveheart Malaysia volunteers had during the event.
According to Rahman, “If all of us of different abilities can respect each other like this today, then we can really ‘imagine the possibilities’ for a better tomorrow.” ■
Majidah Hashim is a Diveheart volunteer Adaptive Diver and a PADI Divemaster Trainee based in Malaysia.