Monday October 29, 2012
Nasam has important role in supporting stroke victims
By SANDRA LOW
Stroke patients need all the support they can find, and this is where Nasam has an invaluable role to play.
SHE used to run her own consultancy in education management and after a long stint, wanted to get out of the rat race. So when the National Stroke Association of Malaysia (NASAM) offered Lesley Hoh her current position as senior manager, she jumped at the chance.
Nasam is the country’s pioneer stroke association and there are currently eight centres around the country, including its headquarters in Petaling Jaya.
“I wanted less stress in my life. However, I found out that working with an NGO is not exactly stress-free!” Hoh says with a chuckle.
She has been helming Nasam for the past 20 months tackling fund-raising, general management, publicity and education.
“The pressure comes from getting funding for the centre, especially when there are many patients who depend on the centre’s efforts and we need to ensure that the work of this NGO can continue,” she explains.
There is a perception that stroke is something that hits older people.
Hoh says: “In the last couple of years, the age profile has dropped and people in their prime, between 30 and 50, are coming in for help.”
The Petaling Jaya centre, which is the largest, sees over 70 stroke patients daily, and they come through referrals from doctors, hospitals and friends who know of Nasam’s work.
It is Nasam founder Janet Yeo’s dream of building one stroke centre in every major town in Malaysia, and they have successfully opened in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Perak, Malacca, Johor, Pahang and Sabah.
“While we have thought of opening in rural areas, there is the issue of funding. We don’t get government grants unless we open a centre. Seed money is not an issue, but once you open, the running cost is the issue. You are committed to running a centre and you cannot run out of maintenance cost,” Hoh explains.
Hoh says that they encourage stroke patients to come with a carer so that the carer can be trained to help the patient repeat exercises at home.
For those who are dropped off, more volunteers are then needed.
“Lately we have been getting response from volunteers through the dogoodvolunteer portal,” she points out. The dogoodvolunteer portal is a volunteerism matching portal, initiative of The Star and Leaderonomics.
Hoh says they have regular volunteers at all the Nasam centres and they each come with different talents, from teaching tai chi, qi gong, yoga and cooking to offering speech therapy.
“There is the cooking group that teaches stroke patients to return to normal life. If a stroke patient cannot fry an omelette, she can still beat the eggs. The message is that stroke patients may not do everything fully but they can do a part of it, thus giving them some value and helping them keep their dignity,” Hoh explains.
While some volunteers are required on a regular basis, Hoh says that volunteers can indicate when they are available, and then they will work around their time.
“As long as one is willing to help and there is the passion to serve, it doesn’t have to be a huge commitment,” Hoh stresses.
Hoh says there are options for people to volunteer for impromptu tasks such as helping to drive stroke patients to the cinema once a month for movie day.
According to Hoh, there have been volunteers who realised that what they signed up for wasn’t their area of interest. “If a volunteer doesn’t feel comfortable after trying something out, that’s perfectly all right. We don’t know what we are getting into, so we try and discover where we fit in and continue to search for other avenues,” Hoh advises.
Hoh points out that every stroke patient is different so their speed of recovery or progress is also different. She cited the case of Janet Yeo who took two years to move her fingers, so volunteers need to have a lot of patience on top of a passion to serve.
“Stroke patients will appreciate a volunteer’s empathy. What they don’t need is sympathy,” Hoh says.
To potential volunteers, Hoh has this to say: “Don’t say no to volunteering until you have talked to us! The gain in doing community service is not something that is quantifiable. It’s intangible. It is the satisfaction and joy you get when you see a stroke patient return to normal life. You cannot put a price to that!” she adds.