051.jpgYou don't have to bring up your special child - one with intellectual or physical disability - alone. Here's a community for them and you, writes Joyce Gan.

"God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." (1 Cor 1:27)

- Words of St. Paul that the Faith and Light community believes in.

Right, Mabel and her mother, Jenny, together with Benedict and his father, Clement, laugh as they engage in Faith and Light activities together.

SINGAPORE - Families with special children can find their place with the Faith and Light community in Singapore. Here, amidst games and activities, the children bond with other special friends and nurture their Catholic faith at the same time. Parents, too, find affirmation in the community's sharing sessions.

Faith and Light is an international and ecumenical movement. It started in France when 12,000 people with intellectual disabilities, from 18 different countries, journeyed to Lourdes with their families and friends. The experience was so awe inspiring it led to the birth of Faith and Light, to help persons with intellectual disability and their families find their place within the church and society.

In 2001, a group of laypersons and Cenacle Sister Hazel Suarez started Faith and Light Singapore.

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Faith and Light believes that "each person, however severe his or her handicap may be, is called to be a source of grace and peace for the whole community, for the church and for all humanity [and] there is a need to let these families realize that everyone is a gift from God and that he or she is warmly welcomed and accepted in the church and the community".

National Coordinator Magdalene Yip adds, "We are a community of friendship where each person can grow in love and faith. Our special persons experience acceptance, friendship and love. Families, especially the parents, are given the opportunity to share their pains and difficulties. Hence the community provides spiritual and emotional support for the special persons and their families."

Before coming to Faith and Light, Clement Chong, father of Benedict, 10, the youngest of his four children and a special child, said he had to endure public misconceptions about Benedict very much alone.

"Ben was very active," Mr Chong explains. "He cannot keep still, even when we attend Mass, and he becomes a distraction. People then have the mentality that we don't know how to take care of these children of ours. It's just that they are special… they are different."

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Clement came to Faith and Light two and a half years ago because he and his wife needed a group where they could share problems with others and Ben needed friends.

Faith and Light communities prepare activities and games that revolve around the Catholic faith  for the children and their parents as well as sharing sessions for the parents alone (as they leave their children at their games halfway through the sessions).

Ben's problem is one of communication, whereas other children may also be immobile. These problems are eased for them and their parents during the Faith and Light sessions because parents get to participate in their children's activities.

"Ben's beginning to learn. He was a very active child when we first came but now he's more focused," Clement beams. "I think he enjoys being here."

Jenny Thang, mother of 27-year-old Mabel, who suffers from epilepsy, is grateful to Faith and Light too. "My daughter is more open now and she's able to talk to people with more confidence. She's made more friends and knows she can trust them," she says.

Jenny came to Faith and Light when she was introduced to it at one of their outreach programmes to the Church of St. Teresa. "I thought, why not join and see how we can benefit and contribute," she recalls. "My main aim is to get Mabel out to know as many people as possible. Now that she has benefited, I'm trying to get her to learn to contribute and to communicate more with people."

There are two communities in Singapore. Each community is made of about 25-30 members, of whom 8-10 have intellectual disabilities. These communities are coordinated by volunteers, known as Friends of Faith and Light, as well as some parents. Members meet once a month at the Blessed Sacrament Church or the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

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Below, the special children and Friends of Faith and Light, participate in action songs as one community during one of their monthly meetings.

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Each session is a time of sharing, prayer, singing songs of praise and fellowship feasting. Besides these monthly celebrations, there are also live- in camps, formation retreats, outings and outreach activities.

Jenny is concerned that the benefits of Faith and Light have not reached all those who need them: "When you look at other parishes, you see quite a number of special people. Some may not know about Faith and Light. I hope more can come."

What is the best thing that Faith and Light has done for Jenny and Clement? "Faith and Light has helped me to acknowledge Ben's a special kid… and to learn to understand the needs of other special children," replied Clement.

"I just want to thank God for giving me his special child; through his child, I have grown… I have learnt to be patient and to love them as they are," Jenny said.

Those who wish to be a Friend of Faith and Light, or have a special person in mind, may contact Magdalene Yip of the Faith and Light Community at 9621 5183 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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