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Going beyond experience to help the visually impaired


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Meet the team working tirelessly to organise charity event 'Beyond I' to spread awareness on the visually handicapped in Singapore.

It is no easy feat to plan for any large-scale event. Just ask the team behind 'Beyond I', a charity festival for the visually handicapped in Singapore, organised by a group of youths with no prior experience in event planning.

"People didn't trust us, as we didn't have a brand and thus zero credibility," shared Jonathan Tok, 22, founder of the project.

Happening on June 29 and 30 at Dhoby Ghaut Green, 'Beyond I' would include various live performances, a makers' market and a 'Learning in the dark' programme, where visitors can learn more about visual impairment.

For the team behind the project though, it was nine months of overcoming numerous challenges, from pushing back the event dates to losing Uber as a sponsor when they announced their sudden closure. 

The project was started by Jonathan, a volunteer with the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) who wants Singaporeans to be more aware of the difficulties the visually impaired face.

"Guide dogs can't see bus numbers or if whether a café is occupied, and thus need help from the public. People are forthcoming to help others but sometimes it's not the right way. We want to educate and spread awareness to the public on how to assist such people," said the full-time NSF, who wanted to organise a community project before he reached his ORD.

Initially, he got his friend Marcus Tong, 21, on board, but the pair soon realised it was not a two-man job. They started recruiting teammates from their social circle and even on classified advertising site Gumtree.

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The team of seven had their weekly meetings at Starbucks every Sunday.

After the initial success of securing funding from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's (MCCY) Our Singapore Fund, the team of 20 to 24 year olds were struck with challenge after challenge, causing uncertainty and delays in the project.

Since they were all fresh graduates, the team had little to no experience in the industry. This made it hard to get vendors and sponsors on board, and they faced many rejections.

"I took it really hard when we met with rejection, but I learnt not waste time dwelling on failure. I had to ask what's next, and move on," said Singapore Institution of Technology Wheelock College undergrad Ng Wan Ling, 22, who would be leading the 'Learning in the dark' segment of the festival.

The Beyond I team (back row, from left) Yeo Zhen Hong, Marcus Tong, Jonathan Tok
(front row, from left) Nyx Chong, Michaela Shiow, Joyce Teo, Ng Wan Ling.

Beyond struggling with attaining sponsors and vendors, the team found that retaining them was another problem to overcome.

Uber, one of their big-name sponsors, had pulled out without notice as they left the Singapore market. To make matters worse, the event had to be pushed back from the initial date of April 27 due to the uncertainty regarding the budget, causing some of their vendors to pull out and forcing them to have to search for a new venue.

The difficult planning process coupled with the heavy commitment time and effort needed to plan the event successfully caused a few of their teammates had to drop out of the project.

When asked how they pulled through despite numerous setbacks, they laughed and admitted that pulling the plug had crossed their minds a few times. However, they felt that they were too invested in the project to end it altogether.

"A lot of personal sacrifices were made for the bigger cause. I think that's one of our main motivations. Is us giving up for this event really worth it after we've already given up so much?" said Jonathan.

With the group supporting and motivating each other throughout the whole journey, the team pulled through and Beyond I is set to run this Friday and Saturday.

Other than the makers' market and game booths in collaboration with Society Staples, the team also hopes to set a new Singapore record for the largest dining in the dark experience happening on June 30.

The team had also invited Mr Ismail, a blind masseuse who recently went viral on Facebook for his massages, to provide his service at the event.

The Beyond I team hopes the event will spread awareness on the visually impaired and at the same time cultivate an empathetic society in Singapore and inspire other youths to make a difference in society.

Marcus said: "We are creating a platform for youths in Singapore to be more aware of the pertinent problems such as visually impaired.

"But more than that, we are trying to spark a change."

Beyond I would be happening on June 29 and 30 from 11am to 10pm at Dhoby Ghaut Green.