Nowhere to Lay Our Heads
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The Current Living Situations of Adult People with Intellectual Disabilities in Malaysia

There is an estimated population of 200,000 people with intellectual disabilities in Malaysia. For many of these people, living becomes mere existence when their parents died and they are made to live with siblings who do not welcome them or are placed in institutions. However, compared with many others who have no one to care for them these are considered lucky since they have at least some where to lay their heads. For statistics from our government department show that only around 1000 fortunate ones have any permanent residence in the 8 government institutions and an even smaller number is cared for in the few charity homes run by NGOs. All these institutions and NGO homes are filled to capacity. The situation being so critical, private nursing homes for the elderly are engaged to care temporarily for the few whose parents or siblings can afford it. Ageing parents are desperately trying to find alternative permanent residence for their sons and daughters before they pass away.

It is a home, just like any other!!
Locate it where people generally live, e.g., in a housing estate and not in a remote area for the purpose of keeping them separate. Apart from any physical adaptations that need to be made to accommodate a member/members, the house should, in every appearance, remain a home. For example, free from ill fitting or discarded furniture or placing furniture (beds) where it should not belong. The house will have only the normal number of people, for example, two or three can be sharing a room. Do not make the home into an institution or a training centre where people are on transit.

It is our home
It does not belong to the organization that may be supporting it. It belongs to the family living in it. It is their permanent home.

We are one family, of different individuals
The family should be composed of both sexes, of different ages and abilities. Having a home only for female or only for male and of the same age and abilities does not happen in a normal family. Living with the opposite sex may have its complications but we can learn things that we may not learn from a one-sex family. The family is also better off if the members vary in age and maturity (ability). Any difficulties anticipated from this compliment should be worked out carefully before they are put together as a family.

No one is greater
The head of the home is (though he or she may receive an allowance) a member of the family. The head or heads of the family is an aunty and/or uncle – most suitable people are a married couples- who see themselves as part of the family and not as paid staff merely earning a living. Their duty is not to rule but to lead and guide and to serve the family members, consulting each one in every decision-making. Therefore they need to be filled with the love of God and empowered with divine wisdom.

We stick closer than brothers
Once they become a family unit, all its members need to learn to accept each other no matter how different the other may be. In normal life, we cannot pick our mother, father, sisters or brothers or tell them to leave, can we? Moreover these people are especially sensitive to any indications of rejection because of past experience. So it is important to prayerfully seek God’s wisdom when forming the family. Once formed, it stays together. No member can be told to leave unless she or he decides to do so.

We put our shoulders together
Each family member must know that she or he is responsible to the family in providing and contributing to the household expenses whether it be monetary or sharing in doing the house chores as far as he or she is able. Those who are able to work will work to earn an income and contribute to the household expenses. Others who may not be able to find jobs will take care of the family’s domestic need. As far as possible the family will work towards becoming independent financially and otherwise.

Lim Saw Gaik
Founder/Director of Siloam House
AUG 2003

The Set-up

The people who live in a Siloam home are teenagers and adults without a home because they have been neglected and rejected by their family, the orphans, those with aging parents who can no longer take care of them and those with a single parent who cannot take care of their special needs.

They live in a complementary group of not more than 10, depending on the size of the house. The house is located in a large housing estate so that there are opportunities for them to be part of the community and find jobs.

Each Siloam home is supervised by at least one live-in person who becomes a member of the family.

The homes are supported by work placement and support staff, whose duty is to train and find jobs for the family members. The goal is so that every member has the chance to contribute to the household and the family can then support itself as far as possible.

The Programmes

Each person that joins a family will be given guidance and basic training in the activities of daily living such as self help skills, personal hygiene, and most importantly, forming relationships and becoming a member of the family. Work discipline and work attitudes also form part of the training for those who have the potential for gainful employment.

The work placement and support staff makes regular assessments of the person’s independent living skills and his/ her potential for open employment. Work will be found and support given so that the person can succeed in the work place. For those who need more supervision in the performance of their work, contract work and Siloam’s farm activities and retreat centre can also be a part of the person’s daily occupation.

Other activities such as sports and social activities are arranged to enable everyone to have an opportunity to participate and have a wider circle of friends.