A visit to Pulau Ubin following the 2014 Budget discussion about preserving and enhancing its rustic character and natural environment while providing access to the general public made Dennis Quek and Wilson Ang realise how inaccessible the island was to wheelchair-users.
The duo, who believed that no part of the country should be inaccessible to any Singaporean, started Wheels@Ubin as a community and SG50 project with the intention of helping wheelchair-users cross the seas to enjoy the unique culture of Pulau Ubin.
Their vision was realised on 26 June when they brought 100 wheelchair-users to Pulau Ubin, with help from other like-minded individuals as well as organisations such as the Republic of Singapore Navy, National Parks, SMRT, Republic Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and the National Cancer Centre Singapore.
The wheelchair-users from SPD, Asian Women’s Welfare Association and the Hand-Cycling Association of Singapore who visited the island were well provided for, having been ferried by SMRT taxis from their respective homes to the Changi Sailing Club where they were met by the Republic of Singapore Navy’s 191 Squadron, at the ready with five Fast Craft Utility and 30 Navy personnel, and also accompanied by volunteers and caregivers.
Bum boats, the usual mode of transportation to get to Pulau Ubin, could not be used on this occasion. The clients were ferried across the sea to Pulau Ubin on fast crafts, disembarking on the beach instead of the jetty.
A first-time visitor to Pulau Ubin that day was SPD Sheltered Workshop craftsman Amy Goh who had been diagnosed with polio since young. The 58-year-old said: “I’m very excited, but very nervous. I don’t know what to expect because I’ve never seen it before.”
Special performances were put up by students from Republic Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic who staged a traditional Dikir Barat performance and a Wushu demonstration respectively. Besides touring the island, the organisers also planned activities such as silk-screen painting, balloon art and a sumptuous lunch. Many soaked in the rustic feel and tranquillity of “old” Singapore.
Though the visit was a short one, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many who would not have had the opportunity to visit Pulau Ubin otherwise.
To the volunteers of Wheels@Ubin and all the supporters who helped made this trip possible, here is a big thank-you from all of us!