United Voice (UV) has been empowering people with learning disabilities to take control of their lives since 2005. Having provided self-advocacy trainings and awareness programmes, workshops and conferences for 25 years, the society — the first in Malaysia led by persons with learning disabilities — has done a good job equipping its members with tools and experiences to assimilate into society and enter the workforce.
Its social enterprise arm, I’mPossible, seeks to aid members who struggle to secure employment. The members are trained in sewing, weaving and baking and budding artists are encouraged to create artworks, many of which have made their way into new homes locally and overseas.
“We currently have 20 members working under this project,” says UV lead coordinator Yeong Moh Foong. “It serves as vocational training before we find employment for them.”
UV has always hosted art galleries to promote the work of the artisans. This time round, the United Voice Art Gallery will be held at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur from Oct 1 to 4.
All the items at the gallery will be on sale. Patrons can browse through a variety of expressive paintings, delicious cookies, tarts and cakes, and hand-weaved handicrafts in the form of coasters, T-shirts, bags, pouches and scarves.
Mandarin Oriental KL general manager Christian Tavelli commended the showcase to be a true articulation of the members’ talent and stressed the need to recognise and celebrate the artists.
“The public needs to see that there are a lot to be done to support those with learning disabilities as they are often not given equal opportunity to speak up or make choices that affects their life,” he added.
Yeong also shares the same sentiment and refutes the notion that those with learning disabilities cannot think for themselves or make choices on their own. “That’s why in UV we stress the importance of teaching self-advocacy skills,” she explains. “They need to be given every opportunity to speak up, make their own choices and decisions, learn their responsibilities and know their rights.
“When they have gained the confidence to speak up, then they can tell more people about themselves.”
During the Movement Control Order (MCO), the society was struck with a set of challenges. Apart from the members not being able to meet up, most of their projects, including I’mPossible, were put on hold and they were not able to sell any products.
Through this collaboration with Mandarin Oriental, Yeong hopes that people will be able to appreciate the paintings and handicrafts produced by UV’s members and know that people with learning disabilities are also able to create beautiful things if given the proper skills training.
All the proceeds from the four-day showcase will be channelled back to UV to pay the employed members’ monthly salary, SOCSO, EPF and annual bonus.
Visit the United Voice Art Gallery at the Opal and Pearl Rooms at the Lobby level of Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur from Oct 1 to 4, 10am to 8pm.