Doing Good beyond the Office – Going the Extra Mile

December 03, 2018

During office hours, Geraldine Susay takes care of matters as a Development Senior Specialist at NFC. Outside of work, she buddies up with people with special needs in a running club.

Geraldine (second from right, partially blocked) with fellow runners

My personal running journey began in 2012. Picking up running as a sport and passion, I would train about 3 to 4 times a week. I first heard about Running Hour from my colleague Jennifer Kuan, in April 2014. Running Hour is a sports co-operative that promotes the integration of people with special needs through running or walking. There are typically three groups of people with special needs: the intellectually, visually, or physically challenged. Seeing the opportunity to combine my interest in running and desire to help others, I signed up for it.

As a volunteer, I was paired with a person with special needs as a buddy guide. Many of our intellectually challenged runners are low functioning (highly dependent on caregivers). Sometimes, we are unable to understand the message that they are conveying, so we need to learn how they communicate through their gestures and words.

Some of them do not like to socialise or be with other adults besides their caregiver. It takes a guide a number of sessions or even months to build a relationship with them. Persevering through the initial challenges of being a buddy was tough, but experiencing that first breakthrough interaction and being able to communicate with my buddy in our own way was an amazing feeling to me.    

Over the years, I have been a buddy to many runners as part of Running Hour. It is always a joy to be able to complete a race with a buddy. One of the buddies I had the opportunity to do so with was Claire. Claire tended to lose motivation in her running, and needed encouragement. She trained with me for the 10km Standard Chartered Marathon. On race day, she was all excited and pumped up and started well. But at around the 8km mark, she began to lose her momentum and it became difficult to motivate her to complete the run.

Along the way, I had learnt that her favourite song was Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”. We sang the song together as we ran as I continually gave her encouragement. What was truly remarkable was that the other runners around us were cheering her on and ran alongside us. It was so heartwarming to see the love and care shown by others. My heart was brimming with pride seeing Claire cross the finish line. She had completed a 10km run on her first try!

Geraldine (right) and Claire on Claire’s very first 10km run

I am now a senior guide and part of the Running Hour training committee. Together with my fellow guides, we ensure that both buddies and guides have a fun, safe and memorable experience running or walking together.

Our long term objective is to create awareness of inclusion and to encourage more people with special needs to join us in leading a healthy lifestyle. Through our run or walk sessions, we hope that our special need friends can widen their social network and build strong relationships with our guides.                

I see a common purpose of helping others in what I do as a volunteer and my work at NTUC First Campus (NFC). At Running Hour, we encourage the integration of people with special needs to lead not only a healthy lifestyle but also to build relationships with the larger community. At NFC, the organisation reaches out to families in need and ensures that every child has access to quality care and education.

It has been a fruitful adventure and I have been able to enrich myself in different ways in both my work and volunteering.