Career Guide


Yeong Moh Foong of United Voice is out to make a difference in the community

When Yeong Moh Foong decided to dedicate some time working for a charitable organisation, she did not realise she would eventually quit her website designing job to be a full-time staff at United Voice, a self-advocacy society for those with learning disabilities.

A Bachelor of Arts graduate of Multimedia Design, Curtin University in Australia, Yeong started off as a web designer in an agency. It soon came as no surprise that the hours were long, spent staring at the computer screen.

Although she has a passion for design and technology, she decided early on that she would not spend the rest of her life in an agency. As much as she liked web designing, the long hours left much to be desired, she admits.

One day while staring at the screen of the computer the realisation dawned upon her – “I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to spend the rest of my life this way!’” she shares. It was a realisation that she had been feeling dissatisfied; that her life lacked fullness and meaning.

True Calling

She then was inspired by her church members to help out at charitable organisations. And it was there that she discovered her true calling.

Yeong first stepped through the doors of United Voice as a volunteer in 2006 to assist with the IT management within the centre. Eventually she got more and more involved in the administration. Today, she is the lead coordinator for United Voice overlooking the operations within the organisation.

More than just IT and administration, she now provides computer lessons and training to members in the centre, as well as conducting awareness talks in schools and companies.

United Voice stresses the importance of being self-sufficient and sustainable. Yeong explains the need to educate members and the public about self-advocacy as this will lead them to be more independent. “Besides, it is better than asking for donations,” she adds.

“We try to build a more inclusive society,” she stresses, “that’s why United Voice strongly promotes the importance of employment. If (the members) go out to work, more people will respect them.” They do not use their disability as a crutch; instead, they stand as contributors towards society.

Because of that, one of the important services that United Voice provides is job coaching. It places suitable United Voice members in jobs that are ideal for their abilities.

It is Yeong’s role to assess the particular job to see if it suits each candidate. To this end, she has to perform the job herself as a way to gauge the complexity of the job, safety issues involved, environment, work ethics and more.

While she is quick to admit that she is not a qualified care-giver, many of her skills were learnt while on the job. She points out that though that it is useful for employees to have the knowledge of a care-giver, the real factor is passion.

Varied Job Scope

A typical day for Yeong will be to check emails in the morning. She then works on presentations and materials for training, updates the United Voice Facebook page and checks in with her colleagues on updates or issues.

Her other duties include attending to enquiries about the centre and activities for those interested in being members. Occasionally she would also have to write proposals for funding or planning events. The amicable Yeong also attends to visitors.

Different Environments

In Yeong’s view there are distinct differences when working for an NGO compared with the corporate sector – the two are essentially different environments.

“When I was working for a company it was more about the salary and work experience I was getting for myself,” Yeong explains.

Working for an NGO allows her to interact with the community and society as a whole.

For her, that is definitely more gratifying. “I get to meet more people and connect with them as compared to working as a web designer where I only interacted with the computer and my colleagues.”

Yeong feels that working with an NGO also allows for proper work balance, even though United Voice has now become an integral part of her life.

“Someone said before that if you find a job that becomes a passion, it won’t feel like work. It is easier to achieve a work life balance here. NGO working hours are pretty much a fixed nine-to-five affair but what you pack into those few hours is what matters,” she says.

Coming into an NGO environment also means the chance to pick up new skills. “Up to today, I am still learning – but then, no one is too old to learn.”

While Yeong feels she has made a wise choice in switching careers from web designing to coordinating a charitable organisation, she still cherishes the challenges she faced when she started out in designing.

“I still love designing!” she exclaims. Her love for art and design is evident as she showcases the United Voice art gallery to myStarjob.com.

The gallery allows United Voice members to express themselves and this becomes a very important tool for them to “find their voice”, encourage confidence and instil independence.

Besides delving in fine arts, the centre also created a social enterprise that produces greeting cards, bookmarks, T-shirts, breads, biscuits and more with a gift shop set up at the front of the centre.

Job Satisfaction Guaranteed

Like all jobs, working with NGOs has its ups and downs. The only icing on the cake you probably would not find in other sectors is the inspiration from your “customers” – in this case, the members themselves.

Yeong says they have always been the ones who make the strongest impact on her. She explains it makes a big difference to witness new members with low confidence eventually making the transition to being able to stand up and express themselves in public. To her, that is a very powerful motivation.

Besides that, coming in contact with other NGO leaders who continue to make a difference every day for the past 10 years further convinces her that, she too, can make a difference.

She looks up to two role models whom she seeks for advice and inspiration: her fellow church member who is herself a social worker and the previous coordinator for United Voice.

Yeong remembers the first time she worked on the self-advocacy workshops with her own members and the facilitators.

It was a small event, but working with the members was an eye-opener. Witnessing the capabilities of these members in conducting the workshop for others with the disability made a lasting impact on her.

Today, even though they are the leading NGO for advocacy on learning disabilities, Yeong notices that her organisation still faces the problem of awareness in Malaysia. She hopes to hold more talks and conduct awareness programmes in the public and private sectors.

United Voice is the first registered society led by those with learning disabilities. Catering to those with Down syndrome, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, global development delay and other learning disabilities, United Voice has been advocating the right of those inflicted with the above disabilities to be integrated into society.

To this end, the organisation has participated in awareness programmes for the public, government officials, the corporate sector, other NGOs and educational academies, all with the hope of fostering better understanding and acceptance by the community.

United Voice is situated in Petaling Jaya. Find out how you can help the organisation by visiting www.dogoodvolunteer.com

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