Mdm Marie Toh

Helping the physically challenged return to society

Every day that I have a job to go to, I am very happy”. – Mdm Marie Toh

Marie Toh first suffered a stroke in December 2017. This was followed by a second stroke in April 2018. She felt very sad that she had to stop work and was lost about how she was going to cope.

She came to know about ABLE while recovering at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and subsequently enrolled into ABLE’s Return-to-Work (RTW) programme.

She had physiotherapy for her physical rehabilitation. In addition, Marie attended various programmes arranged by the Employment Support team, including WSQ training in Effective Workplace Communications, and a call centre work trial. 

I felt more positive and encouraged after attending the programmes”, Marie shared.

“From this job trial experience, I’ve learned to be more patient and not to give up even when faced with challenges”.

North West CDC Call Centre work trial collaboration

In September / October 2018 Marie took part in an in-house work trial to conduct a telephone survey on residents’ use of SkillsFuture Credits. This was a collaboration project with North West Community Development Council (NW CDC).

Marie’s easy phone manners belie her initial hesitation when she first started on the work trial.
Here she is seen seated in front of the computer in Agape Village, diligently looking through her assigned list of contacts. She adjusts her headsets and chirpily greets the caller “Hello, I’m calling on behalf of North West CDC…”.

Clients and family caregivers received training and were paired with ABLE staff who coached them in making calls and addressing queries. Through this work trial, clients honed their communication and administrative skills, which increased their employability and confidence to re-enter the workforce.

Despite having little experience in customer service and computer skills, she gamely attended a WSQ training course in Effective Workplace Communication and agreed to be trained as a call agent. After she mastered the work tasks, she looked forward to securing employment in the near future.

Marie preparing garlic bread

Marie’s journey back to work

When a job interview oppportunity at BreadTalk opened, Marie was excited and nervous at the same time. Marie revealed that this was in fact, her first formal job interview.

She was delighted when she was offered the position of Pastry Artist at BreadTalk at Nex. Her job is to decorate the pastries such as donuts, croissants, bread and pizza.

Despite her initial worries about coping, Marie says that her colleagues have been very helpful and kind, readily share feedback and tips for the pastry decorations.

Charlotte with Marie during a job support visit

ABLE’s Return-to-Work (RTW) programme

Training, job exploration, placement and support are key areas of work for Charlotte George, Senior Employment Support Specialist at ABLE.

She shares that one challenging task the team face is to convince employers to be inclusive of persons with physical challenges. Hence it gives her great satisfaction when employers, like BreadTalk are convinced and keen to give our clients an opportunity to return to work.

Marie and Area Operations Manager, Ju Yan decorating the pastries

BreadTalk Area Operations Manager, Ju Yan says that initial concerns about how Marie would cope within the compact work space and during busy periods, were discussed and addressed during ABLE’s job support visits with Marie after she started on the job.

When you look at Marie, who do you see, we asked Ju Yan.

Her response was simply this – “I see someone who can contribute to society, as long as support and help are given”.

Share Marie’s story – together we can help the physically challenged return to work, and regain their independence and dignity.

Mr Muhammad Aminullah Bin Abdul Aziz (Amin)

RTW client return to work with existing employer

Amin was involved in a road traffic accident in April 2017 and sustained a traumatic brain injury, extensive nerve damage in his left shoulder, as well as facial fractures. Due to this, he had to undergo a series of surgical procedures. Thanks to the early referral by NUH’s medical social worker, ABLE’s therapists were able to conduct a pre-discharge screening before his hospital discharge in preparation for his rehabilitation at ABLE.

Before the accident, Amin had worked as a maintenance technician with Mega Adventure, an outdoor adventure company located in Sentosa. Given the extent of his injuries and the lead time for recovery, returning directly to his job was not a viable short term goal. ABLE’s therapists and RTW coordinator have been working closely with Amin’s employer in order to understand his duties as well as work environment by frequently visiting his worksite. This enabled joint goal-setting for rehabilitation that consists mainly of building up Amin’s strength, endurance, and balance.

A simulated work station has been set up at his workplace for Amin to practice his skills and continue work hardening whilst at work. Mega Adventure sponsored part of Amin’s medical and rehabilitation-related expenses to offset his financial outlay.

Amin, with ABLE Physiotherapist Nicola Ying, and Occupational Therapist Cheng Shuet Fong at his job site

"My supervisors and colleagues have been very supportive, and I feel blessed to have a stable job to return to. Even though I am returning to the same workplace, my new job scope will be slightly different from what I used to do. I am very excited to return to work and to learn new things”.

Mr Amin

Mr Lim Lian Hua

RTW client placed with a new employer

Similar to Amin, Mr Lim was involved in a road traffic accident. He suffered a spinal cord injury in 2011, and after a considerable period of rehabilitation, he could walk slowly for short distances with the help of a walking aid. However, he had residual sensory impairment and limited function in his affected arm which deemed him unsuitable for employment.

Undeterred, Mr Lim started rehabilitation at ABLE in November 2016. To support his vocational aspirations, ABLE’s therapists and RTW coordinator liaised closely with the medical team, seeking a review of his employment status. When Mr Lim received medical clearance to pursue open employment in July 2017, the RTW coordinator arranged a work trial at Vegriculture Trading Pte Ltd, a fruits and vegetable wholesaler at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre.

Both therapists and RTW coordinator supported Mr Lim in navigating his work environment. An appropriate replacement for his powered wheelchair that was suitable for work was identified and an application was made to the Assistive Technology Fund for subsidies to offset the cost.

The RTW coordinator wrote to the HDB and site manager of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre to install ramps to allow Mr Lim to use the sheltered pathways that were previously only accessible by steps. ABLE also worked closely with Mr Lim’s employer to understand the tasks involved and subsequently recommended environmental adaptations in order for Mr Lim to complete his assigned job tasks effectively.

Mr Lim was officially employed as a production assistant by Vegriculture in August 2017 after his work trial, and the RTW coordinator continued to provide regular job support to both Mr Lim and his supervisor. Mr Lim’s perseverance paid off in November 2017, when he was confirmed as a permanent employee. He continues to thrive in his job as an economically productive and independent individual engaged in a meaning ful occupation.

We consider ourselves blessed to work with supportive employers like Amin’s and Mr Lim’s. It is only through close partnerships with supportive employers that ABLE may fulfil its social mission – to enable the physically challenged to live with dignity and to have a productive, meaningful and independent life.

Mr Lim, peeling spring onions at his workplace.

“I have learnt many new things so far while working at Vegriculture. My employer and colleagues are very supportive towards me. I am always open to trying new things at work, and I never say no to challenging tasks”.

Mr Lim Lian Hua

Ms Stephanie Yip

Full-time staff at ABLE-SEAS

Stephanie Yip had been suffering from diabetes before her stroke in May 2015. Stephanie in her early 60s, recalls how she awoke in the morning and felt weakness in her legs. Despite getting the all clear after an initial hospital consultation, she subsequently experienced discomfort the following evening. She suffered a stroke and was hospitalised for one month.

The stroke led to weakness in Stephanie’s left arm and stiffness in her fingers, which impeded her ability to carry out daily activities, such as bathing and eating independently in the initial months after her stroke. Nonetheless, she was optimistic about returning to work after her stroke, where she was previously an accounts assistant. After coming to know about ABLE from St Andrew’s Community Hospital, she joined ABLE’s Return-to-Work programme in September 2016. In addition to the weekly therapy sessions, Stephanie has also attended a career fair with ABLE’s case manager where she had the opportunity to be interviewed for a couple of jobs in the hospitality and printing industry.

Stephanie was successfully employed as a full-time staff at ABLE SEAS in December 2016, where she is employed as a full-time accounts assistant. She is looking forward to attend further certification training arranged at ABLE and is happy to be able to continue with her rehabilitation therapy sessions as the same time.

Stephanie working at ABLE SEAS

"She was optimistic about returning to work after her stroke.""

Stephanie Yip


Mdm Catherine Ho

Christine’s primary caregiver

In March 2014, Mdm Catherine Ho’s daughter Christine, in her early 30s, suffered meningitis and two strokes which affected her sleep mode and short term memory. Christine was hospitalized for four months. Upon her discharge, Mdm Ho became Christine’s primary caregiver, tending to her daughter’s daily needs. Christine was wheelchair bound for over 2 years.

A Senior Consultant at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore, shared ABLE’s services and Mdm Ho registered as a Caregiver in the ABLE Respite Centre, while Christine began therapy at the ABLE Rehabilitation Centre.

Mdm Ho reports that her daughter has been making good progress with ABLE’s Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Pilates instructors. She is heartened to see that her daughter has gained hand strength and even started to walk again with the aid of a quad stick.

“The Respite Centre has become like a second home for me”, says Mdm Ho. Both mum and daughter often spend time relaxing at the lounge area in the Respite Centre, and enjoy using the massage chairs in between Christine’s therapy sessions and activities at the Respite Centres.

With Christine attending the rehabilitation and respite programmes at ABLE, and with some assistance from her aunt to look out for Christine, Mdm Ho has been able to return to part-time teaching. She is even able to do her work at the centre while Christine rests or plays the piano.

Christine during a craft session

"A second home for me"

Mdm Catherine Ho

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