Breaking Out OF A Shell

Growing up with cerebral palsy, 18-year-old Ashley is not like other teens.

This neurological disorder affects motor movements, hindering actions which one would consider basic. Despite that, Ashley strives to lead a meaningful life, volunteering at the Bukit Panjang Public Library every Thursday morning.

A student at the Grace Orchard School, Ashley joined the National Library Board (NLB) Externship programme in September 2017. Launched in early 2017, the programme seeks to provide opportunities for experiential learning to youth and adults with special needs, through volunteering.

The library provides a tranquil setting – an environment conducive for individuals with special needs to learn social interaction, while volunteering. “My teacher in school and my coach taught us about email accounts. I want to learn more about computers, and how to set up user accounts so that I can help other library patrons,” said Ashley.

As a volunteer tasked with shelving returned books, Ashley gets to work behind the scenes with help from the AutoSorter machine. She will then sort the books further in alphabetical and numerical order, before returning them to their rightful positions.

Having volunteered for some time, Ashley knows the layout of the library well, and this knowledge comes in handy when library patrons seek her assistance to locate books.  Volunteering sessions are fun as Ashley gets to volunteer with her peers, in a role she enjoys.

Constantly being on her feet and handling books also appear to be a good form of strength training for her muscles. Volunteering at the library also gives her the opportunity to read more, and her favourite books include the ‘My Little Pony’ series as well as the Spiderman comics.

For Ashley, the NLB Externship programme has proved to be a fruitful experience of learning and growth, one that has nurtured her passion for reading.

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