The story of Dignity & Services began 24 years ago, when Peter Young visited a home for the mentally-challenged in the outskirts of Bangkok and came across a large group of boys he would later term "prisoners in their own homes". They were neglected. They were isolated. They were poor. The responsibility of looking after these boys fell on the family or certain caring institutions but without bringing their plight to the attention of the nation, there was not much of a future for them.
Peter was then the Executive Director of Malaysian Care and was attending a regional conference on people with learning disabilities. The visit to the home was part of the conference programme and it had the most impact on him. All the proceedings and lectures and talks in the comfort of the conference hall paled in comparison to what he saw face-to-face.
Then it dawned on Peter that there must also be a similar situation in Malaysia. Throughout his long career in the caring ministry, Peter had come across many people with learning disabilities, but he saw them more as individuals than as a group. How were these "prisoners in their own homes" faring in Malaysia? If nobody was thinking about this issue at the national level, how can these prisoners ever be set free?
Peter, whose confrontation with abject poverty in India, led him to start up Malaysian Care with a group of concerned Christians back in 1978, felt a similar ache in his heart to start up something. He found two ready accomplices in paediatrician Datuk Dr S C E Abraham and social activist Dr Denison Jayasooria. The three formed the first board of directors and thus was born Dignity & Services. The original name, Peter recalls, was just Dignity. "But we felt that there might be some confusion and so we settled on Dignity and Services," says Peter.
"We wanted D&S to be strictly an advocacy group dealing with one specific group, that is, people with learning disabilities. We were small and if we had started providing services first, we would not have been able to accomplish what we wanted to do. We wanted to put people with learning disabilities squarely on the national agenda. We felt that once this is accomplished, many other people can come along and help with the services part."
If before, these children tend to be "prisoners in their own homes", they now have options. As parents become aware, they know that they can send their children to school. Special classes are now part of the official school structure and there are teachers available.
The Essence of the D&S Logo
The colours of the D&S symbol best symbolise what our cause is all about;
The Background (in black) represents agony. Black is beautiful, but black is also a symbol of darkness, representing the fear, the prejudice, superstition, neglect and ignorance which surrounds people with learning difficulties and their families in the majority of countries around the world.
The word Dignity (in yellow) is to remind us of the worth of people with learning difficulties and of the respect which must be shown to them. Yellow, afterall, in many countries, is the colour of royalty.
The words Services (in red) meanwhile denotes the colour of blood, referring to the sacrificial services and advocacy which must be given in partnership with persons with learning disabilities and their families.