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An irrepressible lady and her merry band have championed the residents of the Selangor Cheshire Home for persons with disabilities for the past 20 years.

Tan Keat Eng, 66, formed The Sunshine Group with three of her friends in 1997 to engage the Selangor Cheshire Home residents via music, art and social activities.

It started with an art project to use up leftover art supplies from an exhibition at the home.

Today, the group has grown and still conducts musical, art, craft and game sessions for the residents.

Growing up in Taiping, Perak, Tan learnt to appreciate music and crafts from the nuns who taught her at the Convent Secondary School.

“Music soothes, and provides relief from boredom. The residents enjoy simple songs that are easy to remember,” said Keats.

The Sunshine Group also takes residents on shopping trips.

“We identify wheelchair-accessible places, and restaurants with menus suitable for the residents. They always get very excited about shopping outings!

“I am a homemaker and while I have the responsibilities of a wife and mother, I didn’t allow the four walls of my house to hem me in,” said Tan, a former nurse.

In 2009, Tan wrote two children’s books, My Best Friend, and My Shop and My Best Friend, illustrated by Zaharuddin Sarbini and Nur Azmi Mokhtar. Proceeds from the book sales went to the home.

Her objective was to break down prejudice that people with disabilities face. The Sunshine Group visited kindergartens, primary and secondary schools to promote that idea of inclusion via storytelling, songs and games. The residents spoke about themselves to the students, building rapport.

Tan’s work with the Cheshire Home has not been her only volunteer work.

“When I was president of the Rotary Club of Lembah Pantai in 2014 and 2015, I initiated a community sewing project called Mums Sew With Love ( MSWL) for underprivileged single and stay-at-home mothers,” she said.

Tan said the project is now under Pusat Bantuan Sentul, and has grown steadily as a social enterprise.

“Right now, MSWL and The Sunshine Group are collaborating to sew tote bags to raise funds for Cheshire Home – they will feature residents’ artworks, with the cutting and stitching done by MSWL. Azmi is helping with the design layout,” said Tan, who believes volunter work makes one a better person.

“There’s nothing we can’t do, with a willing heart. I look forward to seeing things come to fruition, and working towards making them meaningful. Perseverance is key.

“But always remember to have fun!”