Feel the joy
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Feel the joy

The ‘UOB Please Touch' programme helps visually impaired kids express themselves through art

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
Feel the joy

Giving usually makes people feel happy. Nathanan Charoenkitchaikarn and Surasak Chana, two employees of UOB Thailand, experienced a special weekend when they volunteered to join UOB's project "UOB Please Touch" programme at the Bangkok School for the Blind.

At UOB Please Touch workshop, Nathanan and Surasak had the opportunity to work with visually impaired students and helped them use their artistic skills to paint white sneakers. At the end of the project, the 130 pairs of painted sneakers will be sent to Rai Som Wittaya Learning Center in Chiang Mai. UOB Please Touch chose to donate sneakers because most students at Rai Som Wittaya Learning Center cannot afford shoes and many walk to the school barefoot.

Both UOB volunteers said they had a great time working with the students.  

Nathanan Charoenkitchaikarn (left)

"At the workshop I had an opportunity to help Peanut, a visual impaired boy who enthusiastically painted on the sneaker. He often asked me if his painting was beautiful. Volunteering is about giving and the more I give, the better I feel," said Surasak.

"I did not expect anything and participating in UOB Please Touch was enjoyable. It felt good to be a giver. It was a special Saturday for me. I was glad that I had decided to take part in the workshop," added Nathanan.  

Created in 2015, the UOB Please Touch programme is an art workshop which was designed specifically for young people with visual impairment to give them an opportunity to appreciate art. Since 2015, UOB Please Touch has organised different kinds of workshops which allow visually impaired students to use their creativeness. In collaboration with Klongdinsor Company Limited, the first workshop was called Touchable Art. In this workshop, visually impaired participants used a special pen called Len Sen which released yarn to draw pictures on a Velcro sheet that allows visually impaired participants to draw, touch and feel the output of their imagination. Other workshops included hand weaving, paper quilling and clay sculpture.

Surasak and Nathanan have an interest in art. Therefore, during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Surasak spent his time learning how to paint through videos on YouTube. His artistic skills became outstanding and he won UOB Employee Category Award from the 14th UOB Painting of the Year competition. However, Surasak and Nathanan insisted that although UOB Please Touch is an art workshop, volunteers are not required to have artistic skills. Any employee who is willing to work with visually impaired participants can join.

"I am not really good at it, but I enjoy drawing and painting since they allow me to use my imagination and help me to relax," said Nathanan.

Both the UOB volunteers are active participants in community services. While Surasak was a volunteer tutor for young people, Nathanan visited orphans and played games with them. They also donate to help underprivileged people.   

When UOB Please Touch was held at the Bangkok School for the Blind, Surasak helped a young boy named Peanut while Nathanan worked with two students, Pon and Fern. To make the two sides of the sneakers match, the visually impaired students worked on one side and then the UOB volunteers worked on the other and added some decoration to make the completed work look attractive. 

They used art supplies from art kits which UOB Please Touch provided to 600 students at 11 blind schools nationwide. The art kits contain crayons, magic markers and light clay.

"I have never worked with visually impaired people before, so I was excited and curious to know if they were able to paint on the sneakers. I often asked Peanut which colours he wanted. There were stencils which he could use to paint pictures of a star, a dinosaur or a tree. I guided him in using those stencils. Working with Peanut was fun and challenging," said Surasak.

Nathanan added: "I asked my friend who is not a UOB employee to join me, so we worked with two students. Pon is an adorable nine-year-old boy who is very lively. Despite being visually impaired, his other senses were very keen since he could recognise the locations of furniture and make his way around school independently. When a karaoke machine was turned on, he enjoyed taking part in the singing. At one point, he showed us his homework in Braille. It was the first time I'd seen Braille.

"While painting the sneaker, my friend and I let Pon initially paint by himself and then, after a while we would hold his hand to guide him. We explained to him what we were doing in detail. He used stencils to paint pictures and decorated the sneaker with fabrics shaped like flowers, sushi or planes. Fern has low vision. We chatted with her and offered some direction as she was able to paint independently."

Surasak Chana

Since most UOB Please Touch workshops are organised at schools for visually impaired students, participants are young people. However, there were times when the workshops were held at public venues like Bangkok Art & Culture Centre when the workshops engaged adult participants. Adults who participated at a paper quilling workshop earned income from creating New Year cards. This inspired people at UOB Thailand to expand this project into a viable career path for the visually impaired which will require collaboration with partners such as occupational training centres and other companies to market the end products.

Participating in the UOB Please Touch workshop left the volunteers with memorable memories.

"Helping a visually impaired student express himself through art and making art accessible to everyone is incredibly rewarding. I am also impressed that UOB Please Touch provided these students with art supplies which empowers them to showcase their talents," said Surasak.

"Art has no boundaries. It is not just about painting, but also music. That day the karaoke machine was turned on, visually impaired students enjoyed the rhythmic beat of the music and danced along with it. Some students also had singing talent. If everyone can access music, art and sports, that would be fantastic," Nathanan concluded.


This article is part of a 20-part series that explores what it takes to create and secure a sustainable future. In collaboration with UOB. You can view the whole series here.

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