Visually impaired masseurs hope for green light to restart business

From left: Yap, Jereni, Uton and Nari at the massage centre in a photo taken before the MCO came into force.

SIBU, June 7: Four visually impaired masseurs are eager to restart work and hope that the government will allow them to reopen the doors of their massage centre at Jalan Salim.

Masseurs Yap Chong Yap, 55, Jeremi Ngalambang, 44, Nari Jerayit, 60 and his wife Uton Bilum have been forced to stop offering their services since the since Movement Control Order (MCO) came into effect on March 18. They have not been earning any income for almost three months and are relying on government aid to help them cope.

“Every morning, I wake up wondering when will the government allow us to re-open our business. We cannot remain at home, lying idle with no proper income. We need to get back to work,” Yap said.

Located on the first floor of a shophouse, the massage centre is clean, well-maintained and fully air-conditioned. It first opened its doors in 2016, offering Thai style massage, oil massage, scrapping, cupping, and foot massage services

For 90 minutes of Thai massage, they charge only RM55.

Before the MCO, the masseurs would serve up to 10 customers on a good day. On other days, it could be just two customers.

“Our customers are people referred to us by the Sibu Blind Centre or from friends. Most of them are regular customers who are satisfied with our service,” Yap said.

He revealed that during the MCO, they still had to pay rental for the premises but were fortunate to have an understanding landlord who is giving them a discount.

“The rental discount is not up to 50 per cent but it helps to lessen our burden,” Yap added.

He expressed hope the government would consider the plight of all blind masseurs by allowing them to operate their businesses under a special standard operating procedure suited to their circumstances as persons with disabilities.

For example, customers can record their own temperature scanning including registering their particulars in a logbook, Yap suggested.

On Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement that the government will provide RM300 in aid for persons with disabilities and single mothers, Yap hoped the funds will be channeled through the Welfare Department. He pointed out it would be more convenient in terms of accessing the funds as he also receives monthly aid from the said department.

Yap lost his eyesight in an accident 20 years ago when he was working as a shovel driver at a timber camp in Miri. He was a passenger in a four-wheel-drive vehicle which crashed head-on with another vehicle. He lost his right eye in the accident while eyesight in his left eye was also damaged.

Prior to the opening of this massage centre, Yap who is married with three children, was running a similar centre in Sibu Jaya for four years with three others. They however disbanded after their rental agreement with the landlord expired.

Yap has undergone extensive training in Kuching, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur and also from the Sibu Blind Centre.

“Altogether I have been doing this job for 17 years. And this will be my job until I retire,” he shared.

His three current colleagues have more than four years’ experience. They are all happy with their current jobs.

“We were once weaving baskets at the blind centre but had to quit as there was no supply of rattan,” said Uton who has three children aged seven to 18.

Nari and his wife Uton reside in Kampung Sentosa while Jereni is their neighbour. Jereni’s sister sends them to the centre for work while Yap’s wife would pick them up every evening.

As colleagues, the four of them get along perfectly well, and look forward to welcoming customers to their centre with open arms. — DayakDaily