Despite his diminutive stature, Lee Ci En stands tall with his gregarious personality and unfailing optimism. The 21-year-old was born with Achondroplasia, a form of short-limbed dwarfism, and he has since overcome his fair share of prejudice because of his condition. His story is one that has encouraged many, and will continue to bring much hope to the people going through a similar journey.
“There is no point in wallowing in self-pity,” Ci En said.
Instead of surrendering to despair, Ci En chose to embrace life and avail himself to all the possibilities that life has to offer. He stands by the mantra that he is defined by his beliefs and what he does, and not his physical condition.
Ci En aspires to leave a lasting, positive impact in the world – by leveraging his skills, talents and experience in storytelling. Not just any stories, but stories that will help build an inclusive society. In short, he aspires to create and tell stories for a cause. He has plans to organise social impact initiatives, conduct motivational talks such as TEDx Singapore, and in the near future, he hopes to engage in discussions with policymakers in Singapore.
Ci En has a voracious appetite for current affairs and a heart for the community, and he put them to good use. When studying at Victoria Junior College, he participated in the weekly discussions in iGlobe, a global affairs society as well as in competitions such as Model United Nations to hone his diplomacy skills. He also served as the secretary of the debating society, and carried out his duties diligently.
Not one to conform to stereotypes, Ci En joined the Malay Cultural Society and was one of the most proactive members among the few Chinese students who joined the club. The motivation to join the Malay Cultural Society stemmed from the desire to embrace diversity, broaden his perspectives and develop greater empathy for those with differing cultures and interests.
Spurred to push his limits, Ci En found an internship opportunity with Youth Corps Singapore. He led various recruitment and outreach efforts and conducted training activities for members. When the team needed a graphic designer, Ci En rose up to the challenge and undertook all the design projects which showcased his confidence in attempting new and different things.
Ci En is currently in his third year at the Singapore Management University (SMU), pursuing a degree in Social Sciences, majoring in Political Science. A true advocate for inclusion, Ci En took up leadership roles in his first year at the university to promote inclusion across gender and age boundaries. He was the sponsorship director of both the SMU Women’s Connection and his faculty’s Freshmen Orientation Camp (FOC) executive committee.
“We live in an interconnected world today. Inclusion should not solely be top-down, we ourselves need to be vulnerable and roll up our sleeves together. That way, we will progress as a society,” said the young man who has never once given up despite his circumstances.
Ci En recalled the times when he felt judged and affected when people stared at him because of his short stature. He has since grown out of that, and also realised that the less conscious he was about himself, the more contented and happy he felt.
“Life is abundant. It is not how people value or see you, but how you live your life that matters,” he said.
Through the way he lives his life, he has certainly exemplified this maxim. We wish Ci En all the best and believe that he is on his way towards great heights.